We should all continue to learn whether in books, magazines, blogs or by listening to the patients we serve every day. I recently had a chance to learn something from such a patient and I wanted to share this with others.
This patient had to endure several days of not knowing where her life would soon lead. She had come in for what she thought was a routine cough or cold but had found that she had a “spot” on her lung. She knew her many years of smoking had put her at risk. She had seen others in her family suffer similar issues and be given the horrible news. This time it was different. This time it was her. The years of denial that it “wouldn’t happen to me” had been shattered. She now faced a potentially grim truth. There was nothing to do but wait. Wait on the results of the CT that would potentially determine her fate.
The tears of joy flowed as I was fortunate enough to give her the good news that this would not change her life irrevocably. She did not have the dreaded “C” word. It would change her life, however. She had managed to take a picture of the X-ray “spot” with her cellphone and looked at it frequently. Each time she had a craving for a cigarrette, she would grab her ever present phone and pull up that picture. The picture that could have been so much worse. Now she uses it to do the one thing she can do to prevent any such episodes in the future.
I have since used this story to inspire other patients to do the same or something similar. Take a picture of your son or daughter and look at it each time you go to light up. Any reminder of why or for what you live for or to bring back those feelings of fear and helplessness in the face of our own mortality. It has worked for many of my patients. Perhaps, in sharing this, this patient can save others’ lives as well.