115 thoughts on “Doctors and Dying

  1. BillyJoe says:


    It depends on the cancer as well and the stage at diagnosis.

    Breasts cancer is treatable even in advanced stages and curable in the early stages so, of course, you would accept treatment. I would be loathe to describe it as ” fighting cancer”. What’s wrong with saying that you are using the best evidence based treatment available to hopefully control or cure your cancer.

    You don’t say what cancer your father suffered from but, if it was, for example, pancreatic cancer, there is nothing really to be done because there is no evidence based effctive treatment available. So fighting it seems like tipping at windmills. Unless you wanted him to fall for the CAM option.

  2. kathy says:

    BillyJoe, agreed. I wasn’t saying any cancer at any stage is fightable … that is nonsense to my mind. Just meant that some people won’t fight even if there is, logically, some hope of cure.

    And also I was appealing to let them be … not din in their ears that they MUST battle it, even if they really don’t want to for whatever personal reasons. Or even ask them their reasons. It might be risk assessment, or a preference for letting life go, or some combination.

    Families especially can be very … insistent … that the person with cancer fight on, even when they have had enough. I sometimes wonder if that isn’t sometimes imposed upon children by their parents, or on one spouse by another.

    (and sorry to be difficult, but I want to go on using the “fighting cancer” terminology … it expresses something I want to say).

  3. mousethatroared says:

    I do agree with Kathy about personal approaches. For instance I feel that my mother “battled cancer” not because she went to any extreme to survive her cancer (She basically followed the program that her doctors recommended for treatment, then palliative care, hospice) but because of her brave efforts to maintain her joy and participation in living and her generous nature for as long as she could. It seemed to me that she decided “sure this disease may end my life, but I’m not going to let it take one bit more from me, or anyone I love, than it needs to.

    But then again, I see it that as a battle, I doubt that she would have described it that way. In so many ways she had a hard life, but still had all these stories to tell that delighted in life…so I think she would have just called it “making the best of things” or something similar.

    But people can only bring the mental and emotional resources that they have developed in life to their dying. Not everyone has the same personality, mental or emotional capacity, experiences or disease. So I feel that judgements of what’s right for everyone are not-constructive…there’s definitely not a one size fits all answer.

  4. BillyJoe says:

    I suppose the reason I don’t like the phrase “fighting cancer” is because that battle is either “won” or “lost”. I don’t think that is either a helpful or realistic way to look at cancer. Most people with cancer “lose the fight”. I wouldn’t want to set myself up for that. Michelle’s mother’s “making the best of things” seems to me a more realistic approach.

  5. mousethatroared says:

    But BillyJoe – In my mind, dying is a loss for most people and for the people who love them. I think it’s not realistic to pretend that it’s not. But in some cases it is an inevitable loss, so we then try to rescue what we can from the fire.

    I would think the problem is if we hold unrealistic or wrong views of the worth of “winners” and “losers”.

    This guy was a “loser” but I think many people found his actions worthwhile.

    But then I am purely speaking from my perspective. I’m a firm believer in folks using the metaphors that are most compelling to them. Whatever gets you through the night, I say.

  6. BillyJoe says:

    Well, Michelle, then we are all “losers” because, in the end, we are all dead.
    I prefer to focus on the journey and do the best I can for myself and others in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

    And that runner was not a “loser”, he came in second and did better than every runner but one.

    This is the problem with the “winners and losers” attitude. In the The Great Train Race, there are 3,200 entrants. For someone caught up in the “winners and losers” game, there is only 1 winner and 3,199 losers. All but about half a dozen may not even have bothered to enter the race. The reason I participate and, I think, most participate is for the journey – maximising your training in view of the other demands on your time, easing up the training before the event, and planning your strategy for those three gruelling hills and the final ascent to the finish line. The well executed journey is the reward.

  7. mousethatroared says:

    BillyJoe – I think we are saying something very similar with different terminology. (:

    Yes, The way I think of things, we are all loser and I prefer to acknowledge that losing is part of life and deal with it the best I can. Part of dealing with it is keeping the losses in perspective and choosing to focus on the “wins”, the rewarding and joyful things in life, when I can.

    To some extent I can redefine “wins” as I like. If I was in an organized run, I could define my win as finishing or as finishing in a certain time. I can see how someone can do that with dying from cancer. They can say “I’ve had a good life accomplished a lot. In the end, I think I’ve won.” In fact, I CAN do that with someone who is very elderly. But I just can’t do that with someone who is not very elderly, who should, in my mind, have more time, who will be missed desperately…I can’t honestly redefine that as anything but a loss.

    But it is one loss, which is only a part of a bigger picture.

    Now, obviously my comments have moved away from the problem that some people will imply that a person who died from cancer is a “loser” because they didn’t try hard enough, they didn’t pursue enough alternatives, or they were not “positive” enough. That approach just sucks. IMO – It is basically throwing a vurnerable person under the bus in an attempt to feel safely in control of your own life. That is not at all what I am getting at. If I ever do that, someone smack me, cause I hate when people do that.

  8. mousethatroared says:

    That Puffing Billy, what a fun idea.

  9. kathy says:

    @Billy, @Mouse – if you re-read what I said in my last comment, I’m actually neither for nor against “fighting cancer”. What I was appealing for was that, if someone does want to fight at all, or feels that the fight is beyond winning now, there should not be pressure applied by family/friends, or by medical personnel, to go on with the battle. Woo believers are especially recalcitrant in this respect … if one remedy doesn’t work they are speedily pressing another on the unfortunate person.

    The pressure can be quite intense at times, and take away their free choice how to spend their last days. Guilt, pity, tears, preaching, everything may be harnessed to force them to take the “right” road.

    I am defining “winning” here as killing the cancer, as being cured. I don’t have any quarrel with you that there are other ways of “winning”! But usually they come into play when hope of the other kind of winning has been relinquished. If you could win a big road race, i.e. come in first, what are the chances you’d take the win? I would! (in my dreams, sigh)

  10. kathy says:

    @Mouse “some people will imply that a person who died from cancer is a “loser” because they didn’t try hard enough, they didn’t pursue enough alternatives, or they were not “positive” enough. That approach just sucks.”

    ‘Pologies, I didn’t read you carefully enough! I see now what you were really saying.

  11. mousethatroared says:

    no worries Kathy – and I completely agree with you. I’ll even expand on that to include other health conditions.
    For an example, my mother-in-law, (bless her heart) seems to work on this unspoken assumption that most health conditions can be alleviated in a timely manner* if you just see the right doctors, ask the right questions, or well…do something different. Her approach to life is basically, if something is going wrong, somebody must be to blame. Now, I’m making her sound much more unpleasant than she actually is. She is actually a kind person, cares alot about people and has a good sense of humor…but that one characteristic does make her not a very good confidant when it comes to problem solving in health or otherwise.

    um, sorry that was more venting than anything else. :)

    *about half the time that reality dictates

  12. BillyJoe says:

    Well, it seems we all three of us agree and are all winners in this sense. :)
    I have a bottle of red wine to celebrate, so come on over you two |:

  13. mousethatroared says:

    It’s a bit early for me to start drinking. But I’ve got my latte, chin-chin.

  14. BillyJoe says:

    Damn time differences…

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