You'd think I'd have learned this lesson sooner in life. Heaven knows, I/we have had plenty of opportunities, but it took a wise and gentle doctor to bring it home recently.
John's hematologist must have some psych courses in his background because he has an uncanny ability to deliver information in a direct, yet compassionate manner at the most opportune moment. It is one reason we so trust and respect him. From the day he delivered the diagnosis and prognosis of John's disease, he has never failed to be forthright and considerate, consistently striking that tenuous balance between reality and optimism, a balance too few physicians have yet learned.
He also is a natural mediator, sensing when to speak directly to either of us or both of us as the case seems to warrant. So, whenever John wants to do something that I fear may be detrimental to his well-being, or I want him to do something that he does not feel ready to do, we turn to Dr. W. and ask him to arbitrate.
One of those occasions occurred a month ago, when John wanted to go to a nearby casino to celebrate his 75th birthday. As infection is a threat to John's survival, I have been adamantly opposed to any large group gathering for either of us, and especially so to the casinos. And John has been remarkably agreeable, a great patient. This time, however, he persisted. It was, after all, his 75th birthday, or as he puts it, the 50th anniversary of his 25th birthday. Fortunately, we had a doctor's appointment within a few days of his birthday, and we agreed that if Dr. W. gave the ok, I would concede to John's wishes. If not, he would comply.
The day arrived. We went through all the preliminaries, weight, blood pressure, temperature, blood test results, the list of typical questions and answers. And then John posed his request. Dr. W. paused, looked at John, looked at me, paused again and then - first to both of us, "I don't want to cause any marital discord here." Then, at me - "We're not keeping John alive at the expense of his quality of life." Then, at John - "So, I think you should go, but do it wisely. Take intelligent precautions. Have a good time and happy birthday."
We did go to the casino. We went early and he wore gloves while he played. A few days later, my sister and brother-in-law surprised him for his birthday with a visit from NY. We had a small party with his Starbucks buddies and a get together with friends. He received several cards and calls and e-mails. All in all, he had a great birth week.
I've returned to that conversation several times in the interim. I realize that I've been hoping this storm might pass. If we are vigilant, if there are medical breakthroughs, if I can protect him. But the reality is it might not. So, I'm not throwing away the umbrella or rain gear, but I'm trying to splash in the puddles. To consider every day some ways to celebrate that we can still go out in the rain together.