The Brave Doctor

Mary finally heard the words that no other doctor has been brave enough to say…that her disease is going to kill her.

I sat next to her, watching her avert her eyes from the computer screen, which showed her tumour, as she listened to the doctor tell us that there is nothing more they can do to stop its growth.

Just over two years ago I was sitting in the same place next to mum hearing almost identical news…that there was nothing more they could do. That time though, I was sent into panic and despair. On this occasion, I felt relief. I feel slightly ashamed to say it, but I just couldn’t feel sad for Mary. I just couldn’t. Nothing about the information we received that day felt wrong, or unfair, and thats not because she’s not my mum. I have grown to love Mary, and will be sad when she dies. But, amongst many other factors, I guess a large part of it is the old devil of comparison, which makes me think “well, at least she made it to old age”. She herself even said it.

She attempted once or twice to formulate a question about her prognosis, but couldn’t quite get the words out. The doctor was brilliant and wouldn’t answer anything unless he was certain he had understood her question. He then directly asked if she wanted to know about timelines, to which she immediately and rather aggressively said ‘no’. Once again it’s that constant battle she fights, between the frightened and uncertain part of herself who wants to know when she is going to die, and the feisty and independent part who just wants to get on with the time she has left, whatever that may be. Sometimes, being in dialogue with her feels like I’m with someone with a split personality…she flits back and forth between these two parts so quickly, both of which she plays very convincingly. It’s quite exhausting.

So, there it is. I am relieved. I am relieved the facts are out and I don’t need to pretend anymore. Mary will continue to oscillate between pretending and remembering the facts, but at least a part of her knows the truth. And I can concentrate on doing the best job I can, to accompany her on her journey as she comes to terms with this news.

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