With technology and information being all the rage, in medical circles too, we are lead to think we know what is going on. The laptops, the notepads, the World Wide Web, Google, all enable us to dig into and be buried under a sea of information, research, surveys, and prognostications from people who are paid to know. So they pass it on and inform us. We read all this ‘stuff’ and then believe we have an informed opinion and know what next to do.
Do we really need this ocean of information when it comes to the dying and death of a loved one or ourselves?
The first answer that came up off the top of my head was yes and I am sure your initial answer was yes too. Yet under closer review I am now leaning more towards the no.
Here is why.
I have watched my brother and family closely over the past years as Peter has walked along his path with cancer. I have watched myself too. I have noticed how as the cancer came and went, came and went, and came yet again the information overload increased. The longer the fight, the more information, the more research, the more informed guessing – and for a while it did make some sense.
The longer the battle the more the data seemed to mean less and yet get more in the way. The more we began to put the numbers and the research in front of what we all knew on some deeper level was really going on the more unreal it all became. It was glaringly apparent on the 15th floor of Vancouver General Hospital during the summer of 2015.
“Well the Germans have been doing this stem cell transplant treatment for years with good success.” said Mom.
‘Well the numbers are doing what every one said they would, nothing to worry about.” said Peter.
We all seemed to get in the habit of reviewing the numbers posted on the white board in Peter’s room and in our own way put them in front of facing Peter. This should happen, this could happen, don’t be surprised if this does happen. It seemed all the information, all the success reports, all the research details began to blind us – we were putting our faith in what we read not so much what we felt. It makes sense given the alternative – none of us want to drop into the discomfort of reality.
Despite the numbers and the information my own intuition was singing a different tune. I had this deep intuitive feeling Peter wasn’t going to make it, the end of the road was much closer than any of us wanted to accept. So I did my best to compete with the data, the information and the reliance we were all placing on it and I brought of the topic of the treatment not working and what then. Well then up came the very data we had all been looking at, the success rates and all the rest.
Now, several months later, it looks like the cancer has returned with a vengeance. Perhaps now is the time to put the numbers behind us, and deal with the reality of what is in front of us.
Finding the balance in dying and death as well as in life – On a need to know basis.
Warmly and with gratitude,
Stephen Garrett will present the workshop, “Changing Our Relationship with Death," at the 6th International Conference for Ageing and Spirituality. Check out one of his presentations from September, 2014: "Death as an Inspiring Teacher."