Andy is in the last stages of liver cancer. He sat down and looked at me and sighed heavily. He looked horrible – – his skin was pumpkin-orange, cheeks sunken, hands shaking…he told me that his doctor’s appointment didn’t go as planned. His hoped-for prognosis didn’t pan out like he had hoped for, his ex-wife was already closing in for her piece of his estate, his children were acting like money grubbing pirates fighting over who gets what, in terms of his assets, then his lawyer told him “Don’t worry about it, you’re basically bankrupt”….he told me the pain is increasing and becoming intolerable.
For whatever reason, my spontaneous response was, “Other than all that, how has your week been?”
Ugh. Sometimes my bedside manner just simply escapes me. I’m sure I blushed, because I could feel the warmth creep into my face and neck and I apologized — fearing my response was completely inappropriate.
Andy surprised me with a deep chuckle and said “Thank goodness someone still thinks I’m alive!! Everyone around me is so serious and acting as if I have already made my heavenly departure!”
I guess it’s a technique I won’t try out too often…I’m not sure all of my patients would give me such a lighthearted and uplifting response as Andy did. I was relieved that my inappropriateness just happened to work this time.