DNR: Not the Result We Prayed For

Posted in cancer, Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care, Grief and Grieving, hospital visits on March 9th, 2010 by Jim Hughes – 1 Comment

Yesterday as I was making my chaplaincy visits, I visited a man and his wife whom I’ve grown to respect greatly. He was in the process of signing his out-of-hospital DNR for entering hospice care. He has battled a very rare type of cancer valiantly, but the cancer is winning in this life. His words were few. “It’s time,” he said, speaking of entering hospice care.

This is not the result any of us wanted.

We have prayed with great faith for healing, knowing it was against the odds of nature all along. If pure willpower could win this fight, this man would have won. If being greatly loved by so many people could make a difference, it would have.

After he signed the paper and the witness and the hospice representative left the room, we didn’t have words to give each other in conversation that would make any of us feel better or deal better. So we prayed to the One who understands how we feel, the One who can carry us through these difficult times.

The prayer I spoke was one of lament, telling God that this was not the result we wanted, admitting our pain, our frustration. But I also found words to express our love and faith to God in spite of not getting what we wanted, our total trust in Him to provide for our best good. And I also uttered a number of requests — for His care and protection and love for this family as they continue down a most difficult road.

As people of faith, we frequently pray for healing even in the face of long odds. We are praying for a miracle, for an outcome that flies in the face of logic, of reason, of grim statistics of nature.

Sometimes, admittedly infrequently, God grants our deep desire. I rejoice, and my resolve to keep praying for divine intervention is strengthened.

More often, He doesn’t. Then I express my lament, my sadness at the pain of this life. My resolve to continue praying for divine intervention is not lessened, but I am reminded that I, like Job of old, don’t know the answers.

I was reminded of Job yesterday, that in spite of pain and frustration, that he didn’t lose his integrity.

And that it was time to give that helpful book a fresh read.

Perspective Is a Big Deal When Dealing With Fear

Posted in cancer, Caregiving, Illness, Self Care on July 20th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – 2 Comments

Perspective is a big deal, no matter what we’re dealing with in our lives.

Tweet About WSJ Article

Tweet About WSJ Article

For example, we can have cancer, and our perspective may be, “I’m dying of cancer.”

Or, we can choose to have a different perspective:  “I’m living with cancer until I pass.”

This example is from an article in today’s Wall Street Journal discussing a program for helping cancer patients deal with their illness.  While it’s dealing with cancer patients being able to find meaning for their lives in the face of their illness, it has a lot of value for those of us facing other challenges.  I highly recommend that you read it.

With cancer, nearly everyone’s biggest fear is dying.  But it’s usually unspoken, unsurfaced even.  Once it’s surfaced, the fear can be dealt with.  One can choose to adopt a perspective that gives life meaning and purpose, that takes control away from the fear.

But this principle is much more widely applicable.

Any chronic illness — heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and any of so many others — generates fears.  What if I have another heart attack?  What if I have to live in a wheel chair?  What if I …?

Your fear may not be from a medical condition, but from a situational condition.  What if I lose my lose the ability to live at the standard of living I’ve become used to?  What if I lose my job?  What if I …?

So what fears are you, or those you love, living with that haven’t been dealt with?

How could you, or could they, benefit from a change of perspective?

Worth some thought!

Grieving: Expressing in Words What We’ve Lost

Posted in cancer, Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care, hospital visits on July 13th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – 1 Comment

When we have suffered a loss and as we move through the grieving that follows, we often express in words what we’ve lost.

Twitter Post by Karen Putz

Twitter Post by Karen Putz

I was reminded that sometimes how we describe our loss surprises others when I saw this Twitter post by Karen Putz (@deafmom) earlier this week.  Karen’s dad has esophageal cancer, and hasn’t really been able to eat normally for the last couple of months.  So in retrospect, his response to the doctor is right on, but it probably surprised everyone when he said it.

As we’re grieving a loss, we tend to express that loss in ways that are highly personal to us — in ways that truly describe what we miss dearly, and would like to have back.  It’s part of the longing for phase of grief.  Karen’s dad longs to be able to eat his wife’s cooking again — both because it’s good, and because that would mean that he’s dealt successfully with his cancer.

One of my favorite questions while visiting patients in the hospital has become, “What one thing are you praying for today?”

I ask that question for lots of reasons.  It helps me target my prayer with the person to pray specifically for what they want most that day.  There’s often a powerful connection between us as we join together in prayer with the words, “God, my prayer is _____ ‘s prayer.”  And it often provides an opportunity to talk about the real issue the person is struggling with that day.

Karen’s post reminded me of a recent visit.  When I first entered the room, most of my conversation was with the patient’s husband.  The patient was having some pain, and just wasn’t engaging.  But when I asked her if she’d like to pray, and specifically what her biggest request was, she jumped in and took over the conversation.  Her request was simple:  “I want to be able to go back home and take care of my 101-year old mother, and help my sister get there so she can help.”  It represented both what she had lost, and what was important to her.  As we prayed together, she verbally reinforced my words with her “Amen’s” and “Yes, Lord’s.”

It was a special moment for all of us.  Her greatest desire had been heard and then expressed in prayer.

Karen’s post is one reason I’m active on Twitter — I’m always learning, and often being reminded of what’s important.  Asking good questions like Karen’s dad’s doctor did is important.

Thanks for the Twitter post, Karen.  And I am praying that your dad gets to eat your mom’s good cooking soon!

My good news is tempered by awareness.

Posted in cancer, Caregiving, Personal on June 24th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – 1 Comment

Late Monday afternoon, we received really good news from Dad’s doctor.  The pathology report on the tumors and surrounding tissue removed from Dad’s bladder last week turned out to be a noninvasive, non-aggressive type of cancer, and it had been completely removed.  That means that he doesn’t need additional surgery or chemo or radiation and can just be checked every three months for reoccurrence.

As my daughter Sara said on hearing the news, “The quality of life just got better for all of us.”

We’re certainly rejoicing in this unexpected good news.  Our thankfulness is hard to even express.

But my joy and thankfulness is tempered by awareness of what is happening to others.

  • That same evening Eloise and I attended the viewing for a dear friend, spending some bittersweet time with his wife. They were like extra grandparents for our kids when they were young, even keeping all three to allow us a special trip to Amsterdam.  Less than a week elapsed between his cancer diagnosis and his death.
  • At the same time as our good news was being broadcast in our church’s prayer email, the news was also sent out that a friend’s mom diagnosed with lymphoma six weeks ago was going home with hospice care.  She passed peacefully last night.
  • I did chaplaincy rounds yesterday afternoon at M.D. Anderson, spending time with several people who have not received good news.

My awareness makes me realize all the more how special good news is, and it fuels my thankfulness.

My awareness also makes me more compassionate to friends and sojourners whose news is not good.

And I understand better that life is a bittersweet mixture of rejoicing with those who are rejoicing, and mourning with those who are mourning, and that both can be happening at the same time.

Personal Caregiving: Some of This Week’s Activities

Posted in cancer, Caregiving, Personal on June 21st, 2009 by Jim Hughes – Comments Off

This promises to be a busy week helping Dad with his medical things.

Monday morning Dad’s having a colonoscopy.  He’s had some concerning symptoms, so my prayers are for negative findings, and safety during the procedure.

It’s also probable that we’ll get the pathology report Monday on the two tumors removed from Dad’s bladder last week.  We’d love for it to prove his doctor’s opinion that the tumors are an aggressive cancer wrong, but should it not, it will start in process setting up appointments for followup diagnostic testing and consultations.

He also has an appointment this week with his audiologist.  We’re hoping his hearing aids can be tuned or repaired to get his hearing back to where it was a few months ago.

By the way, for a guy that’s nearing 85, Dad’s amazing in so many ways.  He bounced back from Wednesday’s procedure in rapid fashion, took care of several business items himself later in the week, and was at worship and class this morning doing his regular visiting with lots of folks.

And also, we’ll actually celebrate Father’s Day sometime during the week.  Today he was on his liquid diet and doing the prep for tomorrow’s procedure.  I suspect he’ll be ready for a nice dinner one evening soon.

Thanks for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers as we navigate some new territory for us.  I’ll post updates as we progress through the week.  Thanks for reading, and I hope your week is blessed.