Dear Dr. K:
It’s been nearly 6 years since we last sat in your room discussing the prognosis of my late husband’s cancer. In our visit, you informed us that he had a year to live – with or without palliative treatment.
The night after our visit with you, we met with the children and told them the news. He and I were relieved as, based on my previous experience with cancer patients, I was expecting you to tell us 3-6 months max. Much to our surprise, he went downhill fast from there. We soon found out, at an ER visit, that there were multiple notations in his medical record that a hospice referral was warranted once a confirmatory diagnosis was made. He died two week later.
I have done a lot of soul searching and healing since then. The kids, who were angry with us for “lying to them,” have done much healing as well – thank God. Still, I wonder why you didn’t tell us that he had less than 6 months (as hospice would imply) or, at least stress that we had a year at the maximum. Unfortunately, you did not.
I tell you all of this, not because I am still mad. I certainly was for a long time. I am telling you because I feel the reminder is important for all healthcare providers. It is not just about the person who has been diagnosed; it is about the family left behind! Moreover, I write this because I feel that this letter is the one thing left that I need to do for my own healing. It needed to be said – for me. I am sorry that we were not fortunate enough to have even a chance to have you help us fight the cancer. I understand that you are quite skilled in what you do. My prayers go out to you in the efforts you put forth to help all of those who do have a fighting chance.
Thank you for reading.