Coping with a storm

Three days ago, she learned that she had cancer.  Two days ago the scans showed how far it had spread.  Yesterday, we discussed the limits of therapy.  Today, she understands that she going to die.

IV in arm, monitor chimes, oxygen’s gentle hiss, she sits on the side of the bed and stares out the window at the grey city morning.  She is worried about the future. She is worried about suffering. She is worried about the tens of thousands of frightened, cold and isolated people left in the Hurricane’s wake.  How will they find new homes? How will they find new jobs?  How will they rebuild their lives? The devastation lies heavily on her soul.

“At first we prepared to fight the storm, bordering up windows, buying bottles of water, fleeing to higher ground.  Perhaps we would stop it with readiness.  The storm came, despite our prayers, so we huddled behind closed doors and boarded windows, cowering from the sound.  With its wrath the storm attacked all, rich and poor, young and old, good and bad.  Then slowly, the fury and energy faded, leaving a foreboding silence. “

“As the rains stopped and the clouds flew away, we began to see the devastation. We were shocked. How could this be?  Surely, this was an illusion, a story over told.  Nevertheless, slowly, as our eyes opened and our denial began to fade, we saw the horror and we became angry.  What had we done to deserve this punishment? Were we not special and righteous?   We soon realized we had done nothing.  This was not punishment at all.  This was life.”

“So, we begin to accept the destruction, the loss, and the suffering.  We understand that for many, even for most, that the life they had is gone.  We will never be the same.  I will never be the same.  What once was is no more.”

We sit together in the quiet left by her words. She half smiles, watching the pale light though the hospital glass.  Cool hand, holds mine.   She sits, waits, remembers.   Tears run down her cheek as she copes with the storm.



  • I don't know the words to thank you for your moving and informative posts. To most of us, the medical environment and dealing with the professional maze is truly foreign territory that we enter and explore with trepidation and uncertainty. While some of your posts are so painful to read, there is actually comfort in the honesty and candor.
    • James Salwitz, MD
      Thank you for your comment. It is my first goal to open up the medical maze. It is hard enough to deal with illness, without the added challenge of dealing with the healthcare system. jcs
    • James Salwitz, MD
      We are part of nature's eternal cycle. jcs
  • IBS
    Thank you so much, Dr. S for staying at the hospital to help many that couldn't help themselves. Even if one life was saved because of you, G_D blessed you. I hope your family at home were all fine too and knew how hard you were working to help others; a Doctors profession. I hope when the storm was over, you were able to switch shifts with another MD. until the storm in your mind disappeared..
    • James Salwitz, MD
      Thank you for your kind comment. jcs

Leave a Reply