Saturday, February 8, 2014

GUEST BLOG: Grant 'Permission' to Let Go

Every now and then I post an essay from another blogger or author, and I'm proud to do so again today. Sharon Eagle has authored three books for my company, F.A. Davis, and is one of the most caring, intelligent, and gracious people I've ever known, never mind being a remarkable writer.

Sharon has cancer, one that can't be cured. She has been open and honest about it since day one, and the following post is an example not only of her eloquence but also of her compelling perspective on her illness. It is yet another reason why she's one of my very favorite people and will ever be so.

Grant 'Permission' to Let Go

One of the many things I’ve pondered in the time since my diagnosis is the term we hear so often about patients “fighting” against cancer and sometimes “losing their battle” with cancer. The following represents only my own personal thoughts and viewpoint on the matter.

There’s something about the term “fighting” that bugs me when it comes to cancer. But I haven’t figured out exactly why or what term I’d substitute for it. I suspect to most people the term “fight” indicates some sort of physical battle. Yet in my experience, the fight often feels more like an emotional or mental process than a physical one used in reference to the desire that the ill person not give up or give in.

All things considered, I’m doing well and have exceeded my doctor’s expectations. For this I am grateful. Yet on occasion I feel so tired, physically and emotionally, that I can see how a person may arrive at the point that he or she just can’t do it any more. When this time comes, loved ones need to know that the best gift they can offer may be to allow their ill loved one the space to move on with aided comfort of hospice instead of begging them to keep “fighting.” When one's physical, mental, and emotional resources are exhausted, it can feel so difficult, impossible even, to “keep fighting.” Yet ill persons often fear letting their loved ones down and keep on trying.

I realize that I’m treading on sacred ground and that everyone’s situation is different. I also know first hand, what this may cost loved ones. I will never forget the intense pain it cost me and my family when we gave my brother “permission” to go (die), if that’s what he needed to do, even though we wanted him to stay with all our hearts. It was the most difficult, one-sided conversation I’ve ever had. But I remembered countless times as a nurse that my patients seemed to hang on beyond all reason as their family begged and pleaded for them to stay and get well when there was no medical hope of healing. As a sister I realized that it is far more difficult (than I ever appreciated as a nurse) to walk the fine line between realism and hope.

I simply hope in this writing to convey the notion that death isn’t necessarily the “loss” of a “battle,” and that it doesn’t mean the patient has failed. They may in fact be at the very jumping-off point of mankind’s greatest adventure.

So when my time comes I hope people don’t talk about me in terms of fighting or, worse, losing a battle with cancer. I prefer they comment on how I lived without giving so much credit to cancer as a powerful foe that won some victory over me.

I’m in no hurry to go, and yet I no longer fear dying. Further I don’t believe my death will be any sort of failure, but rather a transition to what comes next. And I think what comes next will be pretty awesome.

— Sharon Eagle