By Alankrita Taneja, MBBS
Around the time I started my hematology-oncology fellowship, I had been reading The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle. As I was learning to break bad news, I realized how the spiritual concepts mentioned in the book are so important for our patients. Despite facing an uncertain, sometimes losing battle against an aggressive malignancy, our patients are learning—and teaching us—the hard spiritual truth about living each day and each moment as it comes while surrendering control of the outcome.
Relapsed and Refractory
You've been waiting for a while
Sitting calmly on the examination table
You finally see me and attempt to smile
I smile back and say hello
As I look into your eyes
For a moment I am mesmerized
For in your eyes,
I can see that you're afraid,
Afraid of failing yet another battle
Afraid of dying.
I can see that you're tired,
Tired of waiting for good news
Tired of trying.
You've been fighting for so long
But despite all that has transpired
Your faith transcends reason
In your eyes, I see hope
You have persevered through
Failure that you endured repeatedly
(Or have we failed you?)
Behind your eyes,
There is a calm despite the storm-
The rising tumor markers,
The progression on the CT scan.
I can see you're disappointed, yet unfazed
In your eyes,
There is a wisdom so profound
That despite it all,
You're still breathing, you're still alive
In this moment and in the now.
Maybe happiness does not always
Imply a cure?
So I look at your labs and review your scans
I tell you what you probably already knew
"I am sorry, your cancer has progressed
We will have to try something new"