Thursday, March 13, 2008

Weekly Report

Sabine's chemotherapy has gone fairly well and we are settling into dialysis and doing some guided imagery to try and reframe all this as positive ("Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative" is how the old song goes)!

Last Saturday we had to say goodbye to the wonderful folks at St Peter's -- "goodbye" as a priestly couple, but "carry-on" as friends! While the accompanying picture looks like everyone is having a great time this was an interlude between many tears. I know when I got home last Saturday afternoon I summed up the vestry meeting to Sabine: "Well, it went like this: laugh, cry, cry, laugh, cry, laugh, cry, cry, laugh..."

Niece Teak from Missouri and her wonderful tribe of Nelson's -- Seger and Malea -- visited Charlotte for a few days this week and we got a chance to spend some time with them (see the "masked marvels" photo.The last photo is a "coming attractions" photo.

Daughter Sumi, husband Scott and our granddaughter, Taylor is coming next week to celebrate Taylor's FIRST birthday with us. Sabine is excited as we all are. Thanks to modern technology, though we live a thousand miles away, we saw Taylor's first daycare experience, a "50s" party (with Taylor's specially designed "poodle dress), and her first crawling effort and then her first steps!

As Sabine and I went through the Clinics section of the University Hospital this morning we were overwhelmed by the massiveness of this enterprise whose goal is healing and the prolonging (with quality) of human life. It is a city in itself.

At the same time, many of you know that I have spent a good share of my life working to improve systems, increase customer satisfaction, and improve the quality of services.

So, when I look at this operation, I cannot help but ask, "Yes, and how can this be improved?"

Now I don't know a lot about medicine, but I have come to learn quite a lot about people.

And when I enter the Comprehensive Cancer Center, I am rather ignorant about improving medical outcomes (e.g. best known methods of containing or controlling cancer cells) but as a former cop and pastor, I do have a sense of what people need beside the science.

I am not saying that the science (cancer fighting) is not important but rather that there is another dimension to this scientific fight that goes beyond the laboratory. And that is the emotional/psychological/spiritual dimension. Now I don't know if the system is embarrassed about these dimension (after all, there are few double-blind studies regarding the efficacy of prayer, counselling, guided imagery, or many of the alternative therapies to Western medicine -- such as acupuncture).

But what I have sensed is that there appears to be a reluctance to intervene in what EVERYONE must be experiencing in that waiting room (such as waiting for their diagnosis, going to chemotherapy, struggling with bad news or the need for surgery or more chemotherapy).

I think I mentioned it before but the overwhelming aura of that waiting room is a mixture of fear, high anxiety, depression, fatigue and emotional overload. So, as a "scientific" physician, how is that addressed?Everyone wants to talk about teamwork and multi-disciplinary collaboration but I am suspicious as to how often the "teams" discuss treatment therapies, the need for emotional support and the possibility of alternate modes of treatment.

So, as we journey this "system," I am taking notes, I am watching and after some "data collection" I think I will be able to comment on our experience (which I don't think is much different from anyones experience in the cancer treatment system. We will see.

In the meantime, thank you, thank you and thank you for your continuing prayers, support, gifts and cleansing flood of well wishes! Signing off: Be good, take care of one another, and give thanks!