A card had arrived in the mail announcing that Dad's "Continuing Care
Meeting" would take place on August 8th. The wording was such that it was more
like an announcement rather than an invitation. "Should you be interested in
attending, please call Lisa at..." WELL WHO IN GOD'S GREEN EARTH WOULDN'T
BE INTERESTED IN ATTENDING A MEETING THAT INTENDS TO PLAN FOR A LOVED ONE'S
HEALTH AND WELL-BEING?
Their board room is lovely. Having been in various conference rooms
throughout my lifetime all too often, I thought I'd be comfortable. Upon
wheeling dad in, a peculiar feeling of uneasiness overtook me. Childhood issues
took over and suddenly I felt as if I were surrounded by teachers, deciding what
to do with misbehavior. There were two nurses, an MSW, a physical
therapist, a certified dietician, and, delightfully, the nurse's aide who
cares for dad daily, seated around a large table, with a pile of charts in the
middle. Each woman had a foolscap pad and various papers before her.
I find it interesting how these places, and healthcare
organizations in general, distill a human being's condition into what they call
a "chart." One large three-ringed binder containing each and every thing they
know about a person. It's impersonal yet quite efficient at the same time.
The young nurse leading the meeting had an officious air about her. She's
young enough to be my daughter (and therefore dad's granddaughter). She began
(in a tone that reeked of "let's get this over quickly because we have guests
here and can't just talk by ourselves") the meeting with an explanation of why
we were here. I stifled laughter thinking about the phrase "I guess you're
wondering why I called you all here today...". Then Dad, in his now tiny voice
chirped up "I guess you're wondering why I called you all here today." The ice
was broken, and we chuckled and admired his ability to add levity to even such a
Each person took a turn discussing what they'd done for dad and where they
planned to go. I had difficulty remaining quiet because I knew all this
My turn now. "Why isn't the doctor here?"
"Oh, they're invited but they almost never show up."
"So how does he get filled in on our questions and concerns?"
"Oh, we put them in the chart, but you can call him if you like."
The contingent plan of care that dad's oncologist gave me the day before was
reviewed by all, as I went through the bullet-points emphasizing topics of
greatest import. The meeting leader interrupts: "Stage IV cancer is a terminal
condition and I wonder if your father has something to say about all of the
tests to be performed (she obviously dreaded having to deal with the phlebotomists
visits) and the possibility that side effects of chemotherapy will be quite
unpleasant to the patient.
I was saying, "This is Sloan-Kettering we're dealing with, the best in the
world..." when dad cut me off.
"Stage IV cancer may be terminal, but my doctor at Sloan-Kettering
says it's treatable. That's why I'm here. To be treated."
In one sublime sentence he'd conveyed what it took me three paragraphs to
say, beginning with, "your mission is to provide supportive care, nutrition and
monitoring..." My dad's an amazing guy.
The leader and the head nurse seemed ostensibly dismayed that this was not
going to be another easy case in which the patient just gives up, withers away
and dies, to be replaced by another one. Their faces so obviously conveyed this
that for my sake and the sake of the others I looked at both of them and
announced "we all have a tough row to hoe here."
I was enlightened by the MSW, who chimed in support for anti-depressant
drugs. The meeting leader dismissed their use with a wave of her hand, telling
me that the side-effects were horrible and could worsen dad's condition. I told
her to read about the new generation of innocuous anti-depressants (which I'd
done already). That issue was left up to the doctor, with whom I'll meet as soon
as I can get ahold of him.
All in all, dad and I were delighted with the rest of the staff's genuine
concern about him. The meeting ran way over-time, yet we were not encouraged to
leave at all.
Dad's in a good place right now. I visit every day. That's all for now.