“In the end only kindness matters.”
— Jewel, “Hands”
Last week, I participated in a tweetchat about the value of kindness in medicine. While this topic is a no-brainer — yes, doctors and patients should be kind to each other — unkindness is rampant in medicine.
Being on the patient side of things, I’ve seen firsthand the harm caused by unkind medical personnel — from administrators to physicians. What amazes me is that so many unkind professionals (I realize this is an oxymoron) are face to face with patients every day. I’ve been treated so poorly by some medical people, it’s disgusting.
As my readers know, a second-opinion oncologist told me that I was in danger of dying (I was newly diagnosed with breast cancer then. Duh.). He flippantly told me that I shouldn’t even consider fulfilling my dream of having a child because I would orphan him or her.
How could he be so cruel? Couldn’t he see how frightened I was? How could this self-important, arrogant ass live with himself after making such a comment?
After that appointment, I got in the elevator and sobbed uncontrollably, as I fell to the bottom of my bottomless world.
A surgeon sneered at me when I tried to explain my fears to him. Another surgeon scolded me like a bad little girl for not removing organs he felt should come out. He was angry that my primary care physician and oncologist didn’t agree with him and he blasted me for it. A receptionist announced my business so loudly that everyone in the waiting room could hear it. Even before she opened her mouth, that day was an especially bad one for me. An MRI had revealed a possible recurrence in the breast that had had cancer a few years before, and I was weighing my chances of life and death. Luckily, the mass was benign — unlike the receptionist.
On the flipside, patients can be rude. A couple of doctors have told me that some patients have treated them harshly — from arriving to appointments late and then expecting to see the doctor immediately to just plain having a nasty attitude.
Kindness should reciprocal between patient and doctor.
In fact, the tweetchat I participated in got me thinking: kindness also matters outside of medicine. I know this is no grand epiphany, but it amazes me how often people are unkind to each other. So when the tweetchat moderator asked us to commit to one random act of kindness, I immediately thought of many random acts of kindness I could commit to. Of course, with only 140 characters to type per response and other participants wanting their say, it would have been unkind of me to dominate the tweetchat with all my ideas. So, here on this post, are five random acts of kindness that have been done to me and five random acts of kindness I’m committing to doing from this day forward. Not all of these are cancer-related, which is fine, and they are not listed in any particular order of importance.
Random Acts of Kindness Done to Me
1. In a chemotherapy room, when a nearby family saw that I was receiving chemo alone, with no loved one by my side, they took care of me. Although their daughter had a grim prognosis, her parents focused their attention on me, as well. They got me apple juice, a warm blanket, offered me treats, and so on. I was their other daughter for the day! I thanked them then, but I wish I could thank them again, in an e-mail or something. What they did that day was extraordinarily kind to me, and I will never forget them.
2. When one of the radiation machines was getting repaired, the wait to radiation treatment was understandably longer than usual. My radiation oncologist and her staff handed out potted violets to each of us patients for the simple act of waiting. I don’t know how they got so many violets so fast, but the doctor and other medical personnel worked their magic.
3. After my failed stereotactic core biopsy, my surgeon magically appeared and did the biopsy then and there. The nurses rubbed my legs and held my hand. For that act alone, I love them.
4. At times students or alumni write me an e-mail or a note telling me how much I’ve meant to them. I treasure these communications.
5. My daughter is kind. One time, I couldn’t help it but cried in front of her about the situation with my dad breaking his hip. We were in my parents’ home in Florida at the time after a stressful few days, and as I cried, she wiped my eyes with a tissue and told me that it would be okay.
Random Acts of Kindness I’m Committing To
1. I hope to make a positive difference in my students’ lives and help them.
2. I’m going to say something nice to a cancer patient and/or their loved one(s) while we are waiting to see our oncologists. This is the one I committed to on the tweetchat, and this random act of kindness will be the most difficult for me. Normally, I stay to myself, paralyzed by fear and sick to my stomach. But I want to reach out and talk to someone else who might be afraid. Maybe this will backfire — after all, everyone handles the waiting room wait differently, but maybe I can provide some comfort to somebody else.
3. I will tell at least one doctor how much I appreciate him or her.
4. I will reach out to others whose hearts may be heavy, just to see how they are doing.
5. I will be kinder to myself each day. I won’t berate myself for not exercising hard enough or for not accomplishing every goal. Instead, I will show myself the same kindness I show others.
Is there an act of kindness you received or gave? Please feel free to share; I would love to hear about it.
Is there any random act of kindness you’ve committed to? If so, please share.