We never know how high we are Till we are called to rise. -Emily Dickinson It could be suggested that the “good death” is falsely named in the field of thanatology and in the popular press.  It implies an ideal state, one which of course we cannot have.  Never agonize over ideals when the problem is as urgent as death.  Perhaps it should be renamed “the good-enough death,” one that is ...

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One of my doctors always asks if he can examine me before he starts. He identifies each body part he is going to touch as a question. I feel like I can always say, "No ear exam today, thank you." Or alternately, "I've been having a little pain in my left ear. Can you check it?" Tiny point. Subtle. But by merely asking me, my doctor signals that I am not ...

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My right eye had a blackout in September 2010 when I stepped onto our deck. I didn’t pay much attention to this episode as my vision zoomed back into focus within seconds. But several months later, my eye was playing tricks with me when the only way I could read was with my right eye closed. Back in 1981, I had lupus though I didn’t know it at the time. My ...

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Patients continue to teach me new things about medicine and a woman named Bonnie has been one of my best teachers yet. I met Bonnie last month in an online community where she was sharing with other ovarian cancer patients her decision to transition to home hospice. While explaining that this is of course an intensely personal decision, she wanted her community to understand this option, which we physicians are often ...

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I love to-do lists. I depended on them when I was working outside the home. I’ve depended them since my bed became my office. The one difference is that, pre-illness, I had fancy notepads and appointment books in which to keep my lists. Now I scribble them on any random piece of paper I can find. A few weeks ago, I realized I could benefit from a not-to-do list that would ...

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I met Dr. Stulbarg when I was twenty-two, and had just moved in with my boyfriend Stephen. Stephen had cystic fibrosis, but he’d been unusually healthy until now, when his lung collapsed on the way to a party. Then, in the hospital, his lung collapsed a second time. We sat on his bed together, talking with Dr. Stulbarg about what would happen next. Stephen had told me about Dr. Stulbarg already. ...

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"Health care costs are sky-rocketing!" "The percentage of the U.S. GDP devoted to heath care costs is the highest in the world." "The cost of Medicare is unsustainable." For most of us, the cost of health care (i.e., the dollars required by the system to produce and deliver care) isn't what brings us the most anxiety. It's when we're patients or helping a loved one find care that so many of us are deeply ...

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Recently, I was bemoaning the fact that while the first conference specifically addressing diabetes and depression was a good start, there really wasn’t a significant patient presence. Lots of experienced professionals in the field, but startling few people who had actually walked-the-walk with significant depression for years, decades even. While this format will surely offer a lot of information from the professionals viewpoint, it seems that it would be a bit ...

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As a nursing student, I always enjoyed being able to see first-hand new procedures, treatments, wounds and wound care on patients. Many of the patients were older and all were in the nursing homes we did our clinical rotations in. It wouldn't be unusual for several of us to be gathered around a patient while the wound care nurse or doctor cleaned, debrided and dressed a pressure ulcer, and for ...

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Have you noticed that most sick characters on TV shows look pretty good and are coherent -- often feisty -- even when they are in the hospital? Have you caught the number of ads for drugs and health plans showing happy, vigorous people that dominate the major consumer health websites and are common on TV? Have you noted that websites of disease voluntary organizations (lungcancerCrohn's diseasearthritis) tend to show healthy people participating in ...

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