I apologize for this stream of conscious post. I am deliberately not re-reading and editing. It is what it is, because that is what I need it to be. Unhampered by grammatical and societal expectations. A simple pouring out of my heart as I grieve and process.
We lost a patient this week.
I had a million and one posts to write. Updates on different adventures, funny happenings.
And then I lost a patient.
It's not the first time Ive worked with a bereaved family, in fact, this isn't even the most tragic situation I've worked.
But it hurts more.
We talk a lot about professional boundaries in my field, trying to find a line between building therapeutic relationships and forming unhealthy attachments. It's easy in most cases; we know where our job ends and entanglement begins, and we don't cross it.
It's harder with long term patients. Harder when we go through the journey with them, when we become invested in their future.
This young lady I knew since day one of her treatment. I was by her side for any number of heartbreaking experiences, as well as some truly happy memories. I did education when she was first diagnosed, I accompanied her to surgery when her family wasn't around, I sat and colored with her when she was alone and scared. We knew this day would come, especially when tests came back not positive a few weeks ago, but none of us ever dreamed the end would come so quick.
She passed away, at home, with her loved ones, and I can only guess the rest of us would hope the same.
And I hurt, more than any of the other passings I've worked, because this one IS different. She became a friend.
I wouldn't change one bit of it. I maintained my professional boundaries, but I still grew to care for her immensely. Yet, I do not see how I could have possibly managed to do my job without building that relationship.
We choose pain, the pain of having loved and lost or the pain of never having loved at all.
We choose pain, but it seems to me that the former is what gives life it's meaning. My life is richer because of this young lady, and as sorrowful as I am in the moment, I will cherish the time we spent together, forever value the lessons she taught me.
I'm going to a funeral tomorrow night. The first patient funeral I have ever attended. It will be hard, this I know, but I also have no doubt it will be needed. I started this journey with her, and now it is time to end it. Because her pain is gone now, her struggle is complete. She didn't lose her battle to cancer, she overcame it.
So for tonight, I will be sad, and not apologize. For tonight, I will be grateful that I have a job that allows me to reach out to those who are scared and in pain. I will be thankful that I have such a supportive, loving family, and I will enjoy the time I have with my friends. I will live my life without guilt, because the time we have is a gift. I will remember that even when it feels like Im spinning my wheels. I am still slowly building my purpose with my patients. I will remember that I am NOT perfect, but I do not need to be. It is unnecessary to beat myself up over my flaws, but to instead embrace them.
I will stop fighting for, and chasing after, the things and people who are just out of reach. I will appreciate those who love and care for me. I will never give up hope that life can be a bit better.
Tonight I will appreciate, and tomorrow... and the next tomorrow... and the next, I will remember, my sweet patient, with the beautiful face, the appreciation of coloring, the obsession with Pixar movies, who never let her circumstances define her.