(Note: This is first person to make a point. It is based on my observations of treatment and the views expressed by the many cancer patients I have seen through their final days. Our system is barbaric, insulting and demeaning, and needs to change. Cancer will never be “cured” under our current cutthroat capitalist system so long as it can be treated and humans are willing to stand in for lab rats, nor will most other debilitating diseases. Treatment is not a bad thing, but the ethics of American medical care at death’s edge are largely disgusting and we need to talk about it as a society.)
I’d like to be allowed to die, please.
Yes. I know. You’re supposed to want to live. But life is no longer rewarding, and not because I’m a lovesick teenager, and not because I don’t have good benefits, and not for any other normal reason that might cross your mind.
I’d like to die because I have a terminal disease and I’ve been in pain and have been suffering for three years now. I was a “cancer survivor” for 10 years, but it came back and I’m going to lose my title. I can’t lose it fast enough. But I was taught to trust doctors, and they keep telling me about the next thing.
I now know the next thing won’t save me. It may prolong my death, but probably not more than a few weeks or months. It won’t help me enjoy life more. I am already taking enough opiates to knock down a hippo, and even if they cured my cancer, my drug habit would kill me.
But they’re not going to cure my cancer. When your skeleton is gone, they’re pretty much lost. So they’re going to harvest my benefits to the best of their ability, and boy are they able.
I have stage 4 metastatic cancer to the bone. It’s everywhere, head to toe. I’ve had this operation and that operation to beat it back, but it’s like the Patriots’ offense; it just keeps coming. 41 days of radiation helped with the pain, but it’s still there, like a mean friend.
But what do my doctors see? It’s not like I have rich private health insurance. I ate that up years ago, along with any money my family ever had, because I had the misfortune to be mentally ill in the Shining City on the Hill. Instant insolvency for most families who care.
I now have Medicare disability and my state medicaid and I was lucky to get it before you were an automatic total scumbag for needing help. As much as the medical community complain about the limits, they harvest the hell out of what’s there. They know I’m dying. I know I’m dying. Hell, anyone who looks at me knows I’m dying. But until I shuffle off to the crematorium, I’m a frigging cash cow.
And people wonder why Medicare is in trouble. Of course, most people are incapable of observing and thinking, so why am I surprised?
A year ago, I was told I’d be lucky to be alive in 18 months. But I have a primary care physician who sees me every month and does a blood test. I have an oncologist who sees me every week and does a blood test. I have a cardiologist who sees me every 3 months and does a blood test. I have a gastroenterologist who does blood tests. I have as many as 5 blood tests a month.* You’d think they could talk to each other. Share the test results. But no.
I probably should disclose that I also have a psychiatrist. He doesn’t usually do blood tests, but every month he has me fill out a form, asks me if I want to kill myself or anyone else, and writes me a couple of prescriptions. His ten minutes with me every 2 months means everything in the world to me. But I guess because I’m crazy I can’t get away with wanting to die. I tried to give my medical decisions to someone else, but I can’t get them to kill me either.
Prescriptions. I am the drug industry’s brightest hope. Because I have a disability, I qualify for extra help. This is not a bad thing. It is an abused thing. It’s not abused by the patients like me. It’s abused by the drug companies and pharmacies. It’s yet another secret subsidy to corporate America that they access through the back door by abusing programs designed for good.
It’s in the way the doctors abuse the system. They’re not going to save my life. Not with treatment. Not with prayer. Not with magic beans. I am a close to an ex person as you can get and still talk.
I mean, I have a DNR which I basically had to beg for, because I really don’t want to be revived to undergo more experimentation. I’m already a living, breathing, walking science experiment. Does this therapy work, does that drug work, will this procedure help? I don’t get the point. I AM DYING PEOPLE. I don’t even own a white coat and I can figure that out.
They’re not going to save my life. They aren’t making it any better. Longer, yes. So I can lie in a room in pain for 18 hours a day. So I can generate income for doctors and nurses and home health care folks and hospitals? You people do a lot of great things, but pay attention to the folks who have a shot, why don’t you?
You want to know why health care costs so much? Why insurance is so high? Why Medicare will fail? It’s because of people like me. Not that we’re doing anything other than what we’re told will make us feel better, live longer, enjoy a higher quality of life.
Because we love vomiting and diarrhea and constipation and gas pains and bone pains and body pains that go on and on, and we love taking medicines that turn us into brick bookends who can’t concentrate, or speak coherently or think in a straight line. Hell, it’s just like the 60s, only without the sex and the music.
You see, we believe in doctors and medicine and science. We didn’t know that it’s about referrals and billing codes and procedures, we thought it was about caring and seeing a patient. But we’re just a case.
Doctors love to bitch about how little they’re appreciated and how under-compensated they are. Nobody ever hears the patient.
One thing. I’d like my doctors to kiss me before I die. I always felt you should be kissed when you were being f**ked.
*It gets even sillier, but you’d never believe it unless you went through it.