Sunday, January 16, 2011

DAY 104 – ‘Till the End

photo courtesy of di the huntress at flickr commons
Larry was 44. He had a two year-old son, a loving wife, and leukemia.

I was his chiropractor.

Before his cancer diagnosis, I had recommended that he examine his diet, make general improvements, and consider the possibility that he might be allergic to a few foods that he was eating. I made these suggestions since foods are one of the most common causes of the muscle and joint complaints that I was treating him for.

Larry was none too keen on looking at, nor making changes in his diet.

Food is one of the single greatest causes of chronic degenerative disease, including musculoskeletal aches and pains.  As a responsible physician, I educate each and every patient about the risks of poor diet, and food allergies. Most patients are distressed at being advised that foods may be impacting their health. Not wanting to provoke them, I say, as I did to Larry, “If at any time you would rather that I not discuss the possibility of foods affecting your health, please let me know, and I will stop.”

Chemotherapy had its usual side effects; nausea, fatigue and hair loss. But, Larry appeared to be holding his own.

When the invitation to his 45th birthday party came to the office, I was honored to be included.

The gathering was festive; his friends, many. OK, so I’m a doctor, but the food was hardly appropriate for an ill man. Some of the gifts from loving friends, included candy, cookies and other sweets.

A few days after the party, Larry was in my office for a treatment. I had been going round and round with myself; his food choices were a clear risk to his recovery and his life, but I knew that he wasn’t going to be happy with me if I brought it up. What I came to was that my fear was no excuse; I had to tell him my professional opinion.

My words and tone were chosen carefully. He acknowledged my advice. There was some tension, but the visit ended without incident.

Walking into a treatment room a week later, Larry, already seated, said, “Dr. Young, sit down.” My sensitive gut churned. “Sit down.”, with that tone, had to mean, “you are in trouble.”

“I come to see you because you are the best chiropractor I have ever found, but if you mention food one more time, you will never see me again!”

“Larry, thank you for telling me. This is exactly what I have asked; tell me what you want. I care about you much more than I care about what you eat.”

... Turned out, Larry wasn’t holding his own. As the weeks clicked by, he became sicker and weaker. One day his wife, Rachel, called and asked if I could come to the house to treat him; he just didn’t have the strength to get out.

Arriving, I made space in his bedroom for my portable chiropractic table. He was weak, but glad to see me. I helped him onto the table and kept him warm with a blanket. This was not the time for spinal adjustment; I lightly massaged his back and neck, and held his hand.

Back in bed, I tucked him in as he closed his eyes ... for the last time.

Larry had let me know what he needed; making it possible for us to work together ‘till the end.

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