Christmas Treasures

Good morning!  I’m up early, with a few moments to myself before the craziness of Christmas takes on a life of its own.

Yesterday, my oldest son and I baked all manner of things, some of which I will spotlight in recipes this week.  My hubby and I sat near the Christmas tree with my mom, holding warm mugs of Apple Cider Hot Toddy.  On Saturday, my hubby and I took the kids out to dinner, where we watched snow falling peacefully beyond the smooth glass window.  Yet, despite these precious moments, my heart wasn’t in it.

The holiday spirit has all but disappeared within me, the wind taken out of my sails by the sadness of last week.  I worked hard and quickly to give a very sweet patient a diagnosis, with hopes of cure, before I went on holiday.  The patient came to me with a common referral: an abnormal MRI of the brain.

After many calls to insurance providers and schedulers, I had successfully coordinated the necessary tests to happen within the next 48 hours (no small feat- insurance companies play Scrooge in the Christmas Story of a physician).  Within 48 hours, the diagnosis was clearer, but bleaker.  I called the patient with his results, and we agreed to get a few other opinions.  All of the opinions were in agreement with mine: it was a rare diagnosis (about 1:1,000,000).  Though it was sensational for the medical world, it would be devastating for the patient.  My heart broke; there was no known cure.  It was a fatal and rapidly progressive disease, and this person would likely pass away within a matter of months.

My hand paused on the door handle; a rush of trepidation had stopped me.  I was acutely aware that the moment I went through that door, I could never go back.  I would forever change their lives, and in fact, sentence this person to death, just four days before Christmas.  I broke the news.  There were questions, tears, anger, guilt, frustration, disbelief, and despair- which I expected.  As I had expected and done for other patients with grave diagnoses, I stayed as long as they needed and answered all questions, gave every bit of information I had, and outlined the path forward.  Still, tears stung my eyes, but I blinked them back.

They left the office, filled with sadness and despair, but they have not left my heart.  I have prayed for that patient and family every day since they left.  Though trained to give the facts and maintain distance from our patients- I would be lying if I said there aren’t those who work their way into my heart.  It doesn’t escape me that this patient’s children will have their parent ripped away from them soon.  The impermanence of life is felt so fresh for this holiday; not a single day is promised or given to any of us.

With that in mind, enjoy your real treasures: be it your family, a significant other, a cherished pet, or a tradition, activity, or restfulness- cherish this day.  We don’t know what tomorrow, next month, or next year will hold.  Take pictures.  Eat the cake.  Savor the smell/sight/feel of your holiday.




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