My first rotation is almost over. In fact, today was my last full day. It has been an amazing month.
One of my first patients came in the hospital with some pain and didn't realize he had advanced cancer. He passed away within a week or so. I went from joking with him when he was first admitted, oblivious to the widespread metastases, to watching him try unsuccessfully to get a really good deep breath. Watching a person die is unpleasant, certainly. But watching a family watch their loved one die is heart-breaking. He had come from out of town to visit. And then, just like that, he was gone.
Since that patient I've seen lots of variations on a theme. People who are ready to die, people who are desparate to try anything to avoid it, people whose family understand that death will come, those that can't accept it. Somtimes I stop and feel a little surprised that this is the patient population I've chosen for myself. And then I remember that I find peace in the idea of helping people gracefully leave one part of their eternal life to enter the next. It won't always be happy, but it can always be hopeful.