The preceding four posts on grief and acceptance set the stage for a closer look at how patients can be Healthy Survivors at the end-of-life. In other words, how can you both get good care and live as fully as possible after a diagnosis of terminal disease?
As discussed in "When 'And' Means 'Or'," and in the final paragraph of Part II of this series, getting good care can be at odds with living as fully as possible. My experiences with cancer recurrences have reinforced my two beliefs about this tension:
- When faced with a new diagnosis, "getting good care" usually trumps "living fully."
- The distress associated with making wise treatment decisions will be outweighed by the peacefulness I will experience for the rest of my life because of my confidence we did the best we could.
Interestingly, the time lag between my cognitive and my emotional acceptance became ever-shorter with each successive recurrence, which I attribute to -- Been there, done that! -- my familiarity with the situation. Importantly, the shorter the lag, the sooner I could see and embrace opportunities for joy in everyday life.
A diagnosis of terminal disease involves unique stresses and challenges. That's why the conclusion of the editorial by Prigerson buoys my hope that future research will provide insight into how to promote Healthy Survivorship at the end of life:
"Research that determines ways to promote peaceful acceptance offers the promise of offsetting the pain and misery frequently associated with dying and death."