This I Believe
I believe in the power of human touch.
I am in fellowship to become a gynecologic oncologist. Although I had completed 8 years of training before starting fellowship, I never fully comprehended the strength of human touch and how it can change two people forever.
I was privileged to know a remarkable woman. She was kind and sweet with a plumpness ideal for holding small children. I immediately took to her.
I was called to see her in the hospital after she was diagnosed with a malignancy in her abdomen which was causing fluid to accumulate. The clinical picture was consistent with ovarian cancer. As she went to surgery, her family gathered around and she tightly clutched a framed picture of Jesus; her knuckles white with anticipation. The surgery confirmed advanced ovarian cancer. The family was devastated. Her daughters would softly cry in the hall, hoping she didn’t hear their sobs. Her husband, concerned and confident, coped with the situation by became obsessively diligent, checking each dose of each medication, keeping notes to monitor her hourly progress, staying each night in the hospital, trying to control the uncontrollable. After a long hospital stay and rehabilitation, she was finally discharged home with the hopes of starting chemotherapy soon.
Unfortunately, she was readmitted to the hospital about a month after her surgery with nausea and vomiting from the cancer coating her intestines. I was called to assess if she was stable from a surgical standpoint for chemotherapy which she needed as soon as possible in order to resolve the condition.
During that hospital stay, she battled with severe depression. She struggled with the diagnosis, her own mortality, the treatment and, most of all, her faith in God. One day, she tearfully asked me if she was “going to make it.” I sat down on the side of the bed, took her hand, and told her I didn’t know. She broke down and sobbed. She cried for the illness that had taken her life and spun it on end, for her children, grandchildren and husband, and for the unknown waiting for us all. Then she told me, smiling through the tears, that no doctor had ever held her hand before.
I still find myself reflecting on that afternoon and how she taught me such an important lesson; one I could never find in any book. I never had the opportunity to thank her or tell her what I had learned from her because she died a short time later. Nonetheless, the power of human touch is something remarkable and undeniable-something that has the ability to change us all, not for a moment but forever; and this I believe.
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