There was an article in the New York Times the other day entitled "How Doctors Die". The premise of the piece was basically that doctors are one up on the rest of us because they have the advantage of knowing precisely what to ask for to stay reasonably pain-free and comfortable on their journey to the light. I am sure this is not representative of every physician's journey and some must be as deep in denial about the whole thing as many in the general population - but it is an entirely valid and important point to be able to identify what you need when you wander down the unfamiliar path toward death. It is a bit embarrassing when you come right down to it - for someone who tends to know, generally speaking, what is going on - to find yourself floundering to understand at any given moment if what you are feeling represents the beginning of the end - or whether you passed that point weeks or months ago. To know when you start feeling worse whether you need to call in reinforcements or whether it will pass. The challenge is had I chosen dialysis, the nature of that treatment would require more regular check-ins and monitoring by health professionals who presumably could help identify some of these things - but as it is and in between visits with my doctor or specialist I am basically left to try and figure it out myself. To be honest - I am a very poor judge and my tolerance level for soldiering on is pretty high after all of these years. So if I started from a place where not feeling optimally was my normal - I know enough to say when I am far beyond that point - but how far exactly?
Some days it is just so hard to distinguish what you want and what you need - where it hurts and how to stop it - who to ask and when - there is no road map for this - it just comes and takes you toward a place you do not know with no idea when you will reach your destination. No one's trip is exactly the same so while you can read about the signs - they may not necessarily apply or come in the order you were expecting. For someone who has strived - largely in vain in the randomness of life - for control - this is beyond me and as the season of giving is upon us I have to say knowing what you are capable of giving and what you need to receive may seem straightforward enough - but sometimes even these questions are impossible to answer.