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Everyone has a different perception of pain and what it means to one’s state of health. Pain can be physical or psychological; it can also be acute of chronic. All pains and aches are a maker of some type of suffering. My understanding of pain and suffering mainly comes from previous experiences of from my own state of discomfort and also from observation of patients at work. After reading book titled “The Anatomy of Hope” by Dr. Jerome Goodman, I realized how little I really knew about pain and suffering.
This lecture contains many stories of the prevalence of pain for patients during the course of illness.
In having studied these readings, a newfound understanding of how pain works in the lives of people who are struggling with health concerns has helped to illuminate how I can be a better health service provider. Helping patients to find internal hope and faith can aid them in their struggle for health and improved quality of life.
In one of the chapters entitled, “The Right to Hope”, the author talks about his colleague, George Griffin, a specialist in treating stomach cancer who ironically gets diagnosed with a terminal case of stomach cancer.
Against the odds, George undergoes intensive and painful treatments in order to fight the deadly disease. As a physician, George had knowledge about the severity of this condition, but as a human, he wanted to live. As a result of his determination, he gathered all of his strength and pushed himself through intense chemotherapy as well as suffering during recovery from the painful surgery.
I think George’s view that “all of us have natural fear of death, but his belief in God and in afterlife assuaged it” played an important role in his decision to undergo the treatment (Groopman, 62).
His will to live, faith in life, and struggle for what is good and healthy was an extremely powerful aspect of his own treatment, and I commend him for enlightening others about the powerful gift of spiritual faith and hope. George survived, yet he endured a lot of pain and suffering along the way. Furthermore, George wanted to prove that there is always “inherent of the uncertainty in the behavior of even the worst diseases”. By working through his own illness, he disproved the negative prognoses by his own strength and willpower.
Also, he wanted to “spark hope that went beyond clinical truth” (Groopman, 78). George’s battle with cancer taught me that perhaps it is more difficult to beat the odds if they are familiar to a person, but in the end heritage and faith can go beyond clinical expertise and assist someone in the fight for life. George won his battle with cancer but he proved that it is worth it to have hope under even the most extreme circumstances and it is part of the human spirit to let miracles happen (Groopman, 81).
Another valuable story which assisted me in understanding the terms of pain and suffering when a patient is initially resistant in the struggle for hope is also written by Dr. Groopman and is entitled “Step by Step”. The reading is about a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patient named Dan. He refuses all the treatment and does not want to have hope in his cure. We find out later in the story that Dan based his decision on personal experience from the past when his veteran friend lost battle to cancer in spite of all the pain, suffering, and struggling he endured during his stay in ICU.
Dan did not have medical knowledge and he did not want to undergo the same suffering and complications as his friend who eventually died. As time is running out, Dan’s symptoms tend to worsen, illustrating the patient’s hopeless experience of illness, not just the biology of the disease (Groopman, 93). Things change for Dan when Dr. Groopman changes his approach and tries hard to lessen Dan’s fear. He presents him realistic outcomes and knowledge about the treatments.
I think he did marvelous job by telling Dan that everyone reacts to treatments differently, allowing Dan the chance to hope, increasing his faith and supporting the possibility of recovery. Eventually, Dan accepts treatment in steps as part of bargain and notices improvement. I think that Dan suffered in watching his friend fight and die, so he did not want to have false hope and fail. However, the support of a good health provider can assist even the most resistant patient in finding internal hope and strength, the personal power to fight an illness.
I learned from those two stories that it is how we approach the subject of pain and suffering which can either strengthen or weaken a person. Constructive and positive interaction can work wonders in helping to dissolve destructive and negative thinking, helping to increase the chances of success and the alleviating pain and suffering. I also learned that the way we understand a concept can be altered by many factors, for example like in Dan’s case previous negative of experience.
Seeing suffering and death and the failure of treatments can instill a sense of fear and hopelessness in a person, however, it is important to note that fear and hopelessness will not be helpful to anyone. George’s story was going against the odds and accepting pain and suffering as part of the journey. In my opinion, a healthcare provider can’t always just focus on the clinical presentations, one has to explore deeper into a people’s souls to what really troubles them, what can possible cause a delay in recovery, and help the person to find a reliable source of strength.
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