Sep 21, 2010

coping

Last week I took care of a man who was suffering from glioblastoma. If you aren't familiar with that word I will explain. Glioblastoma multiforme is the most common and most malignant of the primary brain tumors. Glioblastoma usually spreads quickly to other parts of the brain. For this reason, these tumors are very difficult to treat. It is not uncommon for them to recur after initial treatment. Although this tumor can occur in all age groups, including children, the average age at which it is diagnosed is 55 years. Symptoms often begin abruptly. Seizures are also relatively common. The man I was caring for was 56 years old and was not the man he once was just 13 months ago. It was a seizure that began this whole nightmare for him. He had undergone 4 brain surgeries and this monster was again invading his brain and taking over his soul. He said very inappropriate things and often lashed out at the people he loved. This malignancy changed him and it was intensely painful for his family to watch. His wife was an amazing woman who sat by his side in her wheelchair day and night. Yes, she is in a wheelchair... She has been battling MS for the past 15 years and he has been caring for her. What happens when all of a sudden your rock begins to crumble and you are no longer the weaker one? How do you get up everyday and watch the man you love, the man who has carried you to bed for 15 years all of a sudden falling apart? I asked her early one morning after I has assessed her husband, "How are you doing? How do you manage to deal with all of this?" She looked at me with a smile on her face and just shook her head. Then she said something that kind of shocked me... "Farmville".  "You mean the Facebook game?" I asked. She lit up and said, "Yes! do you play?".  I told her that I don't play but I knew all about it and then she proceeded to turn her lap top around and show me her farm, her store, her animals, her millions of dollars accumulated. She went on to tell me that without Farmville she didn't know where she would be... it literally kept her glued together.
Our conversation got me thinking about life and hardships and coping mechanisms. I thought about all of the patient's I have taken care of over the years who have had terrible coping mechanisms. Alcohol, drugs, sex, cutting, pornography, and on and on... I had never had anyone tell me that Farmville was their lifeline. The reality is we all have a lifeline. We all have something that we will turn to when everything falls apart. Each one of us will fall apart... That is the harsh reality of life. This is why I have such compassion for people who are alcoholics and drug addicts. All of these people have fallen apart and had no one to show them an alternative lifeline. They clung to the only thing they knew would help the pain go away. The warm buzz of whiskey or the euphoria or heroine... it all serves the same purpose. It helps people COPE, it helps them to go on when they have no idea how they will face another day.
There was a time when alcohol was my coping mechanism and I am so thankful that I replaced that with something steadfast and real. Something that will never let me down and will be there no matter how big or how small my issues are. Jesus is my lifeline, he is the only sure thing in this life. Sure I have other coping mechanisms like exercise and yoga but when things get real tough and I am on my knees there is only one thing I turn to. Everything else is fleeting and temporary.

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