One of the things I’ve noticed being different in Kenya is that speaking about bad news or bad outcomes out loud is a very serious thing here. Many people have explained to me that they don’t want to talk about possible bad outcomes because it almost seems to them that it makes it more likely to happen, or like they wish it would happen, and they don’t want to give those bad outcomes power. This is very noticeable in the hospital, where as healthcare providers we often have to tell patients that they have a very serious, even terminal condition, or that their treatment isn’t working. As Kenyan colleagues teach me how to talk about these things gently, I’ve thought a lot about how our beliefs impact our feelings about bad outcomes. What do I believe about suffering or dying, and how does that change how I react to bad news?
How strongly do I believe in the ultimate Good News, that Jesus took away the power of death?
I was rounding in the hospital one day, and an older man had been admitted for pain control. He had severe pain from his metastatic cancer that hadn’t responded to multiple rounds of chemo. As we discussed as a team how to best help him, I asked if he wanted to try more chemo, knowing it wasn’t working. He looked me in the eyes and said “I won’t do any more chemo. I am ready to go home now.”
To make sure that he understood his choices, I reexplained that the current chemo wasn’t working, and his options were to keep trying or to focus on being as comfortable and functional as possible. Again, he calmly looked me in the eye and said he understood, and he chose to go home on palliative care.
“Do you know Jesus? Are you ready to die?” I asked.
“Of course,” he said and smiled. “I have been saved, and I know what is waiting for me.”
His quiet confidence and peace stuck with me. I really admired how he was able to bravely recognize that he was dying, and to hold on to his hope in spite of suffering. I hope that I can have that attitude and kind of witness during my own suffering. Thank God for Good News and the hope that we all can have!
Update: Ryan and I are officially fundraising for next year, if you are interested in coming to one of our meet and greets while we are in the States in October, you are welcome! Details are in our newsletter and on our Facebook page. If you are interested in contributing, consider donating. Thanks to all who have been with us in this process!