Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Better Kind of Care

Paul White, shown here at a chemotherapy session with his daughter Laurie Alexander.
(Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff)

In a July 24th article, A Better Kind of Care, The Boston Globe journalist Kathleen Burge introduced readers to Paul White, a successful owner of an engineering and manufacturing business, a man with a wife, two adult daughters, five granddaughters, and stage IV renal cell carcinoma. He had beat the odds repeatedly, having survived over seven years since the discovery of metastases. Despite availing himself of surgery, every new advancement in chemotherapy and participating in a clinical trial, his cancer was implacably progressing. Contemplating starting on what might be the last chemotherapeutic agent, he had also started seeing Dr. Vicki Jackson, Director of the Palliative Care Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital.

IMHO, the article did a terrific job of fleshing out the concerns, dilemmas, and ambivalence of patients, family members and healthcare providers in the uncertain, lurching and insidious territory of life-limiting/life-threatening illness and its treatments. It also did a great job of featuring and explaining palliative care, and its role upstream from hospice care. Here are the published letters to the editor on the story.

This morning I read in the Globe that Mr. White died on November 5th.

We have posted here before at the passing of patients with variously documented life-limiting/life-threatening illnesses, e.g., here, here and here. I thought I would respectfully post this retrospective with gratitude to the many patients who allow us to glimpse some of the most difficult situations in hopes of connecting to, and of helping, others.

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