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Speaking Your Fear

No matter where you share your fear, help yourself work toward speaking your fear to another human. Then work up to sharing it with your health care provider.

I’ll never forget the patient who came to see me because food was getting stuck. Angelina was 95 years old, and had periodic esophagus attacks. [Esophagus attacks are my term for when swallowed food gets stuck and causes pain.] She had poor vision, was hard of hearing, and used a wheelchair, though she could stand for a minute or two.

Angelina tells me she hasn’t eaten solid food for months, and wants to know if she’ll ever eat “people food” again. My heart sank, hearing my patient tell me she didn’t even feel like a person any more.

Frail as she seemed, Angelina made it through an esophagram okay. It showed she had a long narrowing or stricture of her esophagus, which I explain to her. She needed to see a GI doctor to dilate her esophagus, which will take at least five days to set up. I was almost afraid to ask her the question I always save for last: How does all this make you feel? But I do, and the tears stream from her eyes and her voice cracks as she answers. I don’t even really need the words to understand her.

Helping Angelina heal was going to take more than a balloon and some pills. I’m a strong believer that every successful doctor-patient relationship will need to take into account how the health problems affect the emotions, not just the physical body.

If speaking your fear resonates, read Philip McKernan’s book, One Last Talk. He lays out a simple method to share your most important truth with those you love. He says, “Your greatest gift lies next to your deepest wound.” So true. But, don’t let reading another book keep you from seeking medical help.


Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

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