Saturday, 31 January 2015

On the Treadmill

In the years I volunteered with Hospice and did my ministry of charity in palliative care and bereavement, it never failed to surprise me when families and those affected by serious illness would draw me into their confidence, sharing endless facts about their treatments.  They'd rattle off names of drugs and doses, procedures and therapies I'd never heard of but of which they were all too uncomfortably familiar.

I used think of this as being "on the treadmill", when the focus of every day becomes the next test, the next injection, the next procedure, the next laborious minute.  I'd watch people run in place, putting a lot of work into making very slow progress.  Such is the new normal with a life-threatening illness.

The treadmill of medical treatment is the great equalizer in Canada.  Whether you're great or small, when you find yourself in ill-health the basement blood lab looks about the same to everyone.  Some believe that the well-connected get preferential treatment.  I know of at least two well-known and influential politicians and their families who have waited for their turn just like everyone else and I respect them all the more for it.  I also have experienced first-hand exceptional care and concern from the medical community.

A few years back in the year of a milestone birthday I went for a physical, and my family doctor asked me what had prompted me.  I joked that I wanted one last check-up while I was still in warranty.  He shook his head and said, gently, "I've got news for you, Jeremy.  You were never in warranty."

Maybe not.  But I am on the treadmill.

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