Dying Shouldn’t Be So Brutal
January 31, 2015
By Ira Byock, M.D.
“Travel safe!” It has become a nearly reflexive wish I give to friends who are coming or going. This fall, I noticed myself holding back from saying it to Michael, a dear friend who was wrestling with incurable cancer. The journey metaphor was too poignant.
I also avoided “Stay safe.” After all, dying is inherently precarious.
Instead I said: “Be well. I’ll be thinking about you.” That was true. I could have added, “and worrying about you.” That was true, too. Michael was receiving state-of-the-art treatments at a renowned cancer center in New York City. As he became sicker, the treatments got more intense. Each decision came with more difficult trade-offs and uncertainties. Each step to stay alive risked making things worse.
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