Editor's Note Vol 5: Iss 1

This collection of work comes from a Group Health Writer’s Conference. Participants were asked to write for 10-15 minutes, creating a “Quick Write” piece to share with their group and with us. These short stories, told in a few minutes, tell stories deeply personal, heartfelt, and heartwarming; stories of becoming whole, finding self, finding home, and helping patients to become whole—emotionally if not physically. These are stories of loss and hope; stories of humanity. The images reflect that humanity: a flower from a loved one and a mother’s “worship flower,” a footstep in the sand, and more.

 We tell our stories and create images to express our human experience; we read stories and gaze upon art to share in that experience, to learn from the experience of others, and to revel in our own humanity. I hope you enjoy these brief revelries.

—Max McMillen, ELS

We’d Rather Not

Prose, Volume 5; Issue 1

My patient, Charles Hirsh, a long and lean aging man, lay on top of his assigned hospital bed, waiting for a visit from the anesthesiologist in preparation for surgery to contain a terminal cancerous process and divert his stool evacuation. His wife, whose brown hair surged through a ring at her neck, sat near him across the bed from me when I walked into their room. I pulled a chair up to the bed as I came closer, though I stood at the bedside to take only a quick confirmatory history because Mr Hirsh’s chart notes described well his medical state and the surgical plan. General anesthesia for this surgery would be pretty straightforward.

That’s not what troubled them. Charles and Kara, as they had introduced themselves to me, were concerned about this major bowel surgery that would totally disrupt anatomic stool evacuation as well as food ingestion.

“Into a bag and out in a bag is the outcome?” Charles asked.

“This is palliative, but there’ll no longer be a growing mass,” I said.

“What do you think?” Charles asked.

“Is it worth it?” Kara added.

“Those are different questions than I anticipated answering pre-op.”

“These are the most important for us,” Kara said.

“I can’t predict the procedure’s success or benefits for you. If you’re not ready, you can delay surgery. It’s a big change.”

They had worries. Would he stroke-out? Would his heart survive it? What would life be like with this daily bag process? They also feared chemotherapy. “I don’t want to be that sick,“ he said.

The more I listened the more I heard their respectful reluctance.

“We’d rather not,” Charles and Kara said.

“That’s okay,” I said.

Sighing relief, both beamed gratitude.

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