Would you tell a man that he had only days to live?
A colleague of mine (let’s call him Bill) had been suffering Lymphoma cancer over the past few years. Bill had been living with disease for quite some time, surprisingly comfortable in the knowledge that the cancer was one day going to return because it’s apparently not curable.
However during these past 12 months the lymphoma returned with vengeance and he had been undergoing regular chemotherapy. He was a trooper I must say and I grew to respect and admire the man. Apart from the bald head you would never guess that anything was seriously wrong and Bill continued to work in between lengthy hospital visits and the painful side effects caused from the chemotherapy.
He was due to go into hospital for one final treatment and it appeared he was in recovery. The treatment appeared to have been successful and he was excited about returning to work on a full-time basis. However we were sadly given the news that Bill had a brain tumour. I wondered about his poor wife. She has been a rock all this time and I knew they were very close. They adored each other and Bill and his wife had been happily married for over 20 years.
We were told it was very serious but we weren’t really sure what that meant. My manager had been in regular contact with his family and then one day I picked up the phone and it was Bill. He sounded great – a little weary and slow but very coherent. I was delighted and thought it would be a matter of weeks until Bill returned to work. Later we were informed that the tumour had indeed reduced in size and once again we thought Bill was on the road to recovery.
But as fate would have it, the brain tumour returned and I was informed that Bill only had a matter of days to live and that there was nothing else the doctors could do. He had lost sight in one eye and his hearing was all but gone. In such a short space of time Bill had gone from being a fairly healthy well-built man (he is an ex Judo champion) to nothing but skin and bone. It was just dreadful.
A few weeks had passed and Bill was still with us although at this stage, he was in palliative care. It had become known to us that his wife had not informed Bill that his brain tumour was terminal and she wasn’t going to. This led to an interesting conversation at work the other day. One colleague is quite astounded that his wife had not told Bill that his condition was terminal because he believed if he was Bill, he would like to know. I, however, believe she made the right decision. Having known Bill for three years, I truly believed that by telling him that there was nothing left to be done to treat him, he will give up all hope and shrivel up and die very quickly.
At the time, I also believed that telling Bill his condition was terminal and the doctors were no longer treating him that you were robbing Bill of any hope. The hope and the will to live. We often hear stories of people being on their deathbed or who’ve been told they only have days or weeks to live who make miraculous recoveries. I believe this is the Law of Attraction in its purest form and to be so brutally honest with Bill at this stage was potentially eliminating all belief and hope.
The sad news is that Bill did pass away a few weeks ago. Of course he must have known death was coming but he was never ‘officially’ told.
So what would you have done? Would you want to know that the doctors are no longer treating you because they believe that modern medicine could do no more? If you were Bill’s wife, would you have told him? Interested to hear your thoughts.