RAMBLINGS: The Medicine of “Good News”

I don’t mean to dash your hopes, but I am not writing this because I have received some good news to report. I guess you can say that getting into the stem cell transplant program (so far as the verdict is not completely out yet) is good news. Otherwise, my life expectancy would be half as long . . . or less. But it is like a Nazi saying to a Jew, I want to shoot you in the head right here, but the good news is that I’m sending you to a concentration camp instead. So, even getting into the stem cell transplant program is a good news of a mixed value.

I am writing about the topic of good news because I have spent so many hours in wait of such news, only to be disappointed. Okay, there has been some other low-key good news things that seep in now and then. For example, I am thankful that I have fallen into the 85% of people who, initially, respond to chemotherapy. It would have been an even greater nightmare if I had not. But when you take my life over the past— (wow, is it almost five months now?) —five months, unless you are Pollyanna, I have had a shit-load of horrible news, and it keeps coming.

Now I will digress a bit by saying that people complain a lot either because they are complainers, or because they have been dumped on by bad news, and they are honest. I think I fall in the latter category, or at least I hope. Neither I, nor others, have ever seen me as a complainer. Maybe Denise at times sees me that way, but no one else. I’ve spent my entire 38-year career listening to others complain, and I was doing it with great enthusiasm because I really did care about them. I cannot remember anyone coming up and asking me how I was doing and then me starting off on some thirty minute tale of suffering . . . before now.

As I was thinking about the topic of Good News, I first thought about what we were taught as evangelicals. We were told that the term “Good News,” at least as the way it appears in the Bible, ALWAYS means the Gospel. The Gospel meaning, we came into a fallen world, we have done bad things. We are separated from God. God redeemed us by having Jesus die on the cross and if we just believe in him, our sins are forgiven, and we will forever. That was the absolute boundaries of the term “Good News” for us. There was no other common meaning of the term.  However, I see it differently now.

I want to share a couple of, the many verses, from the Bible about good news and talk about them on the other side.

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger bringing good news, Breaking the news that all’s well . . . Isaiah 52:7 (The Message).

A twinkle in the eye means joy in the heart, and good news makes you feel fit as a fiddle. Proverbs 15:30 (The Message).

Good news, not just the Gospel, but all good news, does profound things to our soul, our psyche and health. That’s the message I hear from these two verses and it is consistence with what I see in real life. I love it when patients tell me that they are better after suffering for years. That is good news to them, realized, and to me good news to my ears.

I was thinking with my personal horror story (and it is a horror story, and if you think I’m being melodramatic then let me change places with someone being alone and stalked by Hannibal Lecter in a dark forest, late at night, and I would choose that in a millisecond if I could also have my healthy body back.) I have longed for good news for so many hours, only to have been thwarted.

I can close my eyes for a moment and imagine waking up one morning and not having twitching from my face to my toes. A 24-7 twitching that has almost driven me crazy A twitching so bad, that I’m glad I don’t have a gun in the house. A twitching that my doctors can only guess is motor-neuron injury from living in renal failure, but they have no solutions. I would fall to the ground in tears if that was the good news. I would sense a healing in my soul that goes far beyond the healing of my motor neurons.

I can also dream of looking up lab values and seeing that my creatinine was 1.2 (normal). I would break out into sobbing and run and dance in the streets of Anacortes, naked if you want. What healing, emotionally, can good news bring to tired souls.

Those two fantasies of good news don’t even touch on the cancer being healed. My heart would not have the capacity to handle that level good news.

Yes, I know that there are people worse off than me. I had a conversation with one yesterday. She is in her 40s and, according to her, she has a less than 1% chance of surviving her cancer for one more month. She has kids at home. She is suffering from terrible pain. While I have pain, it is not excruciating like hers.

I just feel that there is something missing in healthcare, and in life in general, were we are forgetting to share good news to help others. I don’t mean living in denial. It would be shameful to tell someone that they were fine, when they were dying. But you can look at this with a grim face and say, “I’m sorry but you have virtually no chance of beating this.” Or you can do, as I tried to do yesterday, by saying, with a bright smile, “Hey, you have a chance! You can still beat this! There is still hope!” That is the kind of good news that can change one’s soul, one’s heart, and one’s health.

Jim Carrey and a way to look at the “Odds.”



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