December 8, 2018

When this young doctor encountered an elderly lady on his hospital rounds, their dialogue together had such a profound impact on him that he was brought to tears, and he took to Facebook to share his experience. It is easy to see why the post has gone viral.

Marco Deplano, from Sardinia, Italy, was consulting with an older patient who was suffering from terminal cancer, explaining the next steps in her treatment, when he was taught a lesson about life he will never forget.

Here is the doctor’s heartfelt post:

“Today I received a call to do a consultation in another department. The usual … It was about a patient with terminal cancer and renal insufficiency due to compression of the ureters. The woman I met there was between 70 and 80, with carrot-orange hair and flawless pink fingernail polish.

– Good morning, Ma’am.

– Good morning to you, Doctor.

I looked in her file, did an examination, and repeated the ultrasound.

– Ma’am, your kidneys are struggling: they can’t eliminate urine naturally anymore, so I will need to insert a tube, a kind of valve that bypasses the obstacles. So then you’ll pee into two tubes connected to two bags…

– Excuse me, Dr. That means I’ll have another pouch behind me too?

(She’d already had a colostomy.)

– Yes, Ma’am.

There was a long silence. It felt endless. But then at last, she looked up at me smiling.

– Sorry, what’s your name?

– Deplano.

– I died then, with him. And then I died again ten years ago when they diagnosed me with this disease. But now I don’t have to pretend anymore.

– My children are taken care of, grandchildren too. I want to go join him. What’s the point in living a few extra days with these bags, with suffering and so much work for me and my loved ones?

– I have my dignity. Will you be offended if I don’t want to do anything? I’m tired. I’m ready to entrust myself to the hands of God. Tell me the truth, will I suffer?

– No, Ma’am. You can do whatever you want. But putting two bags…

– Marco, I said no. It’s my life. I’ve decided. If you want something to do, let’s stop the transfusion. Then I can go home and eat ice cream with my grandson.

Every word she said stripped away my defenses, as if taking petals off a flower. I forgot my exhaustion, my anger and frustration, everything. I forgot the years of study, the thousands of pages I’d read, the rules, the facts. I felt naked and disarmed facing this candor, this awareness of death.

I turned around to write in the file so the nurse wouldn’t see the tears in my eyes. I was so moved. Anyone who knows me knows, that’s not usually me.

– Marco, does this touch you?

– Yes, a bit, Ma’am. I’m sorry.

– No, it’s nice. Thank you. It makes me feel important. Listen, please do me one other favor. If my children come and shout at you, call me. I’ll tell them to stop. Write that I’m okay. Okay?

– Yes, Ma’am.

– Marco, can I ask you something else?

– Sure!

– You’re special. I know you’ll go far. Give me a kiss, like you would if you were my son—do you mind?

– Of course not.

– I’ll pray for you. And for my son. I hope to see you again.

– Me too. Thank you, Ma’am.

She gave me the greatest lesson of my life, with those simple words. Death is the final part of life. There’s no need for fear, anxiety, or selfishness. Things that years of study don’t teach you. I felt so small there, in front of this magnitude.

Suffering is part of love, it brings people together sometimes even more than love itself. And sometimes a kind word is a more powerful cure than the most modern drug. Whatever you think, cherish the journey.”

Sometimes what you can learn from another person’s life journey can be something you would never read in textbooks, and it can be more valuable than any written word.

Thank you for sharing your experience with us Dr. Deplano; many others are sure to be touched by your words, and your experience with your patient.