If you cant find any words which may help, then you have to just be there.
Lets call her Mrs Snowflake. She is an absolutely nice and sympathetic person, around 50 years old and working in a toy shop. Actually, she’s the owner of the shop and I cant tell with how much love and energy she is doing her job – trying to find the perfect toy for all the kids.
And now her own daughter died.
Two years ago Mrs Snowflake consulted me since she was concerned about her daughter. At this time, her girl was 22 years old and she was confronted with the diagnosis Melanoma – an absolutely fulminant diagnose since the skin cancer was diagnosed much too late and already build metastases in her brain. From what Mrs Snowflake told me, I actually knew that she was going to die. To be honest: I tried to find some hope left, since I had another patient with this diagnosis living already a few years due to a new kind of therapy.
But actually, it sounded worse, and I didnt know what to do. You cant tell a mother that her daughter will die before you are not 100% sure.
Moreover, since I did not know how many month or years are left.
I wasnt involved in the therapy, I was only the one talking to Mrs Snowflake when she came up with news. And there were bad news all the time. I could see how Mrs Snowflake changed — she tried to function in her everydays life. At her job. At home. For her husband and for her other kids. But you could you see how she was fighting and struggling with the situation.
The most terrible part was that we were all helpless and could do nothing then to wait.
Two years later the moment came. Mrs and Mr Snowflake came into my practice, dressed in black and I knew what happened. They told me that she died. I listened to them, they spoke about her death and we were sitting a few minutes and didnt say anything.
It was this kind of silence in the room which you actually cant stand. If you have absolutely no clue what to say. Nothing.
As a doctor you have this inner urge which tells you that you always have to help someone who is in need. Or that you have this one solution or you can fix the problem. Or at least you will try it. But not knowing what to do, as doctor, is nothing you get taught at medical school.
You have the feeling that you must say or do anything that helps. Mrs and Mr Snowflake were crying for help, but I couldnt do anything.
The daughter of Mrs Snowflake died at the age of 24. I have never met her. I just listened and talked to her mother when she updated me about the disease run and I hope that I was at least a little help for her.
After a while, they left the room. I continued my work. Another patient was already waiting, really upset about his problem: He had a twisted ankle. Not so easy to share this kind of worries in that moment.