Posted by: counselorcarmella | April 23, 2012

Quotes From “The Doctor Will Not See You Now” by Jane Poulson

I just finished reading an amazing book, “The Doctor Will Not See You Now.”  The author (Jane Poulson) was from Canada.  She was diagnosed with Type I diabetes at  13.  When she was in medical school, she lost her eyesight. She  was only a few weeks away from finishing her medical degree and was  trying to  learn necessary blind skills and then get back to school and hospital duties at the same time.  She finished her degree and did go on to have a medical  career.  She  did internal medicine, oncology, and paliative care. She also  did some teaching and writing and  served on committees, etc.  She had a nurse who assisted her with visual  tasks and was really creative and resourceful.  She had colleagues  who  believed in her abilities and  were  willing to  give her a chance at doing things.   Eventually, she had cardiac problems, and later on  breast cancer, which she died from in 2001 around the age of 50.   Dr. Poulson wrote about her experiences as a cancer patient to try and help  other physicians understand the patient’s perspectives and needs more fully.  She was in a unique position to do this as both a doctor and a patient.
I was impressed over and over with her honesty and her thoughts about blindness, life, and illness.  She quotes passages from the Psalms throughout the book. She was honest about the  more negative feelings, as well as the positive ones and talked a lot about the things that nurtured her soul.  Spiritual beliefs, sensory experiences, and the  support of loved ones were topics she spoke of often.  This is an extraordinary memoir. 
Here are some quotes from her book:

“Twenty years later I still struggle with this most cosmic error of my life. How could I have failed for so long to see the signs of impending disaster? I must hold myself back from using my highly polished retrospectoscope. In hindsight I see everything very clearly and continue to chastise myself for not having known so much 25 years ago. This line of reasoning does not get me anywhere, part of my journey has been to learn to stop this self-flagellation. I have also had to learn that just as the lens of the retrospectoscope provides false clarity, the lens of unbridled optimism distorts reality.”



“It was easier to be a person of faith when things were going well, when despite the diabetes, life was good. I had financial, family and social security. I was working towards a fulfilling career. My prayers were being answered, and I was aware of the Spirit within me. I nurtured this presence of God through worship, study and association with like-minded persons. Faith and worship came naturally to me then, but I only began to grow spiritually when I had to face difficult questions about faith and God, when my life was at odds with my hopes and prayers.”


“We did not do a lot of talking that afternoon. I was enormously grateful that he did not try to convince me that God loved me deeply and that I was in the strong arms of the everlasting Saviour, which was something I had heard chaplains and priests say to patients. That was the very last thing I wanted to hear that afternoon. What I do remember very strongly to this day is that Ron allowed me to express anger, frustration and despair with God. He did not try to defend himself or to provide any ridiculous and facile explanations for what had happened to me. I learned to bite my gums when people would explain to me that God was using me to teach the world, or that God would never send me more than I could bear. Had Ron used that approach that afternoon, I think I would forever more have been turned off by religion. No, we sat and absorbed the dreadful news… That was and continues to be Ron, a strong and constant supporter who walked beside me through all the trials that followed this terrible experience.”


“There may very well be worse personality traits than unbridled optimism. My persistently positive spin on the world even in the face of overwhelming odds is a valuable part of who I am. Presuming that every story would eventually have a happy ending gave me the energy to “keep on trucking” despite appalling circumstances.”


Some psychologists might say that I am nothing more than a Type A, driven personality. I prefer to think of myself as being full of passion and enthusiasm. When this is activated, I find extraordinary and seemingly limitless drive to accomplish amazing things.”
“Philosophically, I had to make a choice. I could either see the humour in these situations or I could drown in my despair. Laughter has been one of the driving forces in my life, fortunately, I was able to spend most of my energies laughing at the predicaments in which I found myself.”

“My work in palliative care did not make me think so much about dying as about living, and about what was important in life. My dying patients fell into one of two groups. Those in the first group were sad and angry about their impending deaths because they had never had time to do what they wanted and were dying unfulfilled. Those in the second group were sad to be dying because they were so enjoying living. I came to realize that one cannot know about one’s mortality. We have only the present. We are each responsible for our own happiness,-we all have time and how we spend it is our own call. We have to determine what is important to us, then examine our lives to see if they reflect our priorities.”



“Most people have not known the feeling of profound physical dependence upon others and the mindset that creates. Most people who are helpers are doing their good works out of generosity or love. You hope that you have made life a little easier for the person you have helped and that they appreciate your efforts. As someone who has required a lot of help over the past two decades, I can only say that it is not easy to require help and that it is much easier to give help than to receive it. I have found myself feeling quite conflicted sometimes. I am truly grateful to whoever has helped me, but at the same time I feel angry and that makes me feel guilty.”


“I hate being so dependent, physically and emotionally, upon others in my community. Letting go of the notion that “normal” or “real,” “complete” or “valuable” people do not need help allowed me to see the complex interactions needed to permit function in our world. Living this truth has made me realize my own worth and see the contribution my encumbered body makes in the wider world. Although I dream of jumping into a car and doing errands independently, I am open to the wonders of relationship and community. Would it not be worse to believe that you were completely independent and needed nothing from those around you? There is much comfort in seeing yourself as part of a mutual and interdependent community. I have learned that one can require help and yet still make a valuable contribution.”


“It is an extraordinary and terrifying experience to cross the line from a philosophical grasp of the fact that no one lives forever to the realization that one has a life-threatening illness. Although I had expected and prepared myself for some of my feelings, I was frequently thrown for a loop by emotions that arose when I least expected to feel anything at all.

My emotions were not all negative. The enormous support and positive reinforcement I received from loved ones sustained me from the moment of first diagnosis and carried me at times when I could not stand alone. My family and friends laughed with me and wept with me. Throughout the whole experience I felt loved. This gave me the ability to hope for the best and to go on living in a fully engaged manner despite the nightmarish circumstances.”


“I learned a lot about myself during those days of recovery. For one thing, I learned the importance of creating a healing environment. I had always scoffed at things like aromatherapy, but when I surrounded myself with delicious fragrances, fresh flowers and good music, I found myself healing. I gradually learned to live much less in my head and much more in my body. Even though I could not explain it medically, it helped.”



“I know that if I ponder too much the question of uncertainty or the unfairness of my position, it will make me crazy. I spend a great deal of energy maintaining myself in the present moment. I am well now and am able to cope right now. I will not upset this state of equanimity by thoughts of all that I have been through, nor dread what might lie ahead.”




“Trying to embrace a whole different paradigm has taken years of reflection, prayer and meditation. It is very easy to fall into the trap of getting my priorities wrong. I must remind myself that physical ability and beauty are evanescent features that ultimately dwindle for all of us. The only realm that has continued to grow and flourish for me is that of being fully alive every moment of my life. I can only access the energy, patience and strength to do so from my connection to God. My most valuable personal asset is my willingness and ability to be still and know my creator.”




“My Body Is Suffering, but My Spirit Is Calm. While I would like to think of my energy and passion as merely personal attributes, I am aware that this is not so. My aggressive pursuit of happiness and meaning from a life few would lust after is fuelled by a force greater than I possess. My infinite energy is the result of my deep and abiding faith in God, my creator. I believe that I entered into a covenant with God at the time of my birth. God gave me my life, my part of the covenant is to live as fully as I can. My covenant does not require that I be thankful for or rejoice in the travails. I hate having diabetes and being blind. I rail against my body, which is constantly failing me and severely limiting my activities. I long deeply for the imagined joys of an intimate relationship with a beloved mate. I wish I had had a child. My covenant has required that I repeatedly let go of my images and desires, and that I acknowledge that they are not realities in my current journey. In letting go I have learned about the richness of being alive.”




“We rarely are able to choose our destiny. The only choice we have is how we respond to what happens to us. We may choose to deny reality and strive to eliminate unwanted challenges, or we may engage the events of our lives and pursue the journey down a different road. Pursuing alternate ways of thinking or being does not have to be enthusiastic or joyful. It is probably more authentic if it is somewhat tentative. Our creation covenant with God only asks us to be willing to take the road that stretches before us. It is only in going down this road that I have encountered my soul. It has only been in encountering my soul that I have been able to fully enter the mystery and marvels of being alive.”




“Since my illness began in May 1996, I had gained an intense appreciation for each day of life. My engagement in all aspects of being alive was much more intense. Now I realized that I had gradually shifted my focus to all that I had known and currently knew rather than to all I might never know. Each person has but a very brief time on earth. Now is the time to revel in that. Now is the time to live in such a way that your presence is significant for the people who share this moment on earth with you.”




“Many people believe that science is gradually replacing our need for the concept of God, the Creator of the universe. I have found the opposite to be true: the more we know about science and biology the more I am in awe of God and the natural world. While I am out walking, I feel the sun, hear the leaves rustling in the trees and smell the flowers from a beautiful garden. The sun, the trees, the garden and I are all co-creations of God. Seeing life in this way has always been important to me, but I find it particularly comforting in this autumn of my life cycle. Mindful observation of each moment has given me a language for exploring and enhancing my spirituality.” 




“Atheists ask me how I can believe in a loving, omnipotent God when I face so many hurdles each day. Some use the example of my life to refute the existence of God. Some ask why I pursue a God who has so clearly failed to protect me from adversity. My response is that I can only live in a world that I believe has been created by God. I prefer to live in a world where I cannot understand many things than in a world where I cannot perceive the presence of God everywhere.”




“I preferred contemplative prayer to petitionary prayer. In meditation I could imagine myself sitting at God’s knee and being silent in the presence of the source of all strength and life. It gave me more energy and strength than continuously begging to be able to carry on with my life, which seemed so difficult for me… Being still in the presence of God continues to be a very powerful form of prayer for me.” 




I have always striven for grace and composure in dealing with the twists and turns of life whether or not the outcome is favourable for me. I believe that it is this gift of grace that has allowed me to let go of so many things I thought I needed and to turn myself to the mystery of adaptation and venturing forth through uncharted waters. There is always a great temptation to dig in my heels and say that something is unacceptable. This sort of energy makes me angry and bitter. Instead, grace creates openness to searching for other ways to do something or to receiving pleasure from unexpected sources. Grace is not saying that everything is the way I want it. It is the strength to carry on in the face of adversity.”



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: