My list of patient heroes grows longer by the day. I share stories about them with friends and family, and have written a bit about them over the years. On occasion, I have sent the local newspaper an In Memoriam. When I come right out and tell a patient that she or he is my hero, I usually get a startled look, like: "What, you mean you think I know more about living bravely with my condition than you, my doctor does? That's kind of scary!" But if they are truly one of my heroes, they then are able to get it, and step up to the reality of their courage. For after all, isn't it about courage? I can try to supply some enCOURAGEment to help a patient get courage, but ultimately that journey is theirs to lead, and I am just tagging along in one way or another. My patient heroes allow me to partner with them as they travel to unknown places. I have learned so much from these opportunities.
My dilemma is how to share this, beyond the disguised, anonymous ways I do this with family and friends. Fortunately I have managed part of this problem by sharing with my doctor-partners. The other part, I have resolved to tackle in these pages, somehow. It should go without saying that I will disguise identities while preserving the essence of these remarkable stories. Please return to look for them.
But there is another important piece here, having to do with recognizing, celebrating, nurturing the heroic in all of us. I refer you to Chogyam Trumpa's (Rinpoche) magnificent Shambala Warrior teachings. You need not become a Tibetan Buddhist to benefit from the everyday wisdom in his easy-to-read 1984 book "Shambala: the Sacred Path of the Warrior". I believe there isn't enough general celebrating of one another's basic human virtues going on ... lots of missed opportunities especially with our loved ones who probably need to hear about it more than we realize.
My heroes are full of pain, or the memory of it, exhaustion, wisdom, settledness, humility, humor, resilience, compassion and love. Whether they know it or not! A hero goes to a place inside that is about self-love and self-knowing, and it is a lonely place. But it is a necessary step in conquering fear, pain and suffering. (There will still be those things, but the hero can deal...)
My deepest gratitude in my professional life is to have been allowed to partner with my heroes. I am mindful of not wasting this precious gift by not fully learning and applying the lessons to my own situations, the ones that have arisen, and the ones that will arise. I can reliably report that amid all manner of pain and suffering, peace is possible.