A brain surgeon, Paul Kalanithi got diagnosed with terminal lung cancer at the age of 36. Suddenly he found himself on the other side of the table. He wrote a ‘rattling, heartbreaking, beautiful’ book about his life as a doctor and then as a patient before he died. It is called “When breath becomes air’. In it he tactfully dissects the walls that exist between doctors and patients. Having found myself on either side of the table – first as a physician and then as the mother of a severely ill child, I can completely relate with this excerpt below.
“The reason doctors don’t give patients specific prognoses is not merely because they cannot. Certainly, if a patient’s expectations are way out of the bounds of probability – someone expecting to live to 130, say, or someone thinking his benign skin spots are signs of imminent death – doctors are entrusted to bring that person’s expectations into the realm of reasonable possibility. What patients seek is not scientific knowledge that doctors hide but existential authenticity each person must find his or her own. Getting too deeply into statistics is like trying to quench a thirst with salty water. The angst of facing mortality has no remedy in probability.”
“I had to face my mortality and try to understand what made my life worth living and I needed Emma’s (my doctor’s) help to do so. Torn between being a doctor and being a patient, delving into medical science and turning back to literature for answers, I struggled, while facing my own death to rebuild my own life – or perhaps find a new one.”
I cannot imagine what one’s options would be when diagnosed with a severe/ terminal mental illness. Saagar was unable to access his own life as he knew it and perhaps chose to find a new one.