Dealing with a Complicated Medical History

by Theresa M. Shaltanis, M.A., L.P.C.

I have a long and complicated medical history. I could have yet another surgery, but I may end up worse than I am now, or even die during the operation. I would rather go on like this than risk dying and not seeing my children grow up. My husband has faithfully cared for me (in addition to farming), but he is overwhelmed. I’m afraid for his health. He feels the surgery would at least give us hope for improvement. I know it’s my decision, but I need some guidance.

You have an agonizing decision in front of you. I commend you for being courageous enough to share your struggle, particularly your openness in sharing your fears about death—a subject that many avoid. While I don’t know all the details, I invite you to consider the following.

First, educate yourself about your medical situation and the possible range of treatment options, including the possibility of seeking a second opinion. Second, find out what resources are available to support your husband. A hospital social worker and/or chaplain are a good place to start.

Family caregivers can burn out and become resentful, and often feel guilty asking for help. Your husband’s care for you is an expression of his love. However, allowing others to help does not mean he loves you any less.

Third, have a heart-to-heart talk with your husband about each other’s thoughts and feelings. You have both known your share of grief over past struggles, and you both fear what the future may hold. Get help from a third party if you need someone to facilitate the conversation. Part of the discussion might include what medical decisions you want made should you become incapacitated. A hospital social worker can help you complete an Advance Directive for Health Care.

Fourth, pray about your situation and ask others to pray for you—especially that you would have a sense of peace about your decision, and that you and your husband would be of one mind. Talk with your pastor to see what guidance he can offer.

Finally, hold onto God’s promise that He works all things together for good for those who love Him (Rom 8:28). St. Paul’s reminder that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness may have special meaning for you during this dark time in your life.

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