Tell me what miracle means.
From the first appointment I have with them, many patients tell me they are looking for a miracle. That they believe they will be in the tiny percent of patients who are long-term survivors of glioblastoma, one of the most deadly brain cancers. Or that their brain metastases from metastatic lung cancer will disappear. I rarely dissuade my patients from this hope, but I always offer the counter-balance, pray for the best, plan for what is more likely.
In the past 3 months, this phrase “I’m praying for a miracle,” has also come up during the days to hours just before death, when some patients and families are begging me (and their other oncologists) to give them incredibly toxic drugs that will likely hasten their deaths. I have found myself saying that a miracle will occur without my intervention. That God (or whatever divine power there might be) will do this without me, and without modern science.
The more I hear this phrase, the more I wonder “what exactly is a miracle?” Why isn’t it the fact that we can now stave of death for years after diagnoses of a terrible disease. Why isn’t it that we now have tools to help alleviate pain, anxiety and suffering as the end of life approaches? And, why is it that in the end, if there is a divine power capable of intervening on our behalf, we aren’t satisfied knowing that we are off to meet him?