One of the things I love most about being a physician is the constant learning that is required - new information about medical advances always available to absorb. Not so evident at the beginning of my career, but which I have come to appreciate over the years, was how much I would learn about life from my various patients. Susie Edwards, in particular, was one of those patients.
I could tell that Susie was always one of those "see the glass half-full" kind of people, but I also think that her positive outlook on life did not come without work. No matter what she faced, she absorbed the information and would proceed to form that characteristically resolute look on her face that said "I am going to fight". After living with diabetes for many years prior to cancer, she had learned that the details matter and because of that background she always approached her healthcare with a meticulous tenacity. She was always hopeful, always working, and always searching and seeking answers. However, undergirding this constant attention of her care, she carried with her a foundation of peace that was not dictated by the situation's outcome. I believe this peace came from her deep relationship with Christ. In her last visit to my office, we talked about her assurance that she would have eternal life - a conversation that I will always treasure. I have no doubts that although Susie's body succumbed to cancer, her condition moved her to live an even better and more positive life than she already did. That was the first lesson I learned from Susie: ATTITUDE MATTERS. We must always remain hopeful, do the work, pay attention to detail, but live with the realization that we already have victory in Jesus Christ.
No matter how Susie felt, she always showed an interest in everyone that she encountered. She always asked my nurses and staff about their lives and families and how their day was going. Everyone was left with a positive feeling after interacting with her. Despite her illness, she continued her habit of regularly writing notes to encourage people, including my 92 year old mother-in-law who resided in a nursing home. Lesson two from Susie: PEOPLE MATTER - so show an interest in people, care about people, and encourage them.
The final lesson included Mark. The Saturday morning, February 14, that Susie, Mark, and I sat together in their home to discuss hospice, left a profound impression on me. As I sat there watching Mark attend to her every need at this strange intersection of love and grief, I thought about how Christ loves us. He sees us as his bride, his cherished treasure. Even though we may question why we have to endure trials, Christ keeps His promise to "never leave us or forsake us" and to walk beside us "till death do us part", just as Mark did with Susie. The difference is that Christ will be waiting for use with the gift of eternal life and glory. The final lesson: GOD LOVES US so much that He sent Jesus, His Son, to die for us and the Holy Spirit to guide and comfort us through our journey, no matter how treacherous.
Susie may have lost her battle with the enemy called cancer, but she won the war and received eternal life through her belief in Jesus Christ. Her illness stands as a reminder of the inadequacies of modern medicine, but her life reminds me that we have "The Great Physician" helping us fight until we win "the crown of life and glory."
The Great Physician Now Is Near
The great Physician now is near,
The sympathizing Jesus;
He speaks the drooping heart to cheer,
Oh! hear the voice of Jesus.
All glory to the dying Lamb!
I now believe in Jesus;
I love the blessed Savior's name,
I love the name of Jesus.
His name dispels my guilt and fear,
No other name but Jesus;
Oh how my soul delights to hear
The charming name of Jesus.
And when He comes to bring the crown-
The crown of life and glory-
Then by His side we will sit down
And tell redemption’s story.
Words by William Hunter (1859) and Richard Kempenfelt (1777), Music by John Hart Stockton (1813-1877)
Donna Scudder, MD,
Susie Edwards' Primary Care Physician