08/07/2012 01:44 pm ET Updated Oct 07, 2012

A Different Kind of Medical Battle

There is so much noisy battling going on around the state of health care that sometimes one can easily overlook the quieter battles that go on every day in homes and doctors' offices around the country. And in these quieter battles, much of the heartbreak really resides. And just as often, in these quieter battles we get to glimpse at the best of the courageous human spirit.

I came across such a story from first time author V.C. August (V), who shares her personal memoir of having to fight the quiet battles -- often encountering heartbreak along the way.

The Healing Houe's narrative revolves around a woman who has an incredibly arduous journey in finding a correct diagnosis for lupus, a disease that leaves her debilitated. Along the way she encounters insensitive doctors, incompetent labs and a medical bureaucracy that reveals the medical machine at its most brutal. The battles the author fights are ones many of us confront, such as having to fight a medical bureaucracy more focused on maintaining its own health than those of patients. While the author displays her natural wit and perseverance, she becomes depressed in the grinding medical machine until finally, mercifully, she finds help combating her depression from a compassionate psychiatrist.

But the author must also fight another, even quieter battle -- a battle few even whisper about. In The Healing Hour, the author and her psychiatrist form a deep bond that was to be ripped apart by the tragic reality that the doctor was diagnosed with stage four (terminal) lung cancer. Just as V was making progress in battling her depression (hard enough), she had to fight yet another, quieter battle where she had to separate from her trusted health care provider. Tough though that was, both the doctor and V realized they were virtually on their own in managing through this terribly difficult time.

In this dramatic case, the author makes a courageous decision to support her doctor and together they grieve the doctor's death sentence and continue sessions til right before the doctor's untimely end. The depth of the despair for both parties is amplified given the scant (dare I say nonexistent) guidance for either "doctor" or "patient" in dealing with this very heartbreaking situation, especially as the doctor declines. As the tables shifted quite shockingly and irrevocably as the psychiatrist, because of her illness, became the patient, we see how heart-wrenching this is on all sides.

Yet with all the rancorous debate over the future of our health care system, this quiet yet common battle is rarely discussed. The pain that must be endured when patients and doctors must separate -- whether for insurance reasons or relocation reasons or as in this extreme case, medical reasons -- is excruciating made worse by quirks in a massive medical system. As a result, this untold battle occurs untold times and it is a battle that patients regularly must wage quietly on their own.

In the heated political battles that get all the attention, it's wise to remember that it is in the quiet battles that the most exquisite pain is experienced.

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