Tuesday, 30 August 2011
Any Thoughts on the Matter?
The other day I had a long email from a blogger friend, with whom I have been in contact behind the blogging scenes for several years. She is very worried about her husband who was diagnosed with MCI (mild cognitive impairment) some time ago. There is a possibility that he is suffering from early onset Alzheimer's; it would take further tests to establish the presence of the disease.
My friend is a very capable woman, well able to take care of herself and her husband, whatever happens. But she now has to decide between two alternatives: to find out what is wrong and start some form of treatment, the outcome of which is doubtful, or to leave it at the previous diagnosis and hope for the best. Whatever she decides, her husband will accept; he himself is no longer able to make an informed choice.
Mary (not her real name) is deeply troubled, as anybody would be in her situation. To know or not to know, that is the question to which she will have to find the answer. She hasn't asked for my advice and I won't be offering it.
People rarely ask for advice in such important matters unless they know that the advice they will be given coincides with what they secretly already know is their preferred course of action. We really wish to be given the reassuring green light to go ahead or moral support for our own decision not to face up to things.
I have an excellent example of this in my closest family. My mother was very ill for about a year before her death. All the signs were that she had cancer. She never asked her doctor for a full diagnosis and preferred to ignore his hints. She could have spoken to me at any time, in fact, I frequently encouraged her to do so.
My mother never did. When she was hospitalised the doctors told her that any meaningful treatment depended on full knowledge of her condition. During one of my brief absences she telephoned my cousin for advice. My mother absolutely knew what my advice would be and she also knew that my cousin's advice would be the total opposite to that. She knew that I would want to know as much as possible about the situation in order to be able to make an informed decision; as far as I am concerned, it is only the full possession of facts which allow me to face, and deal with, an enemy, which is what cancer is. My cousin, however, is the exact opposite; her way of dealing with things is not to know anything. "was ich nicht weiss, macht mich nicht heiss" (I can't get worked up about something I know nothing about).
Mum preferred the second option, which had been her solution all along. My cousin, in effect, gave her permission to stick to it. In the end, it didn't much matter, she had left it too long for effective treatment.
Mary's situation is somewhat different, in that there is so far no permanent treatment for Alzheimer's, and certainly no cure; all she could hope for is a slowing down of symptoms, at best. But somewhere, perhaps only at the back of her mind, she knows what she will do.
Would you know?
"Forewarned is forearmed" or "Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise"?