The doctor becomes the patient

Personal Stories | July 5, 2024 | Sherry Baskerville-Bridges

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A photo of Sherry in TRX training

In October 2016, at the age of 56, and after working for 31 years as a General Practitioner, it was my turn to get “the bad news.” My niggling cough was not seasonal allergies, nor a regionally acquired fungal lung infection, which were much higher on my own list of suspects than the inoperable lung cancer diagnosis I was given. My first thoughts (in no particular order) were: 

Of course, I was also sad to think of what else I would miss out on, and who I would leave behind, but perhaps because of my medical training, or because of my tendency to be more practical than emotional, I seemed to skip over the feelings of denial, or questioning “Why me?” that some people experience. 

I got through three of the standard cycles of chemotherapy and my symptoms were improving, but I understood that the five-year survival rate was under ten percent. That’s when I got the news that my tumour had a specific genetic rearrangement that made me a candidate to try a recently approved oral targeted therapy that had the potential to prolong my life, though not cure me. When I responded well to the treatment, it was a bit like winning the lottery, though it will eventually fail when some of the cancer decides to mutate. In the meanwhile, I hope that the new drugs in development will be available when I need them. I joke that I am trying to stay just behind the cutting edge of medical advances for my condition. Who knows, I may still need to be concerned about the ‘dwindles.” For that reason and others, I plan to continue advocating for advance requests for MAID in case I have an event or condition that causes me to lose my capacity for the consent that is currently required for MAID requests, but that is topic for another day. 

You may be glad and/or sad to hear that I did survive my parents. My father had a peaceful assisted death for metastatic cancer in 2018, and my mother had her peaceful assisted death in 2022 for a rapidly progressive neurological disorder. Again, another topic for another day. 

For now, I consider each day a “bonus day,” and try to make the best of each one of them. I am so grateful that we have some end-of-life options, and so appreciative of everyone who has contributed to get us to this point. 

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