Pentacostal man refuses cancer treatment

My most memorable patient in my career as a nurse practitioner came in about my third year of practice in otolaryngology. I had a 54-year-old male with a remote history of smoking and a chief complaint of a neck mass.  Unfortunately, imaging studies showed a laryngeal mass with metastasis to lymph nodes on both sides of the neck.

What was memorable about this patient was how he responded to his illness, and the important lessons I learned from him. He refused treatment. He was an avid Pentacostal and believed that his faith would heal him. Though I disagreed, I continued to see him to monitor the progression of his disease. We spent many hours discussing his attempts at healing through his church. As his disease progressed, we altered his diet for maximum nutrition and based on what he could swallow. His family came to some of these visits and was supportive of his wishes.

He survived longer than the projected time lines in the literature I searched. Whether he was just an outlier or if it was because of his faith, I don't know.  He and his family taught me to respect patients' beliefs and continue to provide support for them even if it is not what I would consider to be the best treatment option. He taught me that faith, love and family could be more important for quality of life in an illness than actual time.

Tell us about your most memorable patient by December 15, 2010, and you'll be eligible to win an Apple iPad!

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