The Good Listener

“It’s back.” Tears rolled down her cheeks and she sobbed.

“Oh, no.” I grabbed her hand and held it tight.

She could only feel the rubbery material of my gloves and she could only see my eyes above my mask but despite the physical barriers, she knew my comfort was there.

“You’ve gotten through it once before, you’ll do it again.”

“Yea, I know.”

“Let me re-phrase. God got you through it once before. He will bring you through it once more.”

She sobbed a little louder, cried a little longer, and squeezed my hand a little harder.

“My cancer doc said it’s just a tiny spot and it’s not anywhere important so he can get rid of it quickly.”

“Then we will hold on to that hope.”

“I’ve been praying doc. I’ve been praying but I’ve been worried and anxious and crying and I just can’t keep it together.”

I still grasped her hand. She hadn’t let go and I wasn’t planning on letting go until she was ready.

“Now you can’t worry and pray at the same time. You either worry OR you pray. But if you’re going to pray that God takes care of this, then you GIVE it to Him and LEAVE it to Him. Because if you’re worrying, you’re not giving it to God.”

She nodded her head and finally, let go of my hand.

Then, she smiled.

“I’m gonna be praying for you.”

“I know you will doc. And thank you.”

I’ve had this conversation with numerous patients over the years and I recently had this conversation again.

Do you notice anything interesting about this conversation?

There is not one single piece of medical advice from me. Not one. I didn’t ask for the PET scan. I didn’t ask for the Oncology report. I didn’t ask about change in medications. I didn’t ask one single question.

Because my patient wasn’t there for medical advice. She was there for comfort. All of them were. Every time I have had this conversation, it wasn’t because she/he needed medical advice or a second opinion. It was because they were lost. Lonely. Defeated.

And I’m a good listener.

The reason I’m so “successful” as a family medicine PA is because I listen. I rarely get compliments from my patients but when I do, they all say the same thing.

“You always listen doc.”

Sometimes I don’t even make changes to their meds or offer anything. Sometimes my patients come in to update me on their health and end their speech with “thanks for listening.”

And this particular recent experience with a cancer patient was no different.

In medicine, it’s amazing how much you can do for a patient, simply by listening. I have found very uncontrolled thyroid disorders, odd vertebral fractures, a kidney tumor, uncontrolled diabetes, a spine tumor, a torn rotator cuff that was missed numerous times, and even cancer. Simply because I listened to the patient.

And the reason I’m a good listener is because, oddly enough, I’m a talker. Not much in public. Or at social events. I’m actually an introvert.

But I talk to God. Every. Single. Day.

Multiple. Times. Per. Day.

All. Day.

My daughter and I pray on the way to school and I add extra prayers on most days.

I pray before I blog/write. I pray about my work, my health, my family, my drive, my patients, etc. I simply pray all day, everyday, multiple times per day.

And God NEVER gets tired of listening.

So whatever you’re facing in 2021, talk to God. He’s the best listener.

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