The Borawski Effect — Putting Problems In Perspective

We are all guilty of the same failing–immersed in self-pity regarding our own problems.

Of course life arranges obstacles in our path.  Our momentary peace and tranquility is bombarded by stresses which arise from our own life’s journey.

Our minds are co-conspirators–we examine our negative experiences, dwell in them like a tightly fitting cocoon, and decide we can never emerge from them.

And then there are the lives of others around us.

The devastation that some families experienced during Sandy, the unspeakable horror that engulfs those who lost children in Newtown, CT, and the CAT scan report of James Borawski (name changed).

I should be “used” to diagnosing terrible conditions.  As a gastroenerologist for over thirty years I’ve seen many patients get diagnosed and die from serious illness, particularly cancer.  But it doesn’t get any easier.  Having a patient close in age to me only adds to the difficulty in maintaining that professional perspective.

He just wasn’t quite feeling well.  He had vague abdominal complaints, his appetite wasn’t his usual and he had lost weight.  He and his wife,a  nurse, were concerned enough to see me.  He had had a colonoscopy two years before.  We decided that a CAT scan would be a reasonable diagnostic test.

None of us were truly prepared for the results.  It showed that he most likely has pancreatic cancer, and it has spread to his liver and other vital organs.  His prognosis is extremely poor.  I had to deliver the news right before Christmas.

He doesn’t feel that sick right now.  Unfortunately this calm before the storm will not last. I discussed referring him to an oncologist for an opinion.  I am not sure what their recommendation will be.

The Borawski Effect is a universal one.  We do not wish our fellow human beings any suffering or tragedy.  But this will occur.  It reminds us all, even physicians, of the fragility of life and the serenity we so desperately seek.

What we do, what we should do is to open out hearts to their personal suffering.  Silently we take a moment to revisit what bothers us– and pause.  Our problems pale in comparison with some others.  We could easily be those people. Someday we may be there ourselves.

The Borawski effect puts it all into perspective.   And yet we can’t sit back and obsess over what will befall us or our loved ones either.  That only brings potential suffering into the present moment.  This brings us pain now.

If we learn anything at all from it, it is this– be grateful for what we have, not what we don’t.  Place our problems in the perspective they deserve.  Live life as much in the present moment as is reasonable.

Our next could be a Borawski moment.  But not now.

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