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Ovarian cancer will be diagnosed in 1 of 72 women; 14,000 will die. Please know the symptoms and risk factors: read Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir. Books at www.amazon.com. ALL PROCEEDS GO TO GYNECOLOGIC CANCER RESEARCH. I am a member of Rave Reviews Book Club and Rave Writers International Society of Authors, and Patient Leadership Council. I WILL NOT USE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS FOR ANY OTHER PURPOSE THAN CONTACTING YOU DIRECTLY. ALL ORIGINAL CONTENT COPYRIGHT 2011 THROUGH 2018.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


I am honored to have Keith Carlson, RN as my guest blogger today. He is a nationally recognized blogger, coach, writer, and Radio-Internet personality. Today he shares a story about one patient who left a deep impression on him. Caregivers often do receive lessons from those to whom they give care.

     Malcolm was a middle-aged gay man of color whose life had been significantly challenging.  Displaced from his native country, he had a strong network of friends and a vibrant church community.Living with many serious health conditions--including AIDS—and having a fourth-grade education, Malcolm had difficulty navigating the healthcare system.

     Unfortunately, Malcolm also had a history of rectal cancer that he conveniently “forgot” about in terms of following up. As his case manager, it was a Herculean task to convince Malcolm to see the surgeon when he began having intense pain when defecating, and it was apparently not a shock to him when the doctor told us that the cancer was back.

     “I’m not getting treatment. I’m just not,” Malcolm said when the doctor left the room. “I want to die in peace.” He crossed his arms defiantly.

     “Are you sure, Malcolm?” I asked. “Is that what you really want? The doctor feels this could be treated, but he’s not making any promises.”

Malcolm was certain about his choice and could not be dissuaded until we had a meeting with his sisters. I didn’t want to influence him either way, instead playing the part of referee rather than advisor, only offering my opinion when requested to do so.

      After much debate between Malcolm, his family and his doctors, he underwent a successful surgery and experienced a profound improvement in his quality of life. Two years later, Malcolm’s co-infection of AIDS and Hepatitis C got the better of him. Living at home with the constant care of family and friends, he was relatively comfortable  and peacefully waiting to die.

    “I have no regrets, you know,” he told me one day. “I’ve had a lot of fun—maybe too much—but it’s been a good life. I’m glad I got this bag,” he said as he pointed to his colostomy. “Thank God it bought me a few pretty good years.”

     As Malcolm moved towards death, the vigil at his bedside intensified. One day, when he knew that he was actively dying, he looked at his friends and his sisters and said, “Thank you all so much. It’s been a good life. Please scatter my ashes near Mom’s rose bushes, and think of me every spring when they bloom. She and I will be together.”

     Malcolm died later that evening, and his family and friends gathered together in his cramped apartment to remember him and toast his memory. Despite his lack of intellectual prowess, Malcolm was a giant in his own way, a man of deep feeling and a spiritual connection that saw him through to the end.

     He taught me many lessons: 
                 1. to be present with my patients,
                 2. to allow them their own process, 
                 3. and to let go of my own agenda as a clinician. 

      I’m sure those roses are still blooming in Malcolm’s mother’s garden, and I have no doubt that when his family places those roses in a vase on his mother’s antique oak table, the fragrance that fills the room reminds them of this simple, heartfelt man who lived life on his own terms, and died with gratitude and grace.

*Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC has been a nurse since 1996. 
*He is the blogger of the award-winning nursing blog, Digital Doorway
*The founder of Nurse Keith Coaching and NurseKeith.com.
*An editorial contributor for Working Nurse Magazine, LPNtoBSNonline.org     and DiabeticLifestyle.com.
*Featured author in several non-fiction nursing books by Kaplan Publishing. *Keith is the co-host and co-founder of RN.FM Radio, the newest Internet radio station devoted to the nursing profession. 
*His passion is helping nurses and healthcare professionals find satisfaction in their personal and professional lives by manifesting the ultimate balance between workstyle and lifestyle. 


  1. Thank you for publishing my story, Karen. I'm honored to share it with your community of readers. Blessings!

    1. It is my honor and privilege to have you share your inspiring story, Keith.