Kathleen Kauffman
Kathleen Kauffman

From Health Care Lawyer to Patient
Monday, April 10
How many times do we rush around ticking off our list of "to-dos" while barely noticing the world around us? Working as a legal counsel for a large academic medical center, I scurried from one meeting to the next, passing patients sitting in waiting areas with their wheelchairs, oxygen tanks and walkers. Most times, I barely noticed, focusing instead on my Blackberry. It never occurred to me I would soon be joining them. The world looks very different as a patient than it does as a lawyer.  
 
Let's take consent forms — lawyers love them, patients do not. When I went for my first chemo treatment, the nurse ushered my husband and me into her small office and handed us a stack of paper solemnly telling us we had to certify that we would not get pregnant because of possible harm to the baby. Given that we were 60 and 51 with five grandchildren, we smiled and quickly assured her that would not be a problem! I flipped through the five page consent form, cringing when I thought of all the times that I had added language to these forms when I was in the lawyer’s position; it can't hurt, I had thought. Wrong!
 
As a lawyer, I perceived patients as fragile. Wrong again! Myeloma patients are some of the strongest people I know. I remember walking through the stem cell transplant unit with the medical director one day at work, seeing patients walking down the hall, clutching their IV pole with a determined look on their faces. I had wondered what kept them going.  
 
Now I know. We are warriors. It takes tremendous strength, both outer and inner, to live with myeloma. What keeps me going? Hearing my husband say "I love you" first thing every morning and last thing at night, hugging my grandchildren, walking my dog, Sam, and laughing as he rolls in the grass, watching the cardinals and blue jays square off at the bird feeder, tutoring children from inner-city schools and preparing for a hike in the Grand Canyon!  
 
From health care lawyer to patient — not something I would have chosen. However, the change in perspective is amazing. I have transitioned from the busy world of Blackberry’s, meetings and computer screens to living for the moment and taking time to notice the hundreds of "little" things that previously passed me by. Not a bad trade-off.  
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