It really happened. It is hard to believe- horrifying to remember, but it really happened. I received an admission just as I was coming on to my 12 hour night shift- a man with an extensive cancer of the mandible and tongue, who had hemorrhaged profusely after the entire right side of his face ‘fell off’. By the time he arrived onto the unit, he was unresponsive, his head swathed in absorbant dressings that failed to adequately staunch the drainage or the stench of his rotting and fungating tumor. It was like something out of a horror movie. I was left speechless, wondering how such a hideous end could come to any human being. The trauma of that shift continues to haunt me- as I continue to ask God for strength and compassion to respond without recoiling, to love and succour without turning my head away. One of my colleagues openly wept- another had to go home early, ill from the sickly odor that hung like a tenacious film and seeped into the halls. It lingered heavily in my nostrils long after I was home. How could such a disease progress so utterly unchallenged? I was to learn later that the patient had been diagnosed with a small oral cancer that, with treatment, would have had a 60-70% cure rate. Alas, the evil of denial- that illusory deception that proclaims ‘all is well’ when reality screams otherwise. “The sick are the ones who need a physician, not the ones who are well”. How can we be healed if we cannot acknowledge our own brokenness? Knowing that nothing ever happens by accident, I am left pondering what it is I am to take away from this experience. Every cell of my being quivers- Kyrie elieson!