The Art of Palliative Medicine - 2017 Semester 2
Our patient lives in a beautiful home that looks out across trees and buildings, over water to hills in the distance. The front of the house has a glass-walled conservatory that shelters from the wind. He told us that he often sits in that conservatory.
The idea of painting a representation of the view from the patient’s house came from our conversation about living at home. He was grateful, he said, to be able to stay in his house- it was a big decision for him not to sell and move somewhere more “sensible” when he got sick.
In our time with him, he said something that hit me hard and inspired other parts of the work. He said that when he is uncomfortable, it takes over and changes how he experiences the world. This made me think of comfort as a sort of barrier, which then made me think of a window that obscures the view beyond it. I have represented the feelings of pain and discomfort in the wooden frame over the painting, which can still be seen through but substantially limits how much of the view can be appreciated. The window here can be opened, too, which can represent the relief of discomfort that is provided by palliative care, medications and home comforts.
Our patient also told us that he tends to stick his “head in the sand” when faced by harsh realities. Given how positive he had been with us and how full his life seemed, it was surprising to hear this. I have represented these feelings with a pair of drawn curtains. Unlike the window, they close to hide the view beyond when it becomes too much to cope with. Like the window, they can also be opened. This recalls this man’s strength of character; his ability to overcome the immediate physical and emotional challenges of his situation to find ways to enjoy the pleasures of life.