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The Miracle of Candice

Posted by Dr. Lachlan Forrow  March 24, 2014 05:16 AM

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Monday, November 26, 1973 was a miraculous day.  

I first heard about it from Dennis Costa -- it was the first thing he mentioned when I asked him to tell me about his daughter Candice.  He told me, with a hint of tears in his eyes, as we sat together in the ICU conference room last month, that he had known Candice literally from the moment she was born -- he was right there in the delivery room, which he mentioned was a very unusual thing at the time for a father.

Dennis hasn't (yet) told me why he and his wife named their baby girl Candice, but I think the name was perfect.  My dictionary (Google, of course), tells me that the name "Candice" comes from a Greek word that means "sparkling".  Or a Latin word meaning "shining".  

Words evolve, and I learned here a few more things about "Candice": 

People with this name have a deep inner desire for a stable, loving family or community, and a need to work with others and to be appreciated.  


People with this name tend to be creative and excellent at expressing themselves. They are drawn to the arts, and often enjoy life immensely. They are often the center of attention, and enjoy careers that put them in the limelight. They tend to become involved in many different activities, and are sometimes reckless with both their energies and with money.

I'm not sure about the "sometimes reckless" part, though I suspect Stephanie may make me laugh with at least one story that somehow fits that, too.  And the Candice I have come to know has never shown any interest in being "in the limelight" -- and the reason that she finds herself there right now would be anyone's "worst nightmare".  Actually, maybe worse than "worst".  

And for sure there is nothing that Candice is "enjoying" about the reason she is currently the "center of attention" for so many people.

I told Candice (her real name, used with her permission) Friday morning that she is one of the most amazing teachers I have ever had.  I enjoyed telling Stephanie, in the hallway a little later since Candice was sleeping, that I had realized that the word "doctor" in Latin meant "teacher", and that seems perfect, too.  In the literal sense, Candice has been at least as much my/our "doctor" as I, and the many other amazing doctors she has, have been for her.

I'm actually going to stop here, except to say that the day I met Candice (and Stephanie, and Dennis, and Candice's aunt, her "second mom") Candice was in our ICU because she had just had several major strokes, which was bewildering at first for a completely healthy 40-year-old woman.  But we quickly found that the reason her blood was clotting so abnormally was the widely-metastatic cancer of the pancreas.

You can learn more -- maybe finding that Candice (and Stephanie) can be your "doctor/teacher" too -- from the website that Stephanie has created: "I Heart Candice".  There you will learn about ways in which Candice's room at BIDMC is filled with more "sparkling" and "shining" love (and laughter, and sadness) than you may be able to imagine.  Don't worry about trying to understand it (I've given up for now), just see it.

The kinds of things you will learn aren't actually learned by reading alone, or even seeing some of the pictures on the website.  You can only experience them by doing things like Candice, Stephanie, family, friends, nurses, doctors, social workers, and others have found themselves doing when trying to help each other.

If you want to try to be part of that kind of learning experience, you can go to the "Lotsa Helping Hands" link on Stephanie/Candice's website.  While Candice (and Stephanie, and Dennis, and the rest of the family) have plenty of "helping hands" already, the link will take you to the Lotsa Helping Hands website, through which you may find ways to lend a helping hand to others.  Or maybe invite others to lend a helping hand to you, if you could use one.  And then maybe "The Miracle of Candice" will turn out to be contagious.  Maybe not even such a "miracle" (in the sense of something that almost never really happens).  Maybe something that happens a lot.

Or maybe as a start for now, if you find yourself as grateful to Candice and Stephanie as I am, just go here and write a few words to let them know.  It would mean a lot to them, I'm sure. 

And, I suspect, to you.

[Addendum: about half an hour after I posted the final version of this, I learned that Candice died at about the same time as my posting, at 6:20am this morning.  But as one of her doctors and one of her nurses agreed, when we were talking about Candice at about 9am, struck by how vividly alive our memories of her are -- her mischievous smiles, her unusual and highly-contagious sense of humor, her courage, her honesty, her generosity, and so much more -- maybe we should be more precise and say "died physically".]
This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Lachlan Forrow, MD is Director of Ethics Programs and Director of Palliative Care Programs at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. More »

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