As part of their Love and Death issue, the Mockingbird spoke with TMC’s Ray Barfield about the intersection of his work both as a pediatric oncologist and a professor of Christian Philosophy.
“Well, when you hear “palliative care,” most people will think of end of life care, and that’s not the way that I’ve thought about it. When I think of palliative care, I think of walking into a room where somebody is suffering. The suffering may be physical—it may be pain or some kind of non-pain symptom that’s interrupting their day. It may be from a disease or from treatment for a disease; it may be spiritual suffering; it may be psychological suffering; it may be relational suffering. But, when I think of palliative care, I think of walking into the room of someone who’s up against something hard, and basically trying to understand what doctors don’t usually try to understand. In medicine, there’s the objective data: the images, the labs, those sorts of things. With palliative care, I’m trying to understand what it’s like to be you, what’s hardest right now about going through this thing that you’re going through. Once I understand that—which is seeing the whole process from the inside of the person rather than the outside of the person—then I can ask questions that help me to understand how I might help that person.”