Dying Is a Hard Thing to Do

Dying Is a Hard Thing to Do

Cancer and American Medicine

by Sean Ferguson, Commander USN (Ret.)

As the night wore on I grew increasingly concerned that no one was in charge. Sitting in the dark, hearing Patty breathe, thinking about the problems we were having, I felt worried and frustrated by my inability to do anything about them. It seemed that there were too many doctors involved, almost always someone different, all of them potentially writing orders for drugs and tests. There seemed to be many things on which they did not agree.


Dying is a Hard Thing To Do is a personal account of a loved one’s death due to cancer and her struggle with the American medical system. We rely on our professional medical caregivers to provide truthful information and advice to help match personal choices with medical alternatives and realities, especially when we must make difficult end of life decisions. What happens when our doctors avoid such difficult discussions? When they refuse to describe the progression of the disease and the likelihood the proposed treatment will be successful? When they make deliberate efforts to deny their patients direct communications with their doctor? When they withhold information or deliberately provide incomplete or misleading information? Worse, when the doctor’s avoidance of patient interaction, combined with an aggressive curative approach leads not to recovery but to shock, when the patient is finally told she has “just a few weeks” to live.


Five Stars – This very well written book is a must read ! – JO

Froggett WeddingCommander Sean Ferguson has made a significant contribution to the national defense in design, development, and operational employment of military systems. He is a system engineer and senior technical manager for a major defense contractor. He supports design and development efforts for major ship and weapon system programs, and for command, control, communications and intelligence systems. He manages a group of operations research analysts and mathematicians providing analytic support of engineering design efforts. Commander Ferguson is a Technical Fellow, competitively selected to provide technical leadership across the corporation, identifying and evaluating new technologies; aiding in technology transfer; contributing to thought leadership in broader technical and customer communities through papers, presentations, and publications. His industry experience was preceded by service in U.S. Navy cruisers, destroyers, frigates, and forward deployed afloat staffs, including combat operations in Vietnam. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, of George Washington University, and is a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Naval War College.

DYING IS A HARD THING TO DO: Cancer and American Medicine

Part One – Alpha and Omega | “For Here Lies Juliette…”

Part Two – It Begins Feels Like a Flu | “It’s Strep” | “It Was Undertreated” | Adnexal Ovarian Mass | Meeting the Surgical Oncologist | In the Wee Hours…

Part Three – Surgery | “It Is Cancer” | Pulmonary Embolism

Part Four – Diagnosis Without Prognosis | “It’s Primitive Neuroectodermal Tumor” | A Second Opinion…Sort of | Evading Prognostication

Part Five – First, Do No Harm | Secondary Infection | The Calm Before The Storm | “So Sorry About Your Kidneys” | The Blood Thinner Wars

Part Six – Retroperitoneal Bleed | Hemorrhaging in the Night | Emergency Surgery? | “It Must Have Slipped Through the Cracks” | The Blood Thinner Wars Redux | Another Diagnosis, Still No Prognosis

Part Seven – Rhabdomyosarcoma | Searching for Answers | Cancer and Chemotherapy | Researching Rhabdomyosarcoma | Please, Just Tell Me the Truth | The Call That Wasn’t Made… | Hematoma

Part Eight – Hard Decisions | No Rest for the Weary A Prognosis at Last: Short, Bitter and Late | What is Hospice?

Part Nine – “I Have to Leave Soon” | Saying Goodbye | A Final Taste of Sunshine and Flowers

Part Ten – There Has to be a Better Way | Death in the Twenty First Century | Through the Inferno | Who’s in Charge? | The Sound of Silence | Wingin’ It | Don’t Tell the Patient | Careless Indignities, Casual Mistreatment | Above All, Do No Harm | “Nobody Sleeps Here!” | People Only Die Once | Band Aids | Options

Works Cited

About the Author


  • 978-1-939054-63-0 (hardcover, case gloss laminate)
  • 978-1-939054-64-7 (softcover, perfect binding)

Trim Size: 5.5″ x 8.5″

Pages: 308


  • Medical: Ethics
  • Medical: Physician & Patient
  • Social Science: Death & Dying

Dying Is a Hard Thing to Do

Dying Is a Hard Thing to Do

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