The COVID-19 pandemic and its associated lockdown precipitated wide-ranging effects on nearly all aspects of our society. Perhaps some of the most severely affected patients were those fighting cancer. These patients have little physiologic resistance to COVID-19 and accordingly experience higher morbidity and mortality when infected.
You call me on a Thursday to tell me / You were diagnosed with leukemia in October.
I commented to the resident how satisfied the attending would be with the efficiency of his work. He just laughed and said “look” as he gestured down to his list of patients. I saw the name, and a sense of dread sank in during the rest of the silent walk down the hall.
I proposed a deal to my fellow student on our surgery rotation. “You can have all the other cases today if I get the laryngectomy.”
Motionless, a man awakes from his stupor of heart. Relief from sharpness, the pooling and swelling.
When I was told I had a mass in my chest, I was shocked. Like most people who are told that they have cancer, I was blindsided. But it was even more shocking because I had been going to multiple doctors over a period of six months complaining of pain in my chest, right arm, and right shoulder.
You tell me you’d like to be an engineer one day. You hesitate after the words “one day,” like you’re reconsidering the phrase. I want to tell you not to, but I can’t find the words.
mom, what’s loo-skeem-ya? / oh okay — does that mean I’m loo-skeem-ya?
I take a deep breath / to calm myself / before walking into the storm / of OR shadowing.
I prepared myself to discuss lab results and dietary counseling. But then my eyes stumbled upon the words on my screen that seemed to be staring back at me: ‘Lung cancer, metastatic to the bone.’
I was starting my surgery rotation, the second rotation of my third year, on the colorectal service. It was my first 24-hour on-call shift, which meant that my team would be responsible for multiple surgical services overnight.
Perhaps the single most awkward conversation that a third-year medical student can have with an attending physician is the one that begins with the attending asking, “So, what medical specialty are you interested in going into?”