My agitation grew as I realized I needed to do something. I was a medical student training to be a doctor after all, right? Wasn’t I supposed to help alleviate the burdens of others?
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.
Children raised in foster homes tend to have a high morbidity. They have developed a similar prevalence of serious physical and mental problems comparable to those of other disadvantaged children populations.
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 believe in the power of storytelling. As an avid sports fan, I am no stranger to the captivating narrative of athletes.
To keep breathing does not mean to go at it alone or to put up a brave front even when it feels as if the world is collapsing. To keep breathing is to always push towards the goal even when it’s hard and even when it doesn’t feel worth because it will be in the end.
I used to daydream that my first patient as a medical student would be a happy, reasonably healthy elderly woman.
The opportunity to be immersed in learning the stories behind the health of patients is one of the things that drew me to medicine, and, indeed, it still intrigues me. More importantly, I was (and still am) intrigued by the opportunity and challenge of using the multiple streams of information patients present with to make functional improvements in their lives.
In medicine, as in medical training, time is the enemy. There is not enough time to talk to patients or study for board exams. There is not enough time to read the latest literature. At the end of the day, there is not enough time to make plans with friends or develop a gym routine that is anything but sporadic.
A glimpse into today’s media is enough to understand the general attitude of modern medicine and health care. While the majority of the population regards scientific progress as a blessing, a not-so-small minority is fearful of how this will negatively impact their health.
I did not know I was feeling sadness until I found it hard to swallow. There is no reason for it, I thought. At 94, she is still sharp, most of the time.
She and I experienced such extremes of strangerhood and intimacy in only 72 hours. But what a privilege it was, to be there for her when she had no one else, to advocate for her, to go a little (or a lot) above and beyond on her behalf, to see the inter-workings of this stranger’s life: this is why I chose medicine.