Life Can Be So Unfair

Do you know someone who was diagnosed with cancer? Chances are that you do. Or at the very least, you may know someone who knows someone who was diagnosed. If you answered yes to the previous question, were you in the same room with them when they first found out?

There have been various people in my life who have had to struggle with this evil disease, but never did I once stop and think about the emotions they must have felt when they were first diagnosed. As they actively fought their diagnosis, each of these courageous people seemed to always keep a positive demeanor about them whenever I interacted with them. However, behind this positive spirit lies the pain and despair that consumed them in the moment they first learned about their diagnosis; a pain that was palpable in the rooms of the two patients that my team ended up diagnosing with cancer last week.

Before last week, I had only witnessed one person being diagnosed with cancer. This event had occurred last year during my Pediatrics rotation, and the sorrow that filled the atmosphere in the room was very similar to the sorrow I had felt last week as I watched the family members process the tough news that cancer had unfairly waged a war against their loved one. It was as if time had stood still. Although I could feel their sorrow and despair as they took in the information, there’s no way for me to even begin to describe what it must feel like to hear that your child has cancer. The fact that nobody knows what causes it in otherwise healthy children makes the news that much harder to process.

The good news is that the types of cancer that these patients have are very treatable and are associated with high remission rates. With that being said, the journey towards recovery will not be an easy one. The main treatment has to be given in a hospital setting, so they’ll be in and out of the hospital for a while. This, in turn, will have a direct impact on their everyday lives. They’ll have to complete schoolwork in the hospital, be very cognizant of avoiding infections, and learn how to deal with the many side-effects that the medications come with. It’s so sad and unfair for a child to have to go through something like this. Attempting to live as normal of a life as possible while having to actively battle for it at the same time is such a monumental task. However, the positive attitudes of the patients, coupled with the amazing amount of love and support that has been pouring out from the families and my team, gives me tremendous hope that they will both be able to battle this disease and effectively conquer it, regardless of the hardships that will come along the way.

While on service last week, I got the opportunity to not only watch a lumbar puncture, but to also watch my attending perform two bone marrow biopsies and bone marrow aspirations. It was the first time I had ever seen someone access bone marrow. It looked as painful as I had imagined it would be, but thankfully the patients who underwent these procedures were anesthetized the whole time. In addition, I took the initiative to learn more about neutropenic fever and ended up giving a short and informal lecture about it to my team. I’m glad I decided to do that because: 1) I could never seem to get this concept to stick in my head and 2) we actually ended up getting a real-life example of a patient with neutropenic fever later on in the week.

In the midst of the busy whirlwind of activity and events last week, I just so happened to age yet another year. Although I pretty much worked throughout my birthday, I did get the chance to have a delicious dinner at the home of one of my scholarship donors. He and his wife had graciously invited both my girlfriend and I to their home in order to get to know us better and to celebrate my birthday with dinner and dessert. We ultimately had a wonderful evening with them and I got to learn a lot about the interesting lives they lived. I further celebrated my birthday this past weekend in Charlotte, where I played various games at a bar, had a pleasant dinner at a fancy restaurant, had a night out at the Epicenter, enjoyed brunch, appreciated the Levine Museum of the New South, played some FIFA, rode on the Funny Bus in Charlotte (it was funny how unfunny the bus was) and watched UMiami’s first football game of the season in horror as we proceeded to get obliterated by LSU. Jesus Christ. It was bad. Not the best way to start off a season…but hopefully this loss sets the team straight and motivates them to do better from here on out. But on another note, I got the chance to go to Carowinds for the first time! It had been a long time since I had rode a roller coaster, but it was just as thrilling as I had remembered it being. And shoutout to the fast lane pass for allowing us to fly past the long lines and getting us to the rides in less than five minutes! 😎😜

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With my birthday behind me and Labor Day weekend now coming to an end, I’m ready to refocus my attention on both my rotation and on finally finishing up my ERAS application once and for all. I’m also ready for all of the events, activities and responsibilities that will be facing me this fall as I continue to trek through my final year of school. I hope that your weekend was a fun one, and that it adequately energized you for this upcoming week!

“Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.” – Nido Qubein

– Black Man, M.D.

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