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.

Perspectives.

There was so much emotion around me.

Laughs.

Screams.

Tears.

Jumps of joy.

Hugs.

Kisses. 

It was the day that all medical students across the nation work tirelessly for; a day that determines our future and indisputably seals our fate. Match Day. The fourth years all around me had matched in various specialties in a number of schools around the nation. Most of them matched in the specialty they desired and matched to a school that was within the top 3 choices on their list. It was fantastic to witness all of my 4th year friends finally receive the opportunity to become something that they’ve put an insane amount of hours towards; something that very few people in the world get a chance to be; something that gives them the incredible ability to heal;

A physician.

I was at the Match Day ceremony for maybe 30 minutes max, but all I needed was 5 minutes to fully absorb the magnitude of what was happening around me. In those 5 minutes, I saw with my own eyes what the result of this taxing medical school life will be. In three short years, I’ll be celebrating with my class about our incredible achievement and the fact that our hard work will allow us to secure a stable job & lifestyle that we can keep for the rest of our lives. It was definitely reassuring to witness with my own eyes the light that is waiting for me at the end of this challenging journey. Sure, we all are going to be worked off our ass during our residencies, but at least we’ll be getting paid doing what we love right?

Now that I’m here talking about my future, I’m reminded of what lies ahead of me between now and Match Day of 2019. Second year classes, the USMLE Step 1 Exam *rolling my eyes*, my clinical years where I’m literally paying the school to work me, etc. It looks like an uphill battle…but getting in this position from college was an uphill battle in itself and I’m here aren’t I? I’ve also heard multiple times from different people about how things just get worse from first-year…as well as how much things get better from here. I guess it’s just a matter of perspective. Hell, I’m just happy to be here. I personally plan on maintaining the positive attitude that has gotten me this far. Call me naive if you want, but at least I’m content. 😁

Speaking of being content, I was recently elected to serve on the Ophthalmology Interest Group E-board here as well as on the SNMA E-board as the Community Service Co-Chair! I’m looking forward to working in those positions because both of those organizations have a considerable amount of value to me. They’ll also give me something to do that doesn’t involve me studying for the exams that never stop coming, which I really appreciate. So there’s that.

There’s one more thing I want to add. We’ve been learning all about stroke this past week in class and one of our professors actually had a stroke patient come in to talk to us about what life is like after having one. He had suffered from one a few years ago while doing the simple task of walking a dog with his loved one. Because of his stroke, he can’t see anything in his right visual field, he had to attend physical therapy for an extended period of time in order to relearn how to walk, he’s had to relearn his alphabet and how to do simple math, and he has to concentrate extra hard to process information in a regular conversation. However, he was pretty upbeat and willing to talk and joke around with us about his perspective with the disability. It was a very fascinating conversation. He really helped to put a human face on a topic that we’ve been laboring over for the past week and I feel that he also helped to inspire a number of us in the class to continue working hard towards understanding the intricacies of the brain. It’s scary to think about how sudden a stroke can present itself…it makes me want to get a CT scan of my head and look for any abnormalities. Someone once told me that med school can turn you into a hypochondriac…I’m finally starting to see what they meant by that. 😰

Alright, that’s all of my reflections for today. Go on and have a stupendous week!

Oh yeah, shoutout to all the upsets that have occurred since March Madness started. Y’all never fail to destroy the brackets I work so hard to perfect. 😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊

If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place. – Nora Roberts

– Black Man, M.D.