All of us have the power to make choices that define us. However, the freedom to dream is not the same for all of us. Childhood adversity, country of origin, socioeconomic status, family obligations, and our health can all shape our future. I have been fortunate to have had these factors work in my favor. While choosing medicine was exhilarating, moving to the United States in my early twenties, where I had no close family, to pursue higher training was a cause of great angst for my parents. Nevertheless, all that I received from them was love, and financial and emotional support, for an arduous year as I obtained clinical and research experience in New York City and Miami hospitals before matching into residency in 2017. I realize this privilege is uncommon for many, especially females, across the globe and I am forever indebted to my family for their support.
It was Match Day! I’d been waiting for this day for three long years. As I opened the email with my trembling hands, I saw it. I refreshed the email to make sure it was real. I felt a roller coaster of emotions: I was elated, surprised, and relieved all at the same time. It was my dream come true. I matched to a university program in Boston. The next few days, I kept myself busy with paperwork and family celebrations. And then it hit me that I was going to leave my cocoon of comfort and move 7,984 miles away from home.
“Doc, which C is worse for me… cancer or coronavirus?” Many patients asked this question. The anxiety of a new cancer diagnosis, waiting to start treatment, and then suddenly news of a pandemic changed everything for all cancer patients. Bewildered, some patients would hesitate to come to the hospital while others would try to hide their viral symptoms to prevent interruption of treatment. COVID-19 has presented varying challenges to all health care professionals, and being a resident physician involved in caring for cancer patients has its own unique difficulties.
“You are a bright, grown-up girl now, almost 15-years old. You must take ownership of yourself and your body and look after your physical, mental, and emotional health. Eating healthy food, making healthier choices, exercising even if just for 30 minutes, and reaching out to the therapist again will go a long, long way.” This is the kind of advice I was giving my teenage patient last week during continuity clinic, and the kind of advice I am sure you give out too, no matter what specialty you are in. However, sometimes it feels hypocritical. As a resident physician, I wonder how many times a week do you give advice to your patients that perhaps also applies to you?