Sunday, March 26, 2006

I'll be an oncologist...

"So, what kind of a doctor are you?" The waitress at the coffee shop next to my place asked noticing my blue scrub.
"well, in a week I'll be training in oncology....cancer medicine." I answered.
And a wave of uneasiness filled the air.
"oh....that's tough...I hope I'll never need you ever!" She said.
Walking away breathing my coffee aroma, I couldn't but think how rediculous this thing about cancer is becoming lately.

Cancer. The big "C" word. "haydak elmarad".
Associated with death, pain, and doom...that is cancer.
For those of you not in the medical field, one way to think about cancer, is a cell that doesn't die or stop growing. An immortal cell if you want.
I always thought how sarcastic it is that our biggest killer, is that the cell does not die!
How would Gilgamesh, the babylonian king of Uruk, react to the fact that his search of immortality, was a search for malignancy?
I couldn't help but laugh when this idea hit me in my way to my car, that a guy parking next to me probably thought I'm psycho.

In the way driving to the hospital, I was thinking:
Do I really want to be an oncologist? A person whose name, because of the tiltle, would scare everyone!
Am I sure I can handle it?
And my thoughts went back in second year in medical school.
In 1998.
His name was "Amjad Mufarrij". A pathologist who was giving us the lectures about cancer pathophysiology and tumorigenesis.
He himself had cancer...a non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that took his life afew years later.
Was it his style, his personality, or the subject itself....but I just knew myself. I wanna deal with this stuff.
For the record, I'm not a malignant person. I hope I'm not.
But, here I early second year, saying I wanna deal with cancer.

In my third year, and after talking to patients having cancer, I was more convinced. Talking to them, getting to know them, how they feel, how they reflect on their disease....offering them a friend's hand....That's what I wanted from medicine.

I was always convinced. That's why this whole issue of questioning my decision now looks so surreal.
In a week, I'll be an oncologist-in-training. A cancer doctor.
I'll be dealing with people's deepest deepest fears. Or, is it?
A patient of mine once told me afew days before he passed away, that death by itself is not a big matter. It's how we die. Bravely, quietly, and in a way that our beloved will reflect upon later on in a good way, that what matters.

I was parking my car in the hospital's garage, when I saw a nurse I haven't seen in a while.
"How are you? I haven't seen you for a while? where have you been?" I asked.
"I had to go home down south for my grandmom's funeral." She answered.
"oh, I'm sorry to hear." I said.
Walking towards the elevator, she looked at me and said, "yeah, that was sad. But she had breast cancer, you know."
I sure know.


Coco said...

Hashem, my friend, akid you're not a malignant person wala shwey. Wanting to deal with our biggest medical fear is very brave of you! It takes courage to want to attack this immortal cell of doom, knowing that along the way some people die, and hopefully less and less...

I really admire your decision - did I ever tell you that before? I really do. Enno, God forbid (la sama7 Alla), if one day I have to deal with this myself, I would definitely want a cancer doctor I can trust to be on my side and help me go through this.

Mesh bass you'll be an oncologist, you will be a damn GOOD Oncologist... You are :)

Mirvat said...

yes hashem, we can't hide from the cloud of sadness around this disease or our jobs. i get the same reaction when i tell people i work in cancer research. people ask me are you close to find a cure. i feel so embarrassed but it's good to know that people like you and me are still trying.

hashem said...

We have to keep trying..and one day, we'll do better than what we're now.
I wish to be part of this change.
I have here to credit you and all those in the labs...I know how frustrating this work is. I had almost a year of it, and I know its ups and downs....
Good night, now.

Hussain said...

Ironic isnt it? that our killer is the immortal within? It goes by many names (Breast, vaginal, colon, prostate etc.)and leads to the same result Death.

I always looked at it as the greedy cell that never knew when was enough, and it only passed because NOBODY stopped it early.

I'm not with pre-emptive strikes with people, but dont mind it with C.

Go get it.