that C word

March 3, 2009

enter Autumn (ie. March) and the start of freeze-ville! it’s still warm and the threat of bushfires remains imminent but it definitely is getting a little chillier, and i hope it stays that way… after that awful heatwave we had in January, i am officially siding with cool change. anyway i ended my neurosurgery rotation last friday and i was really sad!! i can’t believe how much i came to love it despite not being a ‘surgical’ person and i have definitely learned heaps from being part of this awesome team. my new rotation, oncology, sounds a bit mehh after my glorious neurosurg days but i am definitely giving it a chance and hopefully the pace will pick up after a bit.. though i must say i was a little dismayed that the doctors don’t really read CT scans, they tend to click on the report and read it rather than view the scans…. and i was really dying to read the CT brains (because i learnt how to do so in neurosurg) but no one gave me a chance 😦 and this morning during grand rounds someone presented a case about brain lesions and i got the diagnosis right (because i actually could read the CT brain…..it is shocking how so few doctors can read a CTB decently) but anyway i was positively beaming!

so i was talking to a fellow fifth year whom i hadnt met before and she asked me what i was up to, and i said ‘Oncology’. to which she said ‘Oh. So you don’t diagnose… but you kind of make dying patients feel more comfortable…. right?’ can you believe how annoyed i felt upon hearing that? seriously. i can’t believe how people misconstrue what oncology is about. sometimes it may involve an element of palliative care but the fact is that most cancers are treatable and that is what oncology is about- curing cancer. i tend to get annoyed when all people think of when they hear the word ‘cancer’, is death. contrary to popular belief, not all cancer patients are dying patients. a sizable proportion of cancer patients make full recovery and actually go on to live to ripe old ages, and fyi more people die of heart attacks and strokes than cancer.

i guess i chose oncology as my specialty rotation because i wanted to gain a different perspective of medicine, and because i have an ambition to dispel the negative connotation of cancer among cancer patients and the general public. of course my other reason is because i owe it to oncologists that my father is still alive after 11 years of surviving cancer. my dad made it through cancer but he continues to suffer from the adverse effects of his radiotherapy…….. so my ever-inspiring aspiration is to help reduce morbidity after treatment and possibly make a positive contribution to every patient i see. another thing i wanted to comment about is that oncology is not ‘sad’. for what it’s worth, i can say that a lot of the patients, even those with a bleak prognosis, have come to terms with their illness and don’t feel sad for themselves. i am constantly amazed at how ‘at peace’ they are with their situations and at the calmness at which they decisively refuse further treatment so that it gives them more quality time with family. i am even more amazed at how content they are with life and the fact that they are happy to have lived a full life….. if this is not inspiring… i dunno what is.

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2 Responses to “that C word”

  1. gwenda Says:

    well done on getting the diagnosis right! that’s really clever! :):)

    and i think it’s great that you’re doing an oncology rotation! the oncology people i’ve met so far (be it oncologists or nurses or RTs) have been amazing.

    by the way do you mind sharing what side effects your dad is dealing with? how is he? i just did 3D radiotherapy (tomotherapy) and apparently it really reduces the side effects esp in cancers like NPC.

  2. eleanor Says:

    hey gwenda! hope u are well, read that u finished your RT so that’s great!! keeping u in prayer for your review next month 🙂

    my dad had NPC and he had RT for it, mainly in the throat and nose region. he has ongoing problems with swallowing and dry mouth (cos his salivary glands got damaged). some years ago he had a ‘mini’ stroke but i dunno if that was due to the effects of RT. my dad is coping fine now but he can’t chew very well, so he’s been eating less and so has lost a fair bit of weight. otherwise he is in remission.

    yeah i think the oncologists i work with are pretty awesome too, and the patients have been nothing but lovely- i really enjoy the work here!

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