Today, one of the other residents and I had an interesting conversation.
Somehow, the topic of treating physicians came up. And it is something that terrifies us both. And not just for the reasons you might think.
I will confess, treating other health care people is always nerve wracking because you worry even more about saying something wrong or stupid because you always wonder if they are secretly judging your skills.
But the bigger thing is that when we see them, they are being faced with a cancer diagnosis. And for some reason, most physicians and nurses get the bad ones and all the complications. And that is horrible for anyone.
The issue is, they know too much. Sometimes, having some uncertainty is a good thing. But, when you have cared for people with the same thing. When you understand the odds and get the treatments, it is a whole other level. You know the worst case scenarios. All of them. Sometimes the unknown bits of the known are the worst. Especially when your whole world gets turned upside down.
That is the hard part. The anxiety, the sadness, the anger and guilt. The fact that sometimes, the person who knows too much coming in can’t be easily comforted. That the numbers that scare everyone have too much meaning.
It also forces us to face our own mortality.
We both agreed that given we work in Oncology and given the odds in the world today, we will both one day have cancer. And we will probably die from it. Those are simply real odds. And the “comedy” that is life.
And we know this and accept it. In fact, we laugh about it in an uncomfortable kind of way. Sure, I might have a heart attack or an accident, but it is more likely I get dementia or die of cancer… Or both.
Really, it is something I accept. But, it is still something that is terrifying. And maybe that won’t happen. Maybe I’ll just die in my sleep in old age.
Either way the reality of seeing people who dedicate their lives to healing others broken, afraid and unwell is terrifying. They are “one of us” who became “one of them. It is just too real sometimes. Too close to home.
I just want to fix the hurt. I want to prevent the hurt. I want to be out of a job (kind of).
But I can’t. So, we do the best we can. With every person. Because one day the tables will turn in one way or another.