Month: September 2018

My Cats Made Me a Better Doctor

I adopted my first cat, Oscar, right before starting internship. He was a tiny kitten, just learning the world, a stray cat picked up from a local park by a friend. We both were in new surroundings, exploring with excitement and trepidation, learning how far we could leap without falling.

On Being a Lady and a Doctor

Caitlin Bass ~

It’s 8:00 pm, and it’s hour fourteen in my twenty-eight-hour call shift at the large suburban hospital where I’m an intern.

You demand to speak with a doctor now, right now. You cannot wait. Your mother is sick, and you want to know exactly what is going on.

It doesn’t matter that we already spoke at length by phone earlier this afternoon. It doesn’t matter that it’s 8:00 pm. It doesn’t matter that I don’t have any updates to give you.

You’re here, and you want to speak with a doctor, your mother’s doctor, now, right now.

Luckily for you, that’s me.

Who Am I Now?

Jeremy Pivor ~

On my first day of medical school, my father, a dentist, told me he’d just been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. Cancer had crept back into my life–except this time not into my body.

At age twelve, I was diagnosed with brain cancer. After an aggressive surgery, I was tumor-free for ten years. Then, at twenty-three, I received the news of an inoperable recurrence.

While going through radiation and chemotherapy, I struggled with how to move forward in the face of endless uncertainty–until I realized that, with or without cancer, everyone lives with uncertainty. Since I never knew what the next day would bring, I decided that the most important thing wasn’t where I wanted to be in ten, fifteen or twenty years but how I wanted to live now, in the present. So I applied to medical school.

Given how long it takes to become a doctor, this decision may seem absurd. For me, however, living in the present meant fostering human connection, and I felt I could do that best as a physician.

Come out, Pedro!

“Pedro, come out!”

It’s three years ago, and my father is on his hands and knees, peering under the bed, where the cat has hidden. My daughter is two and loves animals, but Pedro–a fluffy, ten-year old house cat–has decided he doesn’t want to play with her. He has retreated to safety back in the dark underbelly of the bed. The two humans crouch down together, side by side, toddler copying grandfather: “Come out, Pedro! Come out! Everything will be fine! Pedro, come out!”

cowscall

The Cows Call

Stephen Heptinstall

About the artist:

Stephen Heptinstall is a cardiac rehabilitation practitioner and researcher at Hereford County Hospital, Hereford, UK. He strives for a holistic approach to practice, which involves listening to the voice of his clients’ “lifeworld.”

About the artwork:

“I undertook a series of reflective pieces as part of my research into farming couples’ experiences of living with angina pectoris. These featured both imagery and and senyru (human haiku) intrepretation of client narratives. My aim was to capture emotional high points, so that my findings would reach the hearts of readers, and not just their heads.“

Visuals editor:

Sara Kohrt

Jipper

In the summer of 1972, I worked for an oncologist at Yale-New Haven Hospital, assisting with research and animal care, and drawing blood on cancer patients. My boss was working on what was then called granulopoietin, a substance that helps white blood cells recover after chemotherapy-induced marrow suppression. He took bone marrow from dogs under general anesthesia and then sampled their blood daily to identify and extract this substance. One such dog was “9557,” a border collie who had lived at the lab’s animal facility for two years; they kept careful records and knew he had been a two-year-old stray when this stint began.

I fell in love with 9557. 

Love Handles

I rocked back on the plush bedspread, leaning into the weekend. I was alive. I filled my chest with her lavender air as if I had just stepped outside.

And then suddenly she spoke, from the place where she faced the bathroom mirror. Her voice drifted across the hall: “My love handles are gone.”

Ichi

My dog Ichi (rhymes with Peachy) reminds me of God, and I mean no disrespect to God. The willingness to love each person totally, in the moment, completely and sincerely, is the defining trademark of both Ichi and God.

The Look on Your Face

Priscilla Mainardi ~

Your skin pale with worry,
your mouth a straight line,
the fear in your eyes–
all this told me,
more than the nausea,
more than the fact that I couldn’t move my head,
that something was really wrong.

You thought I wouldn’t see.

I looked up at the ceiling,
at its pattern of dots,
white, and brighter white,
that could mean anything, or nothing,

The Needle

 
She’s the first patient of the afternoon at the pediatrician’s office where I work, here for her annual check-up. She’s fourteen. A straight-A student. Taking lifeguard lessons this summer. She’s yearning for maturity, in her four-inch gray suede pumps and billowy striped romper. She’s been doing well, has no health problems at all, but it’s time for a routine immunization. The moment we mention the word “needle,” however, her face crumples, she starts to cry, and her cheeks redden. 

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