I walked into the room, pretending I knew what I was doing. I set up my gown and gloves, unwrapped the sterile lumbar puncture package on the bedside table, my resident beside me with small approving nods. “We got back the results of your CT scan,” My resident said. You could hear a pin drop it was so quiet and the air in the room was thick. I felt for a minute like I was suffocating. The patient and family waited on bated breath. “There is no other evidence of cancer in your body. It seems to be localized to your brain as the primary site.” Suddenly, tears and cries of relief broke out. I was so startled. This family had been so stoic, so flat, and I realized quickly—so in shock this whole time. They cried and kissed and hugged as I continued setting up. Their emotions poured out, tears of joy and tears of grief. The family left the room, tears still flowing and faces filled with relief. As I positioned the patient, they said quietly, “I never thought knowing I only had brain cancer would be such a huge relief to me.” My heart broke instantly. I was thankful they were turned away from me as I set up the lumbar puncture drapes over their back, so they couldn’t see the tears running down my face.
Their words have echoed in my mind all week. As I’m pursuing my dreams and living out this life with an excellent education, learning from patients with rare presentations and mentors with phenomenal bedside manner and an unbelievable wealth of knowledge, I’m constantly reminded of how precious life is. Every single day i meet someone whose life is in imminent danger; whose current situation revolves around one test, one result, one exam. The power and privilege we have in medicine to share news that will change the course of someone’s life, I hope, will never lose its impact on me. My heart breaks for the families I meet, but I’m empowered by the impact modern medicine can have on these situations. The impact my growing body of knowledge can have as we get to explain the course of disease and the process that will be carried out in terms of testing and treatment protocols.
I hope I never lose this sense of wonder that has made my heart bigger, my heart stronger.