May 13, 2010


A stillness falls.  It's 10:30 at night and I'm on the second floor looking out over MDACC watching the shift change as individuals in blue scrubs file out.  Gone is the hustle and bustle of the activity during the day.  Not us.  Three more hours of chemo to go.

The last 8 weeks, well really the last 8 months, has been a blur.  It'll probably take me that long again to sort out all how I feel.  Med school was....well, school.  All of the challenges were mental - not in the sense of intellectually difficult (though yes, it is difficult) but in the sense of metaphysical.  It all boiled down to the question, "can I do this?"  Before deciding to make the plunge into med school, I did about a year of intense psychoanalysis with a psychologist who could not have been a better fit for me (I picked him because his website had a quote from Hermann Hesse but that's a story for another time).  And in the final visit, he told me a simple story that I will carry with me the rest of my life.  He spoke of patients in nursing homes wrestling with the pain, the sorrow, the anguish of disease at the end of life.  In the end, we all face these same questions and fears.  The question is as old as time itself.  So why not face it now?

So, here I am.  The question, "can I do this?" is still here.  But in a way I never imagined.  Now, it refers to my brother.  To life.  Can this be done?  The primary tumor shrank ~50%.  Only about one in five of patients respond in such a fashion.  A collectible sigh went through the room and tears began to flow, this time from relief and joy.  But in looking down the road, the doc said that we're still not clever enough to figure out how to get the tumors to disappear completely.  The best he's hoping for is to shrink and stabilize them.  But, can more be done?  It's a great thing when you learn that you're still able to surprise yourself.  You begin to question what else is possible.

I now realize that if I'm honest with myself, I'll never reach a point in life where I'm so self assured that I still won't have fears that tremble me to the soul.  Life never yields us enough experience to become so sagacious.  But oddly it does not leave me with a sense of hopelessness or futility.  Instead, it stirs me to passion.  While gazing out the windows peering out on the med center, I'm reminded of Frost's poem.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Many steps remain in my journey with my training, with my brother, with my life.  And many promises to myself and to others to keep. 

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