Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Birthday post 2008

I looked out the window of my lab, down at the quad of the medical school. A line of second-year medical students was forming in front of a booth that had been set up to administer TB tests. Supposedly, I was a part of that group milling around down there, forming a nebulous line while exchanging beginning-of-the-school-year high-fives and hugs after having spent the summer apart, except that I didn’t know anybody to be high-fiving or hugging, and I have spent almost two years away from school.

As the summer has begun to wane and I look forward to finally re-joining second year of medical school, I have become increasingly worried about being able to keep up. It was daunting enough, before being addled by a flurry of pills and a slurry of secretions. Is it still reasonable to expect to achieve the goals I set Before? What future do I have to look forward to? Untrustworthy doctor? Med school dropout? Disgruntled lab tech? Disability recipient? Family mooch? There have been some pretty scary times over here.

I went downstairs and out into the sun. For a few minutes, I just stood there, sweating, alone in a crowd of people who all knew each other. And then one recognized me. And then I was introduced to someone else. We chatted. It wasn’t so bad. Say what you will about medical students (and I have), but I defy you to find another group of 170 people who are as social, energetic, and can-do as these people. I guess I can deal with that. I got up to the front of the line, and when the nurse asked my name, I started to explain that I wouldn’t be surprised if I wasn’t on the list because you know it’s complicated I’ve been … Oh. I AM on the list? Wow. OK. Great.

After lunch, the herd moved upstairs to the building where our cubicles are. Not that I expected to have one… oh wait. Look! It’s my name! On a cubicle! (this very well may be the first time in recorded history that anyone has reacted positively to this sight). And they had a new badge for me. There I am, peering out from a plastic card! I must actually exist!

A couple of days later, I am walking through the lobby of Norris, the cancer hospital where I was treated, and I see Evelyn, one of my favorite nurses. We exchange hugs, and hold back tears. She asks if I have time to come upstairs and meet a new patient of hers who just started his first round of chemo. Of COURSE I do. He’s in 3314. I know which way to turn out of the elevator. I know where to find the hand sanitizer. And when I see this young man sitting on the bed, hooked up to an IV, looking shaken but courageous, and when I see his mother sitting beside him, looking calm and determined, I know them too.

I can do this.