Friday, July 19, 2013

in memory of her

i knew when i met her she didn't have long to live. it was a sad story, a few months of nausea that was mostly ignored, actually a rare cancer that had spread throughout her belly. 
they decided to start chemo. she was optimistic; she told me she was gonna fight this thing. we talked about how her hair would fall out, and what head scarves she was gonna buy. how she wanted to go to the beach this summer but was scared to be away from her doctors. about how cute her granddaughter was.  
her family was always in the room. her mom drove her crazy, with the fluffing of pillows and the force-feedings of sherbet and ensure. her sisters told stories of what an amazing person she was. her pregnant daughter brought in ultrasound pictures of her soon-to-be baby girl. her three-year old granddaughter ran through the room, making everyone nervous. they made me feel like family.
the chemo was hard on her, but she managed to get discharged, only to come back a couple days later, dehydrated and weak. this time, when her family had left the room, she told me, i know this is gonna kill me. i'm not ready to go.
she kept getting sicker, and her story changed: i know this is gonna kill me, but i'm ready. her mom pulled me in the hall and started crying: i know she doesn't have long. what do you think? i couldn't argue.
there was something about her, her mix of sadness and hope, resilience and resignation, her honesty, and her willingness to just let me sit with her that kept drawing me back to her room long after i had rotated off her team. maybe because i could carry the grief of my own sickness there and sit with it as she sat with hers. she heard my voice weakening as bronchitis set it, saw my mask when i was at risk for infection, but never asked more than how i was feeling that day. so we would both sit there and separately hold our losses, hers greater than mine, and talk about small things. sometimes she would cry. i would bring rita's and cupcakes that she would inevitably throw up.
i knew she was dying fast, but i didn't think it would be only two days after she left the hospital that second time, only six weeks after the cancer was detected, still four months before her second granddaughter takes a breath. 
i went to the viewing, not to say goodbye to her, but so i could hug her daughter and her mom and her sisters, because she made me want to hug my mom and my sisters, because life is just too short sometimes.

Monday, July 1, 2013

second year end, third year begin.

i started this year with deep breaths of thankfulness. i had survived what was supposedly the worst of the medical training process: intern year. the year ended with a week exploring the pacific northwest with a friend - eating our way through pike place market, kayaking around san juan island, biking and hiking in vancouver. i felt full of life.
second year started with continued triumphs: the color run. kayaking all summer long. a friend's wedding in india. loving work.

then things spiraled down: the death of a friend. recurrent hospitalizations. work and life becoming far too exhausting.

now this year comes to a close with another week of sickness, a chest rattling with cough, and a body heavy with fatigue.

like last year, i know life comes with both things difficult and things beautiful. and like last year, i am finding i am stronger than i imagined.
so i take a deep breath in and let this last year of residency begin.