Today was one of my favorite kind of clinical days because I got to connect with another human being who happened to also be my patient.
Sitting down to review tests, scans and blood levels, it's easy to get caught up in the science of medicine. Science is no doubt a wonderful part of being in the medical field. Unfortunately for many health care providers (myself included) we can sometimes get so focused on science and outcomes and care plans that we can lose sight of why we do what we do.
And then someone comes along to remind me.
Like my patient today. I'll call her Susan*
I walked in the room to see Susan before she got her chemotherapy to review tests and blood counts and to assess how she was doing. Sitting across from her, I could tell she was trying to hold it together. And when I asked her more pointedly about her life, the tears began to fall.
As I sat with her and told her I wanted to know what was going on, she bravely put aside her need to "hold it together" so that I could witness and share in her sadness.
She shared with me about her life. Things were kind of falling apart for Susan, and that wasn't even taking into consideration her terminal diagnosis. Her partner was leaving her, her finances were a mess. She was having severe anxiety. You would never know, because Susan always has a smile on her face.
As she wiped away her tears, she apologized for taking up my time. And I looked at her and told her that moments like these are why I do what I do. Right here, right now.
It's not about the science, it's not about the medicine, it's not about the numbers. Of course those are important.
But I chose to do what I do because of moments like this: The place where two humans connect.
In between the labs, the scans, the numbers, the exams. There is this: One human in front of another, looking for some kind of connection. And that happens sometimes in the most unexpected moments.
It is my belief that a big part of healing is connecting.
One of my favorite people, Brené Brown, says that men, women and children are hard-wired for connection. That means me. That means you. That means us, if you want it to.
And I've found that there are rarely times when people are more vulnerable and wanting connection than when they are sick.
And it feels like an honor to be here for you, to witness your journey.
You are worth listening to, connecting with and caring about. Your journey matters.
And you deserve a health care provider who will care for all of you, not just your arm, your heart, your gallbladder, your cancer.
At the core of what I want to do in partnership with you is witness your healing. In all its forms. Mind, body, soul.
When I get to connect with you and witness your life, your journey, your healing on that deep level, it refuels me, too.
It reminds me why I chose this. Because when I was choosing to study the numbers, science and labs, in my heart I knew I actually choosing these moments.
All of that studying and practice culminates so that I can have the honor of sitting across from you.
When some of you come to see me for medical care, you aren't interested in sharing your stories with me, and that's ok. I honor that in you, too.
But some of you do have stories to share, like Susan did. And I want to hear them.
Your stories help me better understand the kind of healing you are seeking for yourself.
You are doing the work of healing yourself. I'm just the lucky one who gets to cheer you on.
And please know, when I walk out of that room, more often than not, you are not only healing yourself, you are healing me, too.
*Please note changes to patient name and some details have changed to protect patient privacy.