When I was a junior in high school, 16 years old, I had my first real brush with a medical issue. I broke my leg playing soccer. I have written a bit about this day before, more in reference to watching my dad smile (as he always does) as I was carried off the field. He later showed some emotion when we saw the x ray which showed my split tibia. I have since realized that he really did hurt inside to see me suffer. It was a moment when a kid who really had seemed pretty indestructible actually showed some cracks, literally. My wildness as a teenager lead to the next few years being quite full of casts, surgeries and recovery periods. That first episode though was interestingly similar to my leukemia diagnosis. At first it doesn’t really seem at all similar given the gravity of the situation. Yet, in both cases my return to normal functionality was one of the biggest issues looming in my mind.
After the fractured leg I remember being extremely disappointed about realizing I would not be skiing or training for ski racing which was my true sport of choice. The ride home from Montross Colorado back to Steamboat was quite memorable for the bumps and difficulty with trying to get in and out of a small Subaru to pee with a partial splint on. Being in Alaska now I have a tremendous amount of sympathy for patients who have fractures and have to endure some prolonged journey to acquire care. When I hear of these stories I get little flashbacks of that 5 hour ride which is nothing compared to some stories I have been involved in here. The disappointment about skiing was very real at the time despite the rough road home. I can vividly remember contemplating what it was I could do over the next few months while my leg healed to stay ready for skiing. I remember getting my cast on the next day going home and starting to lift weights and do leg raises with the cast. In my mind at the time there was no way I was going to sit back and wait to be ready not even for a day.
Not extremely different when I found out about my AML I freaked out about working (and lots of other things). I have constantly been wondering when I could safely return to work. Each time I would bring it up there seemed to be some negative outcome which pushed my ideal return back. My recent liver issues and need for increased immunosuppression has seemingly curtailed my most recent plan to be going back in the next month. In fact in talking with Dr. Lui and a visiting Oncologist from Seattle Cancer Care today they were not optimistic about my sooner than later return questioning even the year mark from transplant in July. I guess I should say that they felt in a perfect scenario without GVHD I could probably pull it off… no shit, I have minimal fatigue and I do more in a day than I used to at work, I do the job of a stay at home mom! No really it is a lot. Yet, the idea of being around other infections is rightfully concerning. So I have to accept that trying to get the liver under control is the first priority.
I hear quite frequently that I am crazy to want to rush back to work. I understand this thinking on the surface. I think if I was working pretty much any other job I might agree. I loved what I did though. Being a doctor was not a profession so much as it was a life commitment. All the years I spent in school and training to get to where I was when I got sick is a big reason I feel the draw to get back. I don’t want to waste all that energy. Moreover though the fact that I just enjoyed working. I can’t put a specific finger on it. It wasn’t just altruism of helping others, I have mentioned I was probably less helpful than I thought. It wasn’t being in intimate situations where people struggled. It wasn’t being respected (although I may not have been as respected as I thought). It wasn’t about the excitement of new challenges. I just enjoyed the overall life of being a doctor. I will agree I liked what I did because I had some significant time off to enjoy my life but I did like working.
When I got home and was talking to Brooke about it I hurt inside to think about the idea that I would ever have to think about some other job. I bet there is something out there I could do. The problem is I just don’t want too. I don’t want to think like that because in my mind I see myself returning. Thinking about anything else just seems like wasting time. Just like when I broke my leg and I was focused on getting back for skiing, I am focused on being a hospitalist again. The idea may be a silly one, even a bit over ambitious but I haven’t really ever let talk of the sort get me off track if I want something. I don’t see a reason to change just yet.
Head Up, Heart Strong. I need a cure.