I awoke to a foggy gray lightly colored early morning light. I could tell it was early. I will openly admit I have become more fond of the sleeping until 730 or 8 over the last 6 months. My whole life i have been an early riser. Last year as I bobbed around in the frigid waters of cancer I often found myself rising early. There were multiple reasons, it was ingrained in my nature, the need to take meds, the need to hook up IV’s, the flighty prednisone sleep, or just the plain anxiety of cancer. I found that just getting up and going for a walk or watching some soccer often seemed to calm me back down or even buy me a little more sleep. I remember numerous foggy morning rises.
Last night as I lay in bed wondering why I was awake I realized for the first time since I swam into the waves of cancer I was worried about my patients. I remember this feeling from before. I wasn’t thinking of my own skin, I was concerned for some random patients whom I have only known for a few days. Yes, I felt this before, I think all physicians do at multiple times. I spent so much time last year as I rode the waves of my disease fearing the inevitable wipe out or the blow of the lip wave on my back or board. But this feeling was that feeling of watching from the shore as some older guy or girl who doesn’t know what they are doing paddle into a giant wave, or worse yet watching a true tourist position themselves right in the blast zone of a beach break. I know they are about to get smashed, get hurt, get pulled under. I can shout all I want but they won’t listen. They are convinced they safe, it is only water. The problem is the water of disease is more powerful than we ever imagine.
As I lay there in the growing gray light I thought of my patients. I can’t tell their stories because of the information so many know of me I would be giving their story away and it is not mine to give. I thought of the fact that I can’t recruit them back to the safety of the beach. They must find out on their own. With my population now though I should know better than to worry though. Although they look like they are about to be crushed they understand the water and seem to somehow emerge, occasionally gasping for air and struggling but they pull through some waves I would probably succumb too. My current population doesn’t surf away gracefully tiptoeing to the nose our standing tall like some of the brilliant disease surfers of our time, this crew flails but they escape. I am not sure what I would call their metaphorical surfing life but they seem to accept it.
None the less I was awoken by the worry they create. Laying there I thought of what I might be missing, what other approaches I could take, what other parts of their stories could I use to stimulate them to make hard but smart choices. Eventually, I let the worry go, woke up and went to see how they all fared thorough another night. Although it is wearing me down a little quicker than it used to even this worry as a physician is for me something I enjoy. I don’t think my body likes it so much right now. It has grown accustom to feeling and coping with itself. My mind is happy to contemplate someone else for a bit. I have felt more tired these last four days and I feel a bit more nausea coming on. I think I can ride it out though. From my current point of view the waves I am in right now are little three footers which I can almost dance through as I step to the front of the board and back again enjoying the sun as it drifts through the ever lifting gray fog.
I really miss surfing. But I guess I have to try and get one part of my life back at a time.
Head Up, Heart Strong. I need a cure.