I don’t even know if there are that many people who still look check up on me. I am sure there are more than I know and for all their positive thoughts and wishes I am ever so thankful. What I do know is that today I hit the two year mark from the day I was diagnosed with AML. Two years. It is amazing to think back to all that we have been through in two years. The proverbial ups and downs, or rollercoaster ride, the waves, and all the false summits we have crested. However I can spin the feelings of struggle I am still here. I will still not go so far as to say I have beat cancer. I am far to superstitious to state that as fact. I still live in utter fear of that word. Maybe even more so than I did two years and a day ago. Despite all the worry and dark spots I have wandered into though I have seen light in this canyon which is beautiful. In a general debate I might not come off as lucky but I feel like I am.
The last time I wrote I was on a plane back to Steamboat to revisit my hometown. I had a wonderful time. I was in fact able to make some new memories with my boys which I hope they will carry with them in their stories in the future. We saw a good deal of friends (not enough because I feel like I could have kept thanking people all day for the 10 days, and I am sorry to those I didn’t get to thank or see), enjoyed a wonderful community, and basked in the glow of being with the family without a thought of a hospital looming near by.
When I say the hospital I mean not only for me being sick but for even the worries of being at work. Over the last few months of being back at work I have really enjoyed being back on the listening side of the stethoscope. Trying to help people through their own struggles. I will admit I seem to have more patience for listen to patients. I think I always used to listen but I think now more than ever before I hear them. I know that when I have been leaving my services, really evident this last two weeks of work, it was hard to walk away. My partner is probably far more capable than I am so I wasn’t worried about the care my patients would get but that emotional investment in people in dark moments is really powerful and hard to just let go. I have on more than one occasion in the last few days got back into the computer to check on people to see how they are doing.
It is awkward to feel this way and I will admit that In the past I was better at stepping back and just letting go of those feelings. Obviously, my own struggle changed that but I also think I have heard so much rhetoric about doctors not caring that I have actually explored some of those lingering thoughts as I leave a group of patients and realize that “no…doctor’s do care but if we don’t let those lingering concerns about having done all we can to care for a person slide away we will just get dragged down.” So we must seem at times like we do not care. Then the expectation that we do not care is created and expectations are a powerful force to overcome. I know as a doctor and a patient that a provider is not the savior. They or I, are simply there to shine a light down the darkened pathways of the unknown. The truth is we have been told of these paths, studied the way they look, and we can guess which one of these unseen trails may take patients to a open sunny spot but each path is different no matter how similar they appear. We try our best to point out the obstacles and illuminate the pitfalls but sometimes we can’t carry a light bright enough. Accepting that vulnerability is hard to do.
As I sit here two years after having first looked up what the mortality rate of AML is I am…. well, I don’t really know. I am happy at times, I am tormented at times, I laugh at times, I cry at times, I still get anxious, I can still relax, I see the good in people, I see the darkness, I feel loved, and I hope that I show my love towards others. I could go on for some time as we all know but the simplest way to state it is that I am alive. There are moments I still wonder if that is fair, but I am here and I am thankful. I don’t think my writing is as intriguing as it once was but maybe that is a good sign that I have more stories to go and collect. I do think that it is still therapeutic and I do hope that others may benefit from knowing that by reading they have and still do help me move forward. Two years, pretty amazing.
Head Up, Heart Strong. I need a cure.