“It’s a fine line between optimism and pessimism” he said to me, and I looked at him staring blankly. We talked about how it’s so easy to see things with a half empty glass and how the pressures around us sometimes dictate how we view life as it pertains to our practices and the decisions we face. It could be as Nicholas Taleb would see it, that there really is no glass, but it’s how we in the end decide to see.
It’s been that kind of day. Bounce. Like a ball. I have to have the spring to go from one patient to the other. “Your scans look great” ……….”I am sorry I have some bad news”. Not much more to say when the scans are good; good news brings a few laughs and off they go- anxieties abated until the next scans. Bad news brings much more discussion, “is there hope? can we beat this?” Like the ball, I am elastic ready for both situations; the good news helping me spring back from the collision of the bad news. I think I am answering the question I am sometimes asked when my patients say “how do you do it?”
I have sat alone in a doctor’s office in silence waiting to be seen. That silence is unbearable. And all I needed that day was an injection into my shoulder. I dislike making patients wait to hear good news. I yell out loud “yes!” after looking at a scan, springing out of my chair like a kid to get to the person who gets that good news. It’s amazing to watch relief. I have gotten good at reading the faces of my patients.
Bad News. I stare at the scan disbelieving. A meticulous and wise mind takes over, filled with understanding of the greater mysteries of life that the science I know helps me unravel. I sometimes find myself thinking about my own mortality, my heart is heavy, but this when the person waiting really needs me. They do not need me to feel sorry, they need me sharp, ready to navigate and able to get them through this. Like a pilot in a bad storm, as a passenger who knows nothing about flying, I hear myself saying “he better land this plane”.
I want nothing more than to deliver good news to every room I walk into. Reality says differently. I find myself thinking today mostly about the bad news I delivered, not as a sympathetic person but as a physician needing to find the answer to help land the plane, weighing all the odds and stretching my mind to figure this out. Perhaps the answer lies in tomorrow. I have to believe there is an answer out there, that some day while sitting listening to a researcher present his work or explain a phenomenon that there is enough talent in the room to figure this out.
I bounce in and out of rooms, between today and tomorrow, between discovery and a dead end.
5 thoughts on “Bounce.”
Thanks for the good read. I emailed this to Jeremy. You trained him well. We are glad to be settled and practicing, but I know he misses his mentors from Iowa. 🙂
You are truly a real human being to your patients.. From my perspective I feel I have never had any doctor who shows he cares this much. I have always felt ignored and pushed through fast…
I know god brought me to you for a reason.. Thank you again my amazing doctor of science…
I think I am showing the side of doctors that they hide so well when discussing things with patients. I felt it’s time to change that.
I admire your courage to step out of the box of the ordinary side of the medical field.. I hope you can encourage others in your field to do the same..
If more doctors would come down to really acting like a real human being, think of the possibilities…thank you again my amazing doctor of science.
You could’t describe it better Mo. What a great description of the inner battle of emotions an oncologist faces every day.