When I first moved to Durham I had to switch Oncologists. I hadn’t been with my doctor back home for very long before the move, but long enough that I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to be with the man who had been with me from day one. Who knew hands on what I had already dealt with. Yes, other doctors would know based on files, but files can only say so much. Files will have symptoms and complications, but files don’t have the emotions and how I dealt with it all.
Before I found the amazing man who has gone above and beyond for me, I met my nightmare of a doctor. I hear these horror stories of doctors having insanely horrible bedside manor and I have never truly believed someone in such a profession could be that way. I had never experienced that until Dr. A. Dr. A is short for Dr. Asshole. You can call him Dr. D for Dr. Douche Bag if you’d like. Anyways, my first appointment was as expected. Dr. A ran a check up and asked a few questions about me. He wasn’t the warmest person, but didn’t seem to be the coldest. I left not too worried because I too take time to warm up to new people. What happened at the second appointment will forever be embedded in my head and if I ever run into Dr. A again, it will not be pretty.
For those of you reading my blog for the first time, I have sat through every chemo session alone. My family is in Ohio and I’m in North Carolina for Medical school. The closest friend I have lives 6 hours away in Atlanta, Georgia. I’ve made friends here, no worries, but not everyone knows my life situation. It isn’t something I just openly discuss in class. Imagine the first day of class when you go around the room introducing yourself and have to state an interesting fact about you. Now imagine me standing up and going, “Hi. My name is Sara and I have cancer.” Uhhhh…. awkward as fuck. Plus, I’m a very private person, seems cliché as I write a blog for all to read, but I just don’t up and share my life with new people. (And you’re naïve if you think you know me based off what I choose to write in here)
My second appointment with Dr. A is one I will never forget and thankfully lead me to my saving grace. He started by asking how training was going; I was prepping for a show at the time. I cheerfully answered that I was still feeling strong and was beyond happy with my progress. Douchebag of the Year Award goes to Dr. A for responding, “We’ll see how strong you really are when you’re fighting for your life.”
Oh…. *insert my blank stare here*
I legit froze. I wasn’t sure if I should cry, kick him in the balls, tell him to fuck off, or all of the above. I decided to stand up and walk out in the middle of the appointment without saying a word. In my eyes, this appointment was over and he would no longer be my doctor. Then I cried because as we all know, crying is my new found talent this year.
Since I like to ramble and stray from the topic at hand, let me go ahead and tell you that I have found an amazing Oncologist who has gone above and beyond. He always stays in the room with me as long as he can. He checks up on me daily even though it is not in his job title. He made sure I always had a ride to my appointments and class when I was unable to drive due to an awesome concussion. This man even took me to the grocery store numerous times so I didn’t have to walk or order take out. I don’t even know if I know how to order take out. I make 99% of everything I eat. He by no means replaces my family and amazing friends, but he has made this who situation that much easier.
Now, back to Dr. A. He’s an asshole and his comment pokes at me from time to time; mainly on my really bad days.
“We’ll see how strong you really are when you’re fighting for your life.”
How strong am I? I don’t know. Some days I feel physically strong yet mentally weak. Some days I sit in class holding back tears from the aches in every bone, but I fight through and finish the lecture. Those days I feel physically weak yet mentally unstoppable. And when I say physically weak, there is no exaggeration. I’ve literally filled my jug up only half way because a full gallon was just too much to carry. Then there are the days I want to quit. I sometimes even sit in my apartment alone and scream I quit.
Screaming I quit helps, but I think it is more the actual screaming that makes me feel better. Obviously I can’t quit cancer. Cancer isn’t a game of cards. You can’t just quit because you have a bad hand or the jackass next to you is cheating. Cancer laughs in your face and forces you to keep playing.
However, I wake up every morning and put a smile on my face. Yea, I said it smile. I’m sure it’s a rare word/ sight these days because I swear to God people don’t smile anymore. Are my smiles always real? No; but a fake smile is better than a frown. You may not agree with me on this, but I practice it daily and it seems to work – fake a smile. Fake a fucking smile and I god damn guarantee that someone will appreciate that fake smile which in turn makes yours become real.
I am beyond sick of listening to people bitch and moan about their days being horrible because they woke up late or are having a bad hair day. First off, waking up late isn’t the end of the world. You can do one of two things, accept that it happened and adjust or let it ruin your fucking day. Your call. Secondly, if your problem is a bad hair day then you can kindly kiss my ass. Be grateful you have hair. Does having a bad hair day suck? Heck yea. I’m a girl. I know what it’s like to have your best hair moments be right before you go to bed alone…. with a pint of ice cream… and a jar of peanut butter. But I’ve also cut over a foot off my hair before for a little girl who had lost hers while battling brain cancer. I’ve also spent over a year growing all that hair back to now sit on my bathroom floor, daily, and cry while I pull handfuls out when I brush it.
I sit through classes ready to vomit from the pain shooting through my bones and joints. I lay awake all night crying because it hurts to lie down. Somehow I manage to smile at strangers every day, all day. I keep my problems to myself and act like I give a fuck when a person spends 15 minutes complaining about a bad hair day. Or the barista put too much cream in their coffee.
I do not mind people coming to me with their problems no matter how big or small they may be. I’ve always been the person who keeps my struggles to myself while keeping my ears as open as possible for others. I like that people feel they can come to me. Sometimes though, on my really bad days, I wonder why I even force a smile. Why I don’t let the pain show. No one else seems to be hiding theirs so why do I hide mine. I hide mine behind a smile because deep down I truly believe that there is good out there. That there are people who truly appreciate and believe in the power of a smile. Deep down though, next to that belief, is a part of me that wishes other people understood the quote below.
“Never underestimate the pain of a person, because in all honesty, everyone is struggling. Some people are better at hiding it than others.”
Maybe if people understood or reminded themselves of this, they’d force a smile more often. There is nothing wrong in venting your problems or voicing your concerns, but once that is all said and done, be done with it. If the situation can be changed, change it. If the situation is out of your control, adapt and move forward. Smiles are contagious. Sadly, frowns are even more contagious.
So, Dr. A, how strong am I as I fight for my life? I like to think I’m very strong. Stronger than you to be exact.
I may be temporarily broken. My spirits may be down in the dumps often, but I’m still fighting. I have three more chemo sessions until I can move on to the next part of this battle and kindly tell cancer to kiss my pale ass. I have managed to start my first year of medical school and pass with flying colors. My training may have taken a minor detour, but I am back and hungrier than ever. I’ve been blessed with an amazing sponsorship and 2014 is looking rather promising.
I’m doing multiple things that most can’t handle individually. And guess what, Dr. A…. I’m doing those things with a smile on my face. And in case you didn’t know, it takes a very strong person to smile.
PS. If I am wrong and people do not believe in the power of a smile, I will still continue to smile. I believe in them and that’s all that matters.