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On My Mind
July 2016

Family Matters

Author Affiliations
  • 1Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Boston Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA Pediatr. 2016;170(7):641. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.0195

December 27, 2014. My father lost consciousness in the bathroom. The paramedics took him to the emergency department, where I held a pink bucket in front of his face and watched as he vomited blood into it. At the time, I was a fourth-year medical student in the midst of pediatric residency interviews.

Less than a week later, the resident called with my father’s biopsy results. I heard the words “gastric adenocarcinoma,” and my mind went blank. Computed tomography scan, positron emission tomography staging, surgical oncology, lymph node dissection, tumor board, chemotherapy, and radiation oncology—these words, which I had been familiar with in lectures and on the wards as a medical student, swirled around me as if they were a foreign language.

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