[Skip to Navigation]
Sign In
Views 38,355
Citations 0
A Piece of My Mind
November 5, 2019

Resident Report

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Medicine, Stanford University, Stanford, California
JAMA. 2019;322(17):1653-1654. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.16490

One of our wedding dishes cracked a few days ago. It happened surreptitiously and irreparably, as the dish was being used for normal baking. Recently, I, too, cracked. One minute I was rounding on patients in the coronary care unit, and the next I was answering a phone call from an orthopedic surgery resident who told me an x-ray of my knee was concerning for osteosarcoma. Immediately, the illusion of my perfectly planned life shattered.

Now, I am 6 months into treatment, 24 weeks from pulling the emergency brake on my intern year in internal medicine. I’ve received 5 rounds of methotrexate, 3 rounds of cisplatin and doxorubicin, 3 rounds of ifosfamide and etoposide, and 5 fractions of radiation. I’ve been admitted 15 times and had 15 centimeters of my right femur removed, all at the hospital where I should be working as a resident. I’m living the cycles of anxiety, suffering, and hope between treatments and scans that I had just begun to witness as a physician.

Add or change institution
Limit 200 characters
Limit 25 characters
Conflicts of Interest Disclosure

Identify all potential conflicts of interest that might be relevant to your comment.

Conflicts of interest comprise financial interests, activities, and relationships within the past 3 years including but not limited to employment, affiliation, grants or funding, consultancies, honoraria or payment, speaker's bureaus, stock ownership or options, expert testimony, royalties, donation of medical equipment, or patents planned, pending, or issued.

Err on the side of full disclosure.

If you have no conflicts of interest, check "No potential conflicts of interest" in the box below. The information will be posted with your response.

Not all submitted comments are published. Please see our commenting policy for details.

Limit 140 characters
Limit 3600 characters or approximately 600 words
    6 Comments for this article
    May All Your Wishes Come True!
    Susan Feather, Anesthesiologist | Retired Physician
    I read your article today and felt very moved by your passion and desire to be a good doctor. I applaud you for that. I worked at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX for 5 years. There was an intern I cared for several times over the course of those 5 years. She also wanted to finish her residency and be a good doctor. Over time we became very close.

    My wish for you, as it was for her, is that those dreams come true. I have a magic wand
    I got while working at Anderson that said just that. I would bring it out in the pre-op area occasionally. It seemed like the best thought to have just before surgery.

    Good thoughts for good health!
    Best and Worst
    John Haughton, MD, MS | Buffalo, NY
    As with the previous poster, I wish medicine had a magic wand to fix health. I lucked out 35+ years ago with a Ewing’s Sarcoma. NIH was treating it and I lived in Bethesda. I have my leg and health and a wonderful family. It opened my eyes to pursue a career in Medicine (from engineering). It helped me understand about the loss of control and fear as a patient receiving care. It showed me how satisfying and engaging with an excellent clinician can be - one who knows what he or she doesn’t know and isn’t afraid to share that deficit, as well as knowing lots about what to do. I learned the little things and little moments can matter - the nurse who let my friend bring an inflatable baby pool in during a summer chemo session (she didn’t allow us to fill it though). Giving choice while a patient is in the bed - asking do you want the lights on or off matters. I wouldn’t wish cancer on anyone, but having gone through it, like all of our life experiences - good and bad, it is an intertwined part of the fabric of self. For the author and anyone one else going through cancer or life, fingers crossed and I hope the experience can be as good as it can be.
    Thank You
    Lauren Herrmann, MD | Family Medicine
    Thank you for sharing your journey and reminding us what really matters.
    Being A Physician Patient Makes Us Better Physicians
    Michele Greenhouse, Medical Doctor | Adventist Health Community Care-Kerman, CA
    I too was diagnosed with an illness at the end of my first year in residency. It's an autoimmune disorder I continue to live with 20 years later. I too had compassionate and caring physicians on my team. Some of those physicians help me to be the doctor I am today. Thank you for sharing your story.
    Thank You for Sharing Your Battle
    David Bianchi, MD | George Washington University/Holy Cross Hospital of Silver Spring,MD
    I read your article with a heavy heart. You are not alone in your battle. Your words will help me to support an associate diagnosed with cancer last year. The best that I can offer never seems like enough, but the hugs and pats on the shoulder on bad days seem to be the most well-received bits of encouragement. Your essay will help me in communicating better with him and other colleagues with cancer. Best wishes for you and family.
    Resident Report
    Manuel Landecho, MD, PhD | Clínica Universidad de Navarra
    The relevance of this document goes beyond the number of times cited in other articles and reaches the core of medical activity. You can be sure that it has already helped many doctors on our way to being better doctors.

    I also know well the struggle for life and the fear of losing it, like you. My brother Ignacio, who is also a doctor, died of cancer a few years ago. As you can see, I talk about this in the present tense and I do it on purpose. I would like to tell you something I learned from
    Ignacio. Don't let yourself be defeated by fear. Being afraid is inescapable. You will have to cry and scream - do it; don´t pretend being brave, but never be defeated. Don't give up, because every minute is precious and unquotable; because every good day is a great victory for you and all yours; because death is not the end of the road or because of whatever reason you want. I hope you find strength in God, as we did.

    Best wishes