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A Piece of My Mind
March 3, 2020

The Secret About Achieving Your Dreams

Author Affiliations
  • 1Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA. 2020;323(9):825. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.1033

The dreams of my youth were simple. Someday I wanted to be like I already was but older. I sought a house to share with a beloved family and a job that I was good at. I wanted to be loved and respected and to feel that way about others in my life. In my young adulthood, my dreams veered ambitiously into specifics. Maybe I could be a doctor or better still, a doctor at a prestigious medical school. I could be promoted and even published in esteemed medical journals. It seems strange now, as cancer threatens my life at age 35, just how prescient my earlier dreams were and how seemingly less salient the latter ones have become. As I sit recovering from an intensive inpatient treatment called high-dose interleukin-2, pleading for my enhanced T cells to yield me a cure, it turns out that I am like a child once more. I only want to be like I am but older and surrounded by people I love and respect.

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    7 Comments for this article
    Beautiful recount
    Kashvi Gupta, MBBS, MPH | University of Michigan
    Dear Dr. Stern, your resilience is inspiring - thank you for sharing your story with us. You highlight so beautifully the dichotomy between dreams and goals. Dreams are where we hold our family close but we so often confuse them with career-oriented goals. Our loved ones are our strongest medicine.
    Thank You
    Yvonne Rogers, Psychology. | Children's Health Ireland at Temple Street, Dublin 1, Ireland.
    Thank you for this beautiful piece of reflective writing. I was very moved by it and it made me cry at my desk here as I read it. It is so powerful and insightful about the fundamentals of what really matters in life. I wish you well in your recovery and I really hope you are one of the patients who lives for decades more after your treatment.

    Best wishes,
    Yvonne Rogers.
    Thank you
    Wesam Saghir |
    Thank you for sharing such a beautiful piece. May you be one of the lucky few who survive this and live many more decades.
    Hold on to Those Childhood Dreams
    Edward Volpintesta, MD | Private Physician
    Yes, Dr. Stern, it is easy to mistake our ambitious dreams for simpler things that may not bring public acclaim or honors but are so important in the final analysis, like family and friends. We physicians are sometimes over-driven to succeed. It starts in pre-med and keeps on going. And that drive to succeed in whatever field it may lead us often leads us away from what is most important.

    Thanks for reminding us.
    Very insightful
    Andrew Enyvari, MD,CCFP, MMed (Skin Cancer) | Skin Spot Clinic
    Thank you for writing this very insightful and moving article. Reading it made me realize that as much as I love my work and enjoy my daily interactions with my patients, the importance of family and one's life passions are, above all else, what is most important. Thank you for sharing your story. I very much hope that the treatment works and you get to enjoy many more happy years with your son and family.
    Appreciation post
    Zubia Awais |
    Thanks a lot for sharing this story. I didn’t hesitate to comment as it touched my heart.

    I agree with your experiences. Living in the here and now, the present moment, allows us to become aware and appreciative that our journey rather than our destination is what is truly rewarding.
    Thank You
    Jacob Towery, MD | Stanford
    What a beautiful piece. I resonate with this deeply. I'm so sorry to hear about your cancer at such a young age. I hope that it goes well. Thank you for this poignant reminder that the connections we have with others are far more important than ego and fleeting accomplishments and acknowledgments.