With a royal wedding, tornados, three wars and our economy in the tank, I wanted to post some takeaway gems from patients who are struggling either medically, psychologically or financially. In yucky times you may gain strength from watching other folks get through it, and know you are not alone. Here are the reasons I am full of gratitude and lucky to have the job of primary care doctor.
- Courage. When faced with cancer, chemotherapy, major surgery or death of a loved one, regular folks are amazing and full of courage. Last week one of my patients losing her hair from chemo, nauseated, with a mouth full of sores got up early to pick zucchini from her garden so she could bring me something-- zucchini bread. Watch a person who is terminally ill stay gracious, amazing and courageous and you will be uplifted.
Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Parents. No matter what age your parents are when they die, it will still rock your world. Don’t underestimate the effect it will have on you when your mom or dad passes away, even if they were 92. It’s a life changing experience whether it is expected or not and whether they are elderly or not. Reach out to others who can get you through the grieving.
- Your body. Your body is a temple, not a toy. Snowboarders and marathoners (me included) beware. We have one body, that’s it. Treat it right or when you retire and take all of your fabulous trips your body will betray you. Oh my aching knees.
- The big stuff. It’s the big things that matters. I am with a patient during their death and dying experience several times a month. I never hear: “I wish I had gone to such and such college,” or ”I wish I had bought that red house.” What I do hear is: “I wish I had more time with my kids,” or “I wish I had been more present because it goes so quickly.” Be present.
- Reconcile. If you have been estranged from loved ones, reconcile. Make sure you have no regrets... please. I see this all the time.
- Caretakers. If you are taking care of a loved one and facing the stress and depression that may go along with that, I want you to know you are the unsung heroes in medicine. If you are reading this and know someone who is a caretaker, do something nice for them today.
- Sex. Many of my patients stop being sexually active. The reasons are varied and for some it is an older or medically challenged partner. I hope this is okay for them. I’m not saying go out and find a new partner, I’m saying make sure your sexual health is fulfilled in whatever way. And if it’s not, send a shout out to change it.
- Job. So many of my patients hate their jobs. Every day I see the anxiety and depression some people face when they hate their jobs. If this is you, and you can’t leave your job for financial reasons, I say please take control of the things you can control: do the things you love to do, surround yourself with people who are supportive and love you, exercise, get enough sleep, eat the right things and don’t let your body feel the brunt of your career stress.
- The moment. Take advantage of your “moment” whether it is to quit smoking, lose weight or leave a boyfriend you don’t like. It takes acting on that one strange moment that comes over you to just do it. Just do it. No matter what your doctor, family, and friends say it takes a moment for you to just want to do it.
- What we can’t see coming. In a minute, it can be taken away. Tell your family you love them when you leave for work. Travel, laugh, dance in your living room. You never know and I’ve seen the worst things happen to the best people. The absolute best people.
I dedicate this blog to those people because they make this job a privilege.