This month I’m on “Hem/Onc,” aka Hematology and Oncology aka blood disorders and cancer.  A long, long time ago I really thought I wanted to go into Pediatric Oncology.  I slowly realized I didn’t want to work with kids or be depressed all the time.  But, surprisingly, I’m loving this rotation!

Hem/Onc is an interesting specialty because you get to form some really amazing relationships with patients.  Cancer survivors are eternally grateful to their oncologists, and their follow-up visits are very exciting times for both the patient and the physician.  I’ve never received so many gifts from patients in my life!

And some of these patients have the most amazing stories.  Just yesterday I spent over half an hour talking to a woman finishing chemotherapy for breast cancer.  She had formed bonds with all the nurses and patients on her inpatient floor.  But she was oh-so-excited to get to return to her home, which she hasn’t been back to in over six months!  She had her bags packed and just wanted to “okay” from her oncologist to leave the hospital.  She had such a sense of humor and joy about life…it was almost infectious!

But not every patient is a success story.  I’ve seen many patients who walk into the room and are clearly dying.  They are wasting away.  Many of them weigh less than I do and are just struggling through chemotherapy because if they stop, they will die.  And that is hard to handle for me.  Especially when they come with their spouses or children, and it’s very clear they have something to live for.

I think I could be happy being an oncologist.  As my attending tells me every day, “It takes a special person.”  But despite his persistence in telling me I need to be an oncologist, I really don’t think that will end up happening.  I love talking with patients and listening to their stories, and Hem/Onc is a great specialty for that.  But my heart drops every time I review the most recent imaging and see new metastases or growth of a tumor.  I hate delivery bad news to patients, especially when they’re so hopeful for a cure.

God bless all the Hem/Onc doctors out there because it isn’t an easy job.  Not only does it require a vast knowledge about cancers of the entire body and complex chemotherapy drugs, it requires a big heart and a lot of guts.  It’s difficult to tell someone they have cancer.  It’s even harder to tell someone they’re going to die.  But somehow they do it, again and again, every day.  Wow.

I hug my husband and my daughter a little tighter when I get home these days.  If nothing else, this month has been a good reminder of how much I take for granted.  Here’s are a few new pictures of my little girl – 19 months old and I can’t believe how big she is getting!

Anika's Surprised Face

Enjoying the Phoenix Weather

On Her First Hike

About emilyehoward

My name is Emily, and I am a Hospitalist in Nebraska. I live with my husband and three beautiful daughters. I hope you enjoy my blog!
This entry was posted in Doctor, Health Care, Medical Student, Medicine, Osteopathy, Physician and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Cancer

  1. samfilea says:

    I thought the same at first but slowly grew to love it… Ever since last year I’ve been doing cancer research on the side of Medschool to hopefully help improve the lives of my future patients. Thanks for a great read! 🙂

  2. Mom says:

    One of my favorite posts so far!

  3. Wow! Really loved this post! Your baby is beautiful! Wish you the best!

  4. itisokaytobewierd says:

    I am a medical student too and I want to be an oncologist.The thought of pulling someone up,when they are at the edge of the death.I guess,nothing can beat that. And there it is,dealing with the other side too.Hope things go well and i end up in oncology.Thank you and good luck 🙂

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