It was my first colonoscopy, just days after experiencing the first bowel obstruction in my lifetime. We had spoken prior, just the night before in my hospital room. You knew my lifelong dreams, you knew the passion that was within me to become a doctor, you knew I was in the throws of the first year of medical school. We then discussed the procedure for the next day.
Sooner than I knew it, I was being wheeled down in my blue and white patterned gown, with the chill of the hospital going up and down my spine. Then, I was asleep, bare assed on a table surrounded by strangers. You weren't in the room. When I awoke on that twenty-something morning of February 2014, your face was the first thing I saw with a halo of fluorescent lighting in the recovery room.
Bluntly, you stated, "You have severe Crohn's Disease in your large intestine, small intestine, and rectum. You will never be able to be a doctor with this because you will always be sick, you will be on immunosuppressants forever." You walked out of the room.
Your words were like bullets penetrating my heart. If I wasn't laying down, I would have fallen. I began to sob unconsolably. I wasn't upset about being diagnosed with a debilitating disease. I wasn't crying because my entire life would be a battle against my own body. I was destroyed because you told me plainly that I would never be a physician. You took away the little girl in me who played doctor with her stuffed animals. You stole the innocence in me that believed I could do anything I wanted to. You took my trust and faith in you and you used it against me.
The nurse tried to calm me down once you were gone, offering juice and crackers. I cried and cried, I began to beg for the staff to let my parents into recovery. After fighting for visitors, they were finally walked into the room, unknowing of what had just occurred. They assumed I was crying because I had just woken up from anesthesia. I told them exactly what you had told me, word for word; it wasn't hard to remember your brief statements that tore me apart in seconds. I watched the blood rush out from my mother's face as she turned stone cold. I saw my father's blank expression grow sullen, and begin to tear. In that moment, I felt like my life was over.
You were my doctor. You hold the esteemed position of holding your patient's hand, letting them cry on your shoulder, making the best out of a bad situation. You did none of these things. All within two sentences you destroyed all of the dreams I held for my future. You tore me down brick by brick with one swift blow. You forced three strong people to crumble by your lack of compassion.
It is over a year and a half later and I find myself never forgetting your words, especially in times like these when I have to take yet another leave of absence from school due to my poor health. I hear your words in the shower when I think about going back to school. I hear your words when I am in cadaver lab, feeling like I am ready to pass out simply from having to stand for 3 hours. I hear you when I pray, trying to figure out my life and what I have become.
For a long time, I thought I learned just one thing from you. I assumed that I had learned a hard truth, that I couldn't be a physician, that I couldn't be around sick patients. How wrong was I?
Instead, I learned an even more valuable lesson...actually, a few. I learned how to respect my future patients. I learned that no matter what anyone says, my dreams are still valid, my goals are still attainable. I learned how to comfort someone. I learned how far words can go. I learned that I am stronger than you think, sometimes I am even stronger than I believe.
So to you, my former doctor, thank you for teaching me how to be an incredible physician. Thank you for giving me the strength to never give up on my dreams. Thank you for letting me have the courage to go on. Although, maybe you should lead by example, instead of accidental reverse psychology.
Love & Thanks,