Monday, June 2, 2014

Survivors Day

Yesterday was National Cancer Survivors Day. There were activities nearby. But, the whole idea of survivorship is not to have disease overwhelm humaness. The person is more than the disease.

Organized activites are great to see old friends who have also made the journey, but it is also a time to celebrate life, spend time with children, in nature, reading, or whatever one's pleasures are. As it turned out, an RSVP was required and I had failed to call. The office wasn't open on Sunday.

So we went to a nearby park. The kids played softball and soccer with some newly made friends. I walked around a bit, read a bit, and just enjoyed being outside in beaustiful spring weather. In a way, just being normal is a celebration of survival as well. It is time not focused on patienthood, but rather on personhood.

As I think about patients, I have known those who focused on patienthood and some missed out on life along the way. And those who focused solely on personhood, to the extent of denial of disease, and suffered an untimely end. It is a balance that requires continued adjustment as the disease shifts the foundation on which it is made.

Similarly, physicians must learn to balance work and life. "Medicine is a demanding mistress"  accordng to Osler. For those of us who write, perhaps Chekhov's quote, "Medicine is my lawful, wedded wife, and literature is my mistress," is perhaps more apt. So where is the time for family, friends, exercise, travel. We must somehow carve it out. So there are now a plethora of work-life balance seminars for physicians.

I have spent much of my life as a workaholic physician. My illness has taught me that I can't do everything, and I can't just put things off. I must accept that I am mortal. I must live in the present. I must take the time to be with my children, to watch them grow. I must take the time to write the family stories down that I hope they will want to know. I must take time to see the places I have always wanted to see and share the experience with my children.

Illness is the ultimate seminar on work-life balance. It forces one to reevaluate priorities. I realize that I must now work even harder to achieve balance in the different spheres of my life. But, I want it to be the best life I can have. I want to do the best for my children.