It's been ages now. But I wanted to share something with you guys. I'm sorry I didn't wrote sooner rather than later. I haven't had the time to write.
I met this man who was taking care of his mother in a ward. He is in his mid 20s, barely older than me. But one look you knew there was a deep feeling in his eyes, thoughts racing in his mind. When I came to the bed where he was sitting beside, he stood up and offered a handshake. Quite unusual for someone his age to be doing that to a man with a labcoat in a hospital. From my experience, they would just stop whatever they're doing and sit helplessly as if a police or someone in authority came.
but he was just.....fearless, I would say. Not that I was being intimidating or anything. I was being friendly.
He asked for my name. And I told him what he asked along with consent.
I saw his mother was too ill to talk but yet she smiled. She smiled even though you could see the effort she has to make, just to smile. I pulled up the curtains and started the history taking. Just few minutes then, the son said...Let's talk someplace else.
So I walked with him to another place, some sort of a lobby you could say. I sat there with him in front of me and we started talking.
We talked about the clinical stuffs first. The timeline of his mother's illness and the treatment she got which I don't want to divulge in here.
In the end, after all that finished... I saw him reluctant to go. Maybe he was just lonely and wants a company. But something in his eyes, I saw there really was something inside. So i asked .. "How do you feel about all this?"
Surprised and shocked. "About all this?"
"Yeah, about your mother in the hospital. I can understand it must be really difficult for you to go through all this. Would you mind talking about how you feel?"
"Wow. Do you really want to know? I didn't think you would ask. No one asked before. Do you have time?"
"All in the world if need be"
All the while I was thinking about his mother and the illness. Running through diagnosis, running through investigations and management plan. But I've somehow lost the fact that it's more than just all that. Its about people and how they feel.
So we sat and chat. Just chat. No one is better than the other. I'm me and him as him. We were two ordinary people sharing stories with one another.
He told me that his father had passed away just 3 years ago. It was too sudden. His father had lung cancer and passed away when he was sitting for his final exam. He told me that his family changed ever since then.
And now, his mother is going through cancer. Stage 4. Terminal and considering palliative care. Its only a matter of time.
He told me...
"You know, it's not like in the movies. Where a tragedy comes, and you get all sad, crying and gets better after it passes. Or maybe have someone to help you around. It doesn't work like that. In real life, after a while you stop feeling anything. All there is, is just a fact that she's gonna leave me. Me and my brother. Only the two of us."
I can almost hear tears from his voice even when there isn't any coming out from his eyes. It was not sadness but tears. I know it's ridiculous but I felt it, I know it even when I can't prove it. I know he was sad but he just maybe, couldn't bring himself to cry. Maybe because he had enough of crying.
"My mother is very ill. And even in that state, she could bring herself to smile. Why can't I? When she is the one that goes through all the pain of radiotherapy, chemotherapy and battling all that herself. So why can't I smile?"
I talked to him for an hour and a half. We just talk. No notes, no pen. Just talk. Sitting in the lobby just the two of us.
"I'm really glad I met you. I appreciate for letting me talk to you. For sharing you stories with me. I can't say that I've been more inspired by any patient's story than yours." I told him.
"No one really asks me about what you ask. I never met any doctors like you."
"That's because I'm not a doctor yet."
He smiled. I smiled.
I asked him if it is okay for us to meet again in the future. I just wanted to check his mother's condition. And also to see how he's holding up with life.
I supposed we, in the medical health care professional point of view, always think about what we can offer to our patient. Treatment, management etc etc. But we often forget what the patient has to offer to us. Not the fact that they are and will be our bread and butter in the future, but rather how they would teach us in life.
I learned a lot from this man. And it all makes it even more amazing when he's just 3 years older than I am. It feels like he's been through and experience a whole lot more in life. I admire his courage and his view on life itself.
To all doctors and doctors-to-be out there...If any of you are reading this, I'm sure you've been touched by one or more patients before. Let that not die in you. let this be a reminder that they are people and sometimes their family are going through a difficult time and all they need is.....someone to talk to. Spare 5 minutes. That 5 minutes is the difference between a caring doctor and just a doctor.