Back in my 20’s I was a speech pathologist at one of America’s top teaching hospitals.
It was a time in my life when I was very much alive.
Working at a prestigious medical center meant that some of the most complex patients in the world came to our hospital seeking last hope chances, answers. My patients were very sick and my days were filled with problem-solving as I tried to bring the best solutions to patients who had impaired abilities to swallow or communicate due to damaged neurological pathways (and that can be caused by more things than you can imagine).
Since it was a teaching hospital, the environment encouraged working together. In general, there was no shame in asking our coworkers for a second set of eyes on a patient: the goal was to get the best treatment for a patient, and that often requires more than one view, none of us have all the answers.
Most of my peers were other speech pathologists, therapists, dietitians, medical students and residents. We worked hard, we saw sad cases, we also saw moments when people got better (and those are wonderful moments). We lived in a microcosm and the common thread was an interest in all things medicine.
In addition, we were young and it was fun.
Often times, my friends would meet me for coffee while taking breaks from long hours of research in the medical labs.
I have a vivid memory of one friend telling me that every person has cancer cells floating around in our bodies and researchers don’t know why those cells get turned on in some people but remain dormant in others.
This was back in the 1990’s and a lot has changed since then.
A lot has changed in research and in my own life. I was young and that statement did strike me enough that I can still remember the moment, the setting, what we were wearing (the important things–ha).
However, at that time, I was young and healthy enough that, in my mind, cancer would just never happen to me. I lived a healthy lifestyle, I was a runner, I ate a healthy diet, nobody in my family was sick, I had a strong faith. I was not in “that” group, there was no reason to think that I could or would get cancer.
I was too naive to process what my friend was explaining. And I am glad that I did not understand it at that time because my 30’s and 40’s have given me plenty of time to process chronic illness.
Last night a girlfriend sent me a text about a movie screening she attended for a Ken Burns movie based on the book, The Emperor of All Maladies. She said it was fascinating so I looked into it this morning. There is an upcoming documentary on PBS which begins March 30th.
Please share it with your friends and family, anyone who who is fighting cancer. Cancer is a fierce battle but we are at a time in history where there is more hope than ever. When you are going through the cancer battle, you need something inspirational to hang onto. You need stories. This PBS documentary starts March 30th and will provide inspiration.
Check out the the trailer link to the film below (it looks great)