I felt queasy. I ought to have gone straight home, but it would have been difficult to cancel the patients who were waiting. The very last one was suffering from depression. I called her in. It was a relief to concentrate on the patient and feel that I was helping her.
To a young medical student, disease was of academic interest. It was theory, it was a subject of study, it didn’t apply to me personally. But I was moved by the plight of many patients, and cancer patients made a particularly strong impression on a young student.
It was such a sad fate which seemed to me at that time to be a death-sentence, though we also saw that treatment could be effective. I really think that I found this disease so frightening as a student that I later did my best to ignore the symptoms that came over me in the course of several years.
You would think that a doctor would be particularly well prepared when struck by disease, but the truth is that over the years I distanced myself from any thought of being ill myself.
When one lives with and experiences so much disease and so many sad outcomes, it is perhaps natural to protect oneself by suppressing such thoughts. It is said that some doctors have been so good at suppressing their own symptoms that when they are diagnosed with serious disease, it has progressed so far that they are beyond saving. Was I one of those?