My life-long dream of being a practicing physician was stripped from me in an instant, but stepping up to the plate, even when I was afraid of striking out, has taught me how to “step out and find out!” I L.I.V.E every day and as a result I will leave behind a legacy that will hopefully allow others to journey along a path that is not so harsh, not as lonely and not nearly as painful.
As long as I have experienced success, I have shared and helped others in need. But in February 2009, now 41, in the midst of chemotherapy for a recent breast cancer diagnosis, a newly diagnosed potentially life threatening congenital heart defect and still days from the death of my mother, I was now the one in need. Learning how to cope was crucial to getting through the difficult times. Facing the awful feelings increased my capacity to experience the feelings that make life worth living. As a doctor, I have seen people with chronic, life-threatening illnesses struggle with life, death and dying. And now I knew just how challenging and devastating the raw, intense emotions of grief could be, because it had happened to me.
As painful as my own grief was, it gave me new insight on dealing with theirs. By the very nature of my work as a physician, I often had profound, moving, and sometimes disturbing experiences, but the most recent ones hit me like a ton of bricks. Those experiences have catalyzed my personal growth, but growth only occurred because I took the time to reflect on the experience, process its implications for my personal and professional development, and initiated behavior change. Reflection promoted a deeper understanding of myself and others.
Regardless of what side of the table I was on, patient’s or physician’s or both, I realized that my stressful situations had purpose. I believed that God was more interested in changing me than He was in changing my circumstances. He wanted me to get to the point where I was content, not disturbed or dissatisfied, regardless of my circumstance. One day, the sun did shine again. I didn’t realize it at first. My days became brighter and my life went on, even though it would never be quite the same.