Today is day 17 of the Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge and the prompt is: Learned the hard way.
I have been reading these HAWMC posts this past week and finally decided to jump on the bandwagon. Better late than never, right? This prompt is loaded, and I could take off running in many different directions. But it didn't take long for me land on the topic I most wanted to settle on.
I knew for a long time that I wanted to pursue a career in medicine, as most physicians do. Perhaps it was my early exposure to medicine, being diagnosed with T1 in elementary school. Perhaps I was always destined to be in the field, regardless of my own personal health roller-coaster. A lot of doctors will tell you that earning those two little letters behind their name is no easy task, and they're right. Sacrifices are made on a daily basis for the benefit of the patient. Long hours in the library, unhealthy habits, neglected family members, a mountain of debt. I batted my way through those things, but they do not comprise "the hard way."
The hard way of learning how to be a doctor was to be the patient. It still is, as I'm learning every day. I ended up choosing the specialty of Pediatric Endocrinology because I know, beyond the books and the lectures, what it means to be diabetic. I learned by hospitalizations (not just rotating through the ward), injections (not just administering them to others), and despair (as the nonadherent patient, not the frustrated physician).
And in the future, when I have the most difficult, hard-to-reach diabetic patients out there, I might not be equipped with all of the solutions or a cure. But I will be armed with one phrase that I believe is immensely poignant and has the power to reach people:
"I understand exactly what you're going through."
I may have learned to be a physician the hard way, but I wouldn't have it any other way.