People often applaud doctors for spending innumerable hours to treat their patients and bring them back to good health. However, people often don’t realize that doctors expose themselves to infections when they treat patients. Some doctors even neglect their health and continue to treat patients until the patient gets fine. My father was one such warrior.
The Doctor who became a patient:
My father Dr Harish Kumar Patel died this year on 11 Feb 2020. He was an orthopaedic surgeon who got himself infected from Hepatitis – C while treating a patient, which later developed into liver cancer. He was diagnosed with liver cancer in July 2019, but then it was already in an advanced stage and had spread significantly.
We knew that a complete cure would be difficult, and hence we did everything that we could to increase his life expectancy. Being a medical student, I know that one can lose hope easily when battling death. But my father never showed this attitude. He always kept his spirits high and was willing to live further. He never lost hope and was ready to give it all. But cancer was stubborn too and had a different plan.
As Strong as a Rock:
My father and I used to meet various doctors while insulating my mother from these visits. My father knew that he had 6 months to a year to live. Despite knowing this, he was worried about my mother and family. He used to ask us to buckle up. I was not ready for this and wanted him to survive liver cancer.
If I had been at his place, I would have been frightened and shattered. But he was as strong as a rock. I think this is because he accepted the circumstances and was willing to fight. This acceptance comes very hard. But I think this is very important for cancer patients.
Because of the nature of his liver cancer, we had very limited options for treatment. Chemotherapy was not very effective so we have to go for a newer technology i.e. SBRT. He went through various tiers of treatment. In January 2020, he went for a checkup.
This time the doctor recommended a new type of chemotherapy which is more reliable and effective. But his condition started deteriorating within 10 days. We don’t know whether that was a side–effect of chemotherapy or something else. He was admitted to ICU for 20 days. And after that, he left us.
I never had imagined that after completing my MBBS, my first patient would be my father. Both I and my father knew everything about the therapy, its pros and cons. This made it more difficult for both of us. Even though doctors said that there was not much hope, we refused to budge.
I begged for a Miracle:
I was in a constant state of fear. I was praying to God asking for a miracle. People around me used to say that miracles could happen. In the midst of all this, my father too used to motivate me. He was very lively, but I could also see that he was very depressed too. Everyone was depressed, but every one of us was trying to make others happy. We all created a mirage. You have to create a mirage.
When I look back, I think most cancer patients don’t just want your sympathy. You have to be empathetic and it doesn’t come in a day. You have to be a good listener, you have to be understanding and most of all, just be there for them. From my experience, I can say that many people are not empathetic.
I saw a few doctors that were least concerned for a person who was dying. It was just business as usual for them. Being myself a doctor, I am afraid of becoming one such person. I think there should be counsellors for doctors and hospital staff as well. And I think this is one area where organizations such as ZenOnco.io can contribute.