I continued seeing patients while I pondered on my future. However, I felt like I was in limbo. I didn’t know whether I should continue or stop. I felt so uncertain of my future. I was bordering on being depressed and this translated to becoming impatient especially when talking to patients or relatives. I became so irritable, cranky and was lacking focus. I just wanted everyone to leave me alone. I wanted to be on my own. I preferred working alone. Often, I would catch myself staring into empty space and thinking whether I have made a wrong decision in choosing this specialty. I’d ask myself whether I should continue or leave. One day I would feel ok about continuing then another day I would feel really bad and get at the brink of resigning. But I would then find myself talking myself out of it and saying to stay for another day and see if maybe I try harder and take a little break, I may be able to go on.
It had already been around 9 months since I started training. I asked around if I could transfer to another specialty training. However, it will not be as easy as getting out of a bus and transferring to another bus. If I transferred, I will disregard all the 9 months that I have gone through. I will start from the beginning all over again. I could not decide. I got depressed.
Then I had a patient who was then a thirty-something female with two very young children in the province. They lived somewhere in Mindanao, decided to come to Manila with her husband for treatment and somehow landed at my clinic in the hospital. She had a very treatable form of cancer (lymphoma-cancer of the blood that shows up in the lymph nodes or “kulani”). I advised her to undergo several cycles of chemotherapy to be followed by radiation therapy. She missed her children dearly and wanted to go home immediately. I advised her against going back to the province without completing treatment and convinced her that she has a very good chance of survival if we proceeded. It was a very difficult decision for her. She was torn between wanting to see her children and choosing to sacrifice the time away from them so that she may live longer. Eventually, she decided to go ahead with treatment. It was a very difficult period for both of us because the treatment would take around 6 months of continuously being away from her children and everytime we would start another round of treatment, she always wanted to quit and we would go through the cycle again of convincing her to proceed. Finally, we finished everything and she was free of disease.
On the last day of treatment, she approached me by herself and gave me a really tight hug with a shining smile on her face. It was a kind of glow that I have never seen on her before. She said “Thank you Doctora, I don’t know how I was able to go through with the entire ordeal but I will never ever forget you”. That was the most sincere thank you I have ever received and suddenly, I felt that I made the right choice all along.