Sunday, February 3, 2013

Having a Bad Day?

Medicine is a constant reminder of how fragile and unfair life can be. Life can throw curve balls and do some pretty unexpected things. I was in clinic and met a lady who is 40 years old and have been getting treatment for cancer. Unfortunately, it has been found that it has metastasised to other parts of her body such as her bowels and her lung. What really struck me was that as I entered the room, having read the notes before seeing her, I was expecting a frail lady who would look quite ill. Instead, I was greeted with a very healthy looking lady. If I had seen her in the hallways, I would not have guessed she had been battling cancer for almost 2 years and now facing another fight against the metastases. While going through her medication list, she was on high doses of analgesics and one can imagine how much pain she is usually in. As we got further into the consultation, what once was a calm looking lady turned into a nervous and worried person. She is supposed to undergo radical surgery in a few days and I really do not blame her for her nerves. I was taken aback by how calm she was at the beginning. It really puts things into perspective. I had a bad week last week with back pain, but after hearing the patient's story, my back pain seemed like nothing. It is nothing compared to what she's going through. And it really amplifies the fact that if you think you're having a bad day, there are people having a much worse day than you. It's easy to forget how fragile life can be. 40 year old woman - most are fit and healthy. Cancer is something still seen as a disease that affects the older population. It was inspiring to hear about her fight and her courage. Pretty sure I didn't whine/complain about anything for the rest of the day.

Life can throw curve balls affecting you physically and your health. But I wanted to talk about mental health. By being in a stressful job, it is important to keep your mind "happy" and not allow work overwhelm you. Your emotions can greatly alter your way of  functioning. Recently, there has been a lot of mental health awareness campaigns going on especially back home in Canada. I personally know quite a few friends affected by mental health issues such as depression. I thought it would be worthwhile for me to write a mini blurb here and raise awareness to those who read my blog. Statistically, about 1 in 4 students are affected by depression and approximately only 1 in 4 people seek help. The main reason for the lack of seeking for help? Stigma. Mental health is still a "taboo" subject and it shouldn't be one! It is a common problem affecting many people. Not many people want to speak up and get help. You can't just "laugh" off depression or mental health illness. I know way too many people suffering with this. What bothered me was how even in the health service, health professionals are almost afraid to ask about psychiatric illness. The number of times where I've seen various professionals very quietly ask if there is any history of psychiatric illness or if he/she suffers from depression. We ask about heart/lung/bowel problems loud and clear, but when it comes to mental health it gets all "hush hush". If there wasn't this "stigma" surrounding mental health, will there be more people seeking for help? I would like to think yes. I've had friends who suffered in silence and I have nothing but praises for those who gathered enough courage to seek help. From what I hear, it can get very dark and lonely. There is so much help out there. People shouldn't be suffering in silence. Stigma is unacceptable. The reason for raising awareness is to eradicate the stigma associated with mental health. 1 in 4 people are affected. That is common. Look at your group of friends. Live in a house with 3 others? Do your part and raise awareness.


  1. I recently followed your blog, because I want to go into the medical field when I am older. It was really nice to hear the perspective of medical school from an actual medical student. Reading your recent blog about depression, I was in great shock. I didn't realize how much a factor depression plays in the world today. I really enjoyed reading your blog and I hope to read much more.

  2. Hi There, Sorry for the random post here, but I don’t see another place to send you a message! I’m reaching out because runs an interview series ( with med school applicants and students in which we feature your blog and talk about some of the successes and challenges you are facing (or have faced) in the application experience. We’d love to feature you and your blog. Are you available to answer 6-7 questions via email? Can you please email me at Thanks!