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Contrasts

So, an awful lot has happened since my last post.  I had a brutal exam – made only worse by how burnt out I was after Monte Carlo – I received my geeky fabric and started making more scrub caps (posts and pics to come), and this also happened.

Rough week eh? 😉

One of these things is an image of my experience as medical student: one of them is of my experience of a patient.  Any guesses to as which?

It was this one, just FYI.

I didn’t really break my arm thankfully, we just had our casting clinical skills after said brutal exam, and so we all got a cast on our arm and put on one our classmates arm…and then totally power sawed it off, and trust me, that was a trust exercise!! I sent a pic of me with my arm in the cast to my parents and sister, with no context, and they all freaked out a little bit, and that was kind of incredibly fun.  The cast image, for me, is part of my learning: it’s a fun image, that symbolizes being in control of my health.  We sawed the cast off, and then I just slipped it off, and I was totally fine.

And then there is the other image.  Yesterday morning, after an arduous and stressful ordeal of trying to get access to the treatment (that might be a future post, which I have tentatively subtitled “Canada, we need to be less freaking SMUG about our healthcare system” just to give a taste of the mood) I had my first Remicade treatment for my Crohn’s.  I haven’t mentioned my Crohn’s much in my recent posts, but that wasn’t because I had it under control: I was actually having a flare up in the past few weeks, which means that I feel exhausted, unwell, and always need to have an awareness of where washrooms are located.  Often I just don’t mention my Crohn’s because I hate having to be reminded and focused on the fact that I am sick.

Thus, I found my experience at the infusion clinic for Remicade an odd one.  On one hand, I was glad that was finally getting the treatment. I was hopeful that it would actually make me feel better.  And then, on the other hand, there is the knowledge that if it works, I’ll be on it for the rest of my life.  That the novelty of this experience is going to become incredibly commonplace.  That, if I live to be 80, I’ll have spent 990 hours of my life – 41 days – getting this treatment.

20151202_102257This picture means I’m sick.

And yet, it’s an “invisible illness.” This is that very arm this morning:

20151203_101051This picture also means I’m sick.

Just a little bandaid, that I had to pull up to see under my 3/4 sleeve.  A cast is an acute but visible illness: you see it and you go “oh, you’re hurt, you’re ill.”  Crohn’s will be with me until I die, but no one who looks at me will see it.  And unlike the cast, when the IV is removed, I’m still sick.

Sometimes, the contrast between medical student and patient becomes very clear, and this week it was unavoidably so.  On one arm, a cast, this image of my experience as a student: on the other, an IV, an image of me as a patient.

One visible false ailment, one invisible real one.

And yet, I know I’m lucky, I really do.  I have access to treatment.  I have a top quality education.  I have a loving family, friends, and an illness that is much less impactful on my life as many, many others.  I don’t ever want to come across as ungrateful, I really don’t.

Sometimes though, I just need a moment.

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