It’s incredible when the long anticipated is greater than ever expected.
That’s how I feel about my thesis research. I’ve said this before, but I still can’t believe that it has come this far.
As an aspiring Pediatric Oncologist, the experience of interacting with the variety of health professionals in this realm is invaluable. But what I treasure most is the time that I have spent with each of my patients: the words exchanged, the deep inhalations, the glances away, the silences. In many ways, what cannot be captured naturally in front of a recorder are the things that I have held on to from these conversations.
The Pediatric Heme/Onc staff at Mott have all been so helpful and enthusiastic, the patients and their families kind and supportive. One of the things about volunteering with these patients for years is that not only do you never forget them, but they never forget you either. I was touched when a mother recognized me from my presence in the playroom over the years.
As I’ve begun to implement the research protocol that I designed, I’ve become grateful for the flexibility engrained in my project. Most children that I have worked with seem to prefer having a verbal conversation about their experiences before constructing their written stories, but that has not always been the case. And the age range for the study, 10-17 year olds, has proven to be more restricting than focusing. I think that to capture the spectrum of cancer diagnoses and effects, I will need to expand this to include children as young as 6 or as old as 21.
After we had completed the activity in its entirety, one patient told me that this was the most that he had ever spoken about cancer. And perhaps that is what I have been reaching for all along. As volunteers, we engage with these patients but never directly confront them about their diagnoses because that is not what is important. This activity allows me to explore this unknown taboo, to dive in headfirst.