Can you share an incredibly challenging time in training and if you could time travel and meet your old self, what would you say?
All specialty training is HARD. If I could time travel, I would love to go and visit myself the year I turned 30. Most days, I remember leaving work drained and empty. I had just passed the part 1 of the specialist exam, and for unknown reasons, I started questioning my existence and direction.
Work was going ok. I was starting to feel comfortable and felt like I knew what I was doing most of the time. Thinking back now, I think what was missing during this time was friendship at work. A few of the senior registrars I was close to had moved onto do take up new positions, when not seeing patients, I spent a lot of my time in my cubicle glued to my computer.
The first two years of training, we'd all go for coffee first thing in the morning, have lunch together and debrief before going home. No matter how hard the day was, it was fantastic to be surrounded by people sharing the same experience. Finding humour and sharing a laugh with your colleagues when you spend all day dealing with cancer was what helped me walk with a spring in my steps.
As I approached 30, I felt like I had achieved nothing and started to resent the path I had chosen. I didn't even want to celebrate my birthday and ended up having a quiet dinner organised by my boyfriend. I remember sitting at the dinner table, feeling like I don't deserve this. I don't even have any photos from this dinner.
As I reflect on my life, all the good memories with work are from the times when I achieved something or overcome tough times with colleagues who became close friends. I think human to human connection has been the source of strength that lifted me and kept me going.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, but when do we stop needing help from people? We're social animals, after all. I wish I could hug my younger self and say 'You are doing a great job! It was never meant to be easy. Go and talk to someone, you reach out first.'
To my fellow young colleagues, there are so many good people in medicine who have already walked the tough road you are on. Don't climb it alone; let people pull you from the top and push you from behind. Actively search for people who want to help you and hold on to the connection.
- Radiation Oncologist