As if we hadn’t had enough of the premiere tertiary hospital in the Philippines, kanina, pumunta kaming PGH para sa isang “field trip” (whatta field trip, katapat lang namin yun no!) sa aming HISTORY 5 class, a.k.a. History of Philippine Medicine. Our class, which is compposed of the two Intarmed blocks, was divided into 4 groups. My group was called the special group…why? Kasi kami lang ang tanging group na makakapunta sa Cancer Institute (CI) ng PGH whereas yung iba ay sa OPD (Out Patient Department) lang pupunta since 10 people lang ang kayang i-accomodate sa CI. So there, we went to CI, met our “tour guide” who was actually a nurse there. 🙂 She was making rounds on the different wards in the Institute and made us tag along with her.

Personally, I was really excited in going to CI? Why? Because that is where I’m planning to specialize when graduate from Med School! Yeah! After taking my residency in Pediatrics, I plan to sub-specialize in Oncology and become a Pediatric Oncologist like my mom. A what? Ok, in common terms, a doctor for children with cancer. But why? Because according to my mom, you can count with your fingers and toes the number of Pediatric Oncologists here in the Philippines…and our country is in need of more.

I asked my mom once, isn’t it hard to become a doctor for children with cancer? She blatantly said yes. Imagine not knowing whether your patient, an innocent child, would live or die…all because of the uncertainties of the disease. However, if you do know what would happen, you are then given the burden of having to tell the parents of the child how many days, weeks, or months…they have left to cherish the presence of their child. Its the innocence that hurts…pure innocence already marked with death.

So why am I still considering this specialty as my future career? Aside from what the nurse in the CI told us (that there are only few Pediatric Oncologists in the country; read: less competition, more money! *evil laugh*), I am considering it because of necessity. Not mine, but of the country. I promise, when I DO become a doctor, I’ll work in at least two hospitals: one public and one private. The public hospital would cater to my long-term goal of serving the Filipino people someday (for they had invested so much on me, being a UP child since Kindergarten…); and the private hospital catering to my need for survival. I mean, lets face it…we need money to survive these days.

But being a Pediatric Oncologist does not only include being of service and having more money than the more populated specialties…it also includes having both a strong mind and soul. As you hone your craft while playing dangerously between life and death, being a Pediatric Oncologist requires you to be stable physically, emotionally and spiritually. You cannot be too attached to a patient for if he/she might die, you can just get along with it just fine. But you cannot also be not sympathetic for the child would feel neglected and unimportant. You have to know your limits…and the limits of your soul.

I am not saying that you cannot have the same experience in other fields. Its just that I am more exposed to this specailty because I am the son of my mother. I grew up in her clinic and saw children, as the same age as me, bald and feeble. I grew up being typical to conversations like

“Alam nyo, patay na si ____,” my mom would say while we’re on a trip to somewhere.

“Gaano mo na ba siya katagal pasyente? Ilang taon na?” my dad would reply.

“Mga 3 years ko na rin siyang inalagaan, ‘di nakayanan ng katawan nya e. Sa Sunday ang libing.”

Then suddenly I’d butt in and say, “Punta tayong Jollibee! Gusto ko ng Chickenjoy!” partially apathetic and ignorant of what the adults were talking about.

I grew up in a family where death was part of dinner time conversations.

But of course, though saddest moments are the ones often remembered, happy ones are also shared. My mom has learned to celebrate the ones which survived and not mourn for the ones which hasn’t. Every year, they organize a camp for cancer patients along with the survivors. There they have fun and celebrate life! Maybe its there where my mom gets her dedication and passion for service — the feeling of knowing that there is still hope.

*sigh* I still have a Zoo Lec exam tomorrow and this is what I’m doing…blogging about the future. geez…I haven’t finished studying yet! But I’m so glad that I’ve become vocal about this now…lately kasi I’ve been having qualms of continuing my TOXIC med life…but after this, I’ve still another reason to not stop.

In 5 and a half years, supposedly, I’ll graduate from the UP College of Medicine. Then I’d have to take the boards to become a liscenced physician. 8 years or more…I hope I’ll be a Pedia-Onco by then. Hope is all I have right now…and hope is all I need…with dedication, love, support, passion, money, patience, commitment…blah..blah…blah… 😛