A physician mentor once told me, “Healing is not simply transactional; it is highly relational.” In December of 2009, my father revealed the unexpected news that my mom had cancer, Acute Myeloid Leukemia. I was terrified. My mother, the All-American track athlete and record-breaking superstar was entering the toughest race of her life. For the first time, I witnessed on a very personal level the impermanence of the human body and the fragility of life.
My mom’s illness brought my family closer together and revealed the Lord’s goodness even more brilliantly than I could have imagined. As a family, we waged war alongside her doctors and nurses to defeat the formidable illness. Participating so closely in my mom’s care and recovery kindled my passion to pursue the role of a physician and the discipline of medicine. At the center of my mom’s treatment was a group of physicians who exhibited remarkable patience, confidence, and wisdom. Their example coupled with my desire to serve others has driven my deep desire to pursue a career in medicine.
In heeding the vocational calling to become a physician, I must sober myself to the realities of the position. I want to become a doctor, to heal patients, and to have a very tangible impact on the lives of people. Being a doctor is much more than that though, and even amidst miraculous healings there are many tragedies. Within these tragedies, we can see where the original goodness of God’s creation from Genesis has gone awry. I currently work as a medical scribe for an oncologist, and I directly interact with each patient through diagnoses and treatments. Where is there goodness when diagnosing a patient with stage 4 lung cancer? Where is the beauty in telling a husband that his wife has terminal multiple myeloma? The challenge of answering these questions may be too immense for me to answer; however, from my own personal experience of being with my mom through her fight against cancer, I know that the Lord can have redemptive power in the lives of all involved.
I have learned that relational healing greatly exceeds the power of transactional healing. As a current scribe and hopefully future doctor, I want to know the patient – more than knowing their hematocrit or white blood cell count, more than sticking the needle in and sending off the lab work. I was able to see a form of relational healing through my mother’s oncologist.
In the midst of endless rounds of chemotherapy, my mom’s oncologist was always by her side, providing comfort and sharing family stories to help her through the pain. I witnessed him provide a comprehensive method of care in which he cared for my mother not only with medicine but also with empathy and a sincere heart for healing. I too hope to care for my future patients with both my widespread knowledge of medicine and also a sincere care for their wellbeing. Done well, medicine is an opportunity to be the hands of the Lord, a vivid reminder of our being made in the image of God.
This is not accidental to faith. From the mountains of announcing that a patient is now cancer free to the valleys of diagnosing a patient with a newly found cancer, the goodness of the Lord is still amongst us. He cares about us in the details, because He has tied His own image permanently to ours. As He delights in us, I hope to daily delight in Him and to find delight in my daily work, not finding it to be my own work but far greater than myself. I long for the Lord to be exalted through my work, and I trust He will make himself known in the waiting room, in the diagnoses, in the clinician relationships, and even in the mundane monotony of daily work.
We are reminded through the first chapter of Genesis that from the beginning of creation we were found to be “very good.” Since sin entered the world, this goodness has been distorted. People get sick; people get cancer, and people pass away from the grips of disease. Is a doctor’s role to undo the physical brokenness of man? As a man myself, I know that I will not be able to save everyone or rid this world completely of cancer; however, I can work confidently in the direction of healing patients in knowing the promise that there will one day be a time when the Lord has returned and cancer has been defeated. In the awe of our creation story, we can work confidently in the direction of our dreams as we can be comforted by the permanent presence and provision of God who lives in and through us by His Holy Spirit.
Houston Massey interns as a medical scribe assisting an oncologist. He is a member of the 2015-2016 Falls Church Fellows Program.
Images: Freeimages.com/OBRAPRIMA, Pasqualantonio Pingue