A Most Grateful Thank You

This week was a special one for me. Having completed my training, it was the first time I began working for myself, as an independent doctor.

I was asked to come back to my training surgery to run some locum sessions, as most of the GPs were on holiday. I was happy to do these, as I knew it’d give me a taste of what it’d be like to work on my own. And what better place to ease me into it, than a place I’d been before. In the back of my mind I was expecting to be treated like a trainee-but the experience was actually very different! It was almost like I was left to my own devices, a sense of freedom I’d never experienced before. And in addition to providing the patient care which I relish, it was a blissful experience.

A lot of patients were surprised to see me. Before I left, I informed my regular patients that I was leaving but for those I hadn’t, word had already got around- either through the receptionists or through patients’ friends or family. They were so delighted to see me, and it felt so nice to be welcomed back by them. Nobody had ever addressed me on the streets-that took some getting used to!

‘Oh hi Dr Raj! It’s so nice to see you again!’

‘I thought you left!’

The last day of the week was not only the best day of the week, but probably one of the best days of my career.

It involved one of my regular patients, an elderly lady who attended the surgery with her husband. Earlier in the year I diagnosed her with lung cancer, and I regularly followed her up for this. She underwent a biopsy to determine the type of cancer she had, but this occurred just before I left the surgery. I therefore couldn’t follow her up, to find out what happened to her. I was naturally very curious when I saw her name on my list.

Both her and her husband took their seats. Before I could say anything, she straightaway said…

‘I just wanted to let you know that I had my surgery a few days ago’.

She told me that the surgeons removed the tumour and the operation went so well, that she was sent home that week. It appeared that it was found in time, and she was very lucky to be alive. When she told me the good news I just looked at them both. Astonished and in awe, it took me a few seconds to sink it all in.

‘We just wanted to thank you. You were so prompt. Thank you for saving my life’.

Her husband was also constantly thanking me, and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Not only was she going to be OK, but I was humbled that they made time out of their busy schedule, to come and personally inform me of the good news and thank me. I couldn’t help but cry a little, I was so happy for them. It was also the most heartfelt and genuine speech of gratitude I’ve ever received.

After further updates, we ended the consultation by exchanging hugs. I think our last words to each other were when I said to them…‘Look after eachother’. They replied…‘You take care sweet heart’.

Moments like that are a rarity, and it’s something that will stick with me forever. It was the reminder that hard work, whether it be during university or the trainee years, was always going to be worth it. It was also a reminder of compassion and humanity that exists in the world, and the importance of cherishing it in our day to day lives.

Have a wonderful bank holiday weekend 🙂


Summertime Reflections

A lot of things have been happening since I last posted, that I hadn’t had a chance to fathom everything. I thought this would be a good time to reflect. A brief overview if you will. I won’t make it long or boring.

So let’s begin. From around the end of June, I had two weeks holiday which I still had left to take. I spent most of the first week babysitting my baby nephew, who was 7 weeks old at the time. This was a new skill for me! From the bonding and cuddles, to all the baby responsibilities-feeding, nappy changing, giving a bath, attending the health visitor’s appointment and staying at home whilst mummy could sleep. The time I also had provided me with a good opportunity, to catch up with childhood friends and family.

The second week was somewhat different. OK very different…we took a trip to France 🙂 Believe it or not, this was my first time I’d ever been! I’ll be writing about this trip at some point, with a bonus video if I can! I do want to try harder to document holidays with loved ones, one of those ‘challenges’ I’ve decided to take upon. I think I was inspired by the movie ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’. I mean, who isn’t?

Unfortunately upon returning, I became unwell. I managed to acquire gastroenteritis and lost 2kg in the process. After two weeks of holiday, this wasn’t the best of times! Having called in sick for one week, I eventually felt well enough to return to work. Time flew of what remained the rest of the weeks I had left to work…and now I’ve completed my training.

The summer is looking good. I’ve already made good use of my time by spending quality time with loved ones, and doing something I’ve been advised to do for once in my life. Nothing. Relax. Just for a little while.

In spite of doing the above, I have also partaken in what most people do in celebration-shop a little. Be it a good pair of heels, some ‘new work cloathes’ and an instax camera I’m excited to use. 

My time at work, particularly at the last surgery I worked at, made me realise that I’ve been an employee for so long, it’s finally time to work for myself, pursue things I’ve never tried before. At the moment I’ve started swimming (I want to do it properly) and am learning the works of being a pastry chef.

I hope you are all having a lovely summer 🙂

If it makes you happy 

This training year is coming to an end. But I’ve forgotten how to relax, how to be happy. With the loom of exams finally over, I still think that something will crop up. If I’m occupied with something, then I usually don’t think about it. But if I’m not, or even during any “myself moments”, my mind starts to wonder. 

It particularly dawned upon me when someone told me that if I didn’t know how to be happy now, then I never will be. I realised that I needed to remind myself how to be ok again, how to stop overthinking and how to let go.

Now it’s usually train journeys that I get quite reflective on. But when I came back to London this time, it was on the underground that I was listening to this song. It was one I hadn’t heard in a long time, until the day of my resit exam. It was playing in the hotel as I was getting ready to check out, where I stayed there the night before my exam. So as I listened to this song it wasn’t just that event that was playing in my head, but also the thoughts I was realising about me. I listened to the lyrics (probably more intently than normal, against the background tube noises), and for some reason one tear came to my right eye. It really shocked me but I shook it off before anyone noticed. I realised there that I had to change.

The Little People

Since coming back to work, I feel like I’ve been getting more frustrated with things, situations if you will. I think it all kicked off the day after I came back. I was pretty home sick with missing my baby nephew (and still am) and getting back into the work force was no treat. As everyone’s deadline for finishing off assessments was coming up, it didn’t surprise me how angry I was at the outcome a trainer gave me for one assessment. I didn’t know where it came from or the reasoning behind it, but being my nice little self I didn’t retaliate. I just did something way more productive instead-stayed in a bad mood all day.

I came home and it was still bothering me, and then it dawned upon me. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in this job, it was that it’s ok to be nice, but it’s not ok to be a pushover. So I wrote back, explaining why I wasn’t happy with my grade. I didn’t expect anything from it, but I just couldn’t keep quiet.

The next day I clearly bit off more than I could chew. Not only had I arranged my meeting with my main supervisor, but I also decided to do a compulsory out of hours shift that evening, which finished quite late. Coming home I was naturally exhausted, but I felt that I couldn’t take any time off-it was my fault I had arranged things in the last minute. But it was the next day that I was really hit hard.

After somebody declined to do an assessment with me, despite initially agreeing to do so, I was distraught.  Petty really, it was something so simple. But I realised that if you’re overworked and underappreciated, it can take just one little thing to tip the balance. It really upset me how there were just two of us that day including myself, who’d worked the evening before… yet I was previously declined time off.  I also did another late shift that day…like I said, I bit off more than I could chew.

I thought things were looking up by the end of the week. I suddenly received apologies that day for getting incorrect outcomes on assessments. I mean, I had to stand up for myself, otherwise who else will? It was at that time, when I thought that I may have finally earned a degree of respect. I didn’t think it was too much to ask for.

However, I realised that no matter how long you work in a place, some things just don’t change, and I think that got to me today. Things will be thrown at you, really some time- consuming things you don’t always have time for, but the man power is there so it’s used up. I hate being used. You know the system isn’t right, but you can’t change anything. You’re a junior doctor. It is how it is.

Yes this post is a bit of a rant, but I thought I needed to write it all down pen to paper to try and figure out exactly why I was feeling this way. I learnt that you can have certain expectations of people, and one of them is expecting them to care. Only then can things maybe change. However this isn’t always the case. It may have taken me some time to realise but now I know, even after all this time. I have to constantly keep telling myself that as Seth Godin has said, ‘no one’s coming’. Now I don’t expect anything.

The Difference

As I head back on the train to London to meet my baby nephew for the first time, I continue to reflect on the events of the week thus far. I was almost about to not post this entry, as I understand that what I’m about to say maybe controversial. But I realised that a blog is about expressing yourself, sharing and exchanging your thoughts with others (even at the risk of disagreement). Otherwise, why bother?

This week was basically what I call a catch  up week-completing the assignments, doing the extra “out of hours” shifts and getting my teaching presentation ready for my peers.

Usually on the day of our teaching, we gather around and talk about any topics of interest and things the others may have recently encountered.

Our group leader had asked us: 

“What do people think about prescribing OTC meds?” (Over the counter)

No one said anything for a good few seconds, though there were a few exchanged glances across the room. I never usually say anything in these sessions. If I can help it, I try not to make a fuss. But when I do feel strongly about something, I don’t keep quiet. So I said…

“If they can afford cigarettes then they can afford paracetamol”

I realise this was a rather controversial thing to say. But I believed it to be true. I could see that the others were surprised with what I said, but I did see some nods around the room. This was followed by the leader of the group, who went on to say:

“You’re not going to survive for long where you’re at”.

The only thing I could come back with was that I had made it through 9 months at my post, and I only had 3 more to go. The others had later laughed along with what I said, realising that there maybe some truth to it.

They then went on to talk about the marshmallow experiment. This is something we’re all familiar with, but I have extracted an excerpt from Wikipedia which gives a nice summary about what it actually is:

The Stanford marshmallow experiment was a series of studies on delayed gratification in the late 1960s and early 1970s led by psychologist Walter Mischel, then a professor at Stanford University. In these studies, a child was offered a choice between one small reward provided immediately or two small rewards if they waited for a short period, approximately 15 minutes, during which the tester left the room and then returned. (The reward was sometimes a marshmallow, but often a cookie or a pretzel.) In follow-up studies, the researchers found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT scores, educational attainment, body mass index (BMI), and other life measures.”

Our group leader told us the story, to justify why she disagreed with me, but I didn’t see how exactly. To me, it only reinforced self discipline. She said that “we shouldn’t be judgemental” about some of the choices people make. People from such deprived areas “would rather pick up the cigarettes today and die tomorrow, because that’s the only choice they have”. I was confused-where exactly were we? Iraq? Congo? Maybe they needed to read “Viktor Frankl’s Man Search for Meaning”.

I wanted to say something but I realised that would be me making a fuss, worse that I’d already created. Everybody has a choice, it’s called taking responsibility. It shouldn’t matter where your from. You have the power to make your life incredible and worthwhile. More than half the world’s innovators came from deprived backgrounds, living on the streets or sleeping in their cars.  

I just couldn’t help but realise that it’s so easy to describe people as victims, rather than admitting unwise choices which could be detrimental.

Can’t Knock Me Down

I’m back! And I’m so glad to be here. These past couple of months have been some of the most stressful, busiest and miserable, that I hadn’t dedicated as much time to writing as I’d like to.

Since the events surrounding my exam, it felt like for a while I couldn’t come back from it. After about a couple of weeks of feeling rotten and self pity, I realised that I had to get back on track if I had any chance of passing the exam next time.

The hardest thing for me was critiquing myself. Not only this but I also had to work on my confidence… this was seriously knocked off (more so). I tried to think about how should I go about this and then did what most people do when they’re stuck-go on YouTube.

I remember literally youtubing “how to be confident TED lecture” hoping there was something there I could learn from…and low and behold there was!

This video became part of my morning routine every day for two months. I had to keep reminding myself of this gold dust knowledge and whenever my confidence was affected at work (which did happen)…I’d keep this on.

I’d get emails from the deanery which almost felt like they were sending their condolences for my failure. It was heart breaking and non of which instilled any confidence in me. There was some talk about the deanery getting more involved to help me pass, as they’ve done with other trainees, but this never happened. I wasn’t expecting any miracles from them, infact the opposite…and this was nicely demonstrated by a harsh email I was cc’d in from the deanery.

Ironically on the day I got this email, I was introduced to the works of author and entrepreneur Seth Godin and what he said really struck a cord with me…

Don’t wait to be rescued, no one’s coming. 

I realised I was playing the victim. I was called “fragile” and though that might have been true, I hated being called that. That wasn’t the me I knew from university and that wasn’t going to be the me now either. I had to be the hero of my own story, I had to be a survivor.

I read the book the above YouTube video was based on. I also bought the wristband which the video talks about and wore it to work every single day (and still do). If I felt rubbish and lost focus, I looked at my band “my self affirmation” as Dr Joseph calls it and kept going. I persisted at work and studied at home. I almost isolated myself from the others, keeping myself to myself and my head down.

Over the past few weeks my trainer had dropped me for another trainee to help his needs. I tried not to let it bother me too much. Plus, I had better things to focus on. To a certain extent, it may have worked out for me.

It was this alternative trainer I was assigned to that introduced me into the world of “Mindfulness” i.e how to be in the moment and not lose focus.

I was introduced to this video three days before the day of my exam. It could have well saved me. I did this meditation on the morning of my exam and it made me look at the whole experience completely differently-instead of getting nervous I was calm. Instead of worrying what could happen I was quite excited about what could potentially happen instead. I pictured myself passing the exam and being a winner (like Arnie or Tony Robbins), not worrying about any consequences. I reframed the situation entirely.

Thankfully all these tips paid off and I passed my exam. So yes this week has been a good one, after so many awful ones. But I didn’t write this to brag. Far from it. It was to collate everything I learnt over the past couple of months and to share with you things which you may wish to benefit from too…especially if you’ve ever been knocked down.

Just some songs which I think people can relate too…I’ve been a little out of date with my songs of the month, so I’ve made up for it with two of my faves instead

The World Ain’t All Sunshine and Rainbows

This is quite a hard post for me to write. But I figured that if I did, I could overcome what has been an awful past few days- and just maybe put things into perspective.

The reason why I hadn’t blogged for quite some time was that I was hitting the books hard with a membership exam coming up. Books, study, practice and the like… Unfortunately it hadn’t paid off this time, and I failed.

Utterly gutted by a few marks off I was devastated and still am. The results came out on the Monday evening and once I found out,  I was terrified to go into work the next day. I wondered what people thought of me. Word had got around but everybody was very supportive. Having said that, as soon as someone came up to me to give me a rub in the back, arm around the shoulder or a holding of the hand, I’d wait until they left the room, only to burst into tears. I’d let down everybody’s expectations and in the one few times I tried to believe in myself, my faith was shattered.

Yes this may sound like an overexaggeration of things, but it’s just how I’ve felt and I know it’ll hopefully pass. I know I’ve done harder exams during medical school under much different circumstances-I was 18, I was in another country and I was at the risk of being kicked out (there were 90 medical students in the first year, 23 of us graduated). My family needed to remind me of this, and that it really isn’t the end of the world.

My boyfriend mentioned ‘We said that one day we’ll look back at medical school and laugh about it. One day we’ll look back at this exam and also laugh about this’. Are there times when I don’t do anything and my mind wonders back to this failure? Sure. But maybe everybody does that.

The thought of what others think about me runs in my mind still (so says the person who’s blogging about her failure). Helpful quotes have however, tried to keep me going.

Do your best, forget the rest –Tony Horton

Don’t care what the others (trainees) think, just give the world the finger-My trainer

This is a skill I still need to work on, not giving a da** of what the others think.

I don’t know why else I decided to share this really. It was probably just to put it all down in writing, and one day be a distant memory. Plus, I’m kinda used to blogging about the not so great side of life too…remember the burglary?

Every morning this week I’ve woken up with the thought-‘I failed’. Now that I’ll have to get back to it again, when my heart sinks (which I’m sure it will do many a time)…I will try and remember this:

I love Rocky 🙂