Sunday, November 01, 2009


(Hands of my Scleroderma patient)

There's something about wives and mothers that make me admire them. I have great respect to them and I look at them with high regard. If I could just imagine all the things that they have to go through, I would be discouraged to follow them. I don't think that I have that strength, courage and selflessness that they possess. I don't think I could handle all the stresses and physical work that they deal with everyday. From dealing with husbands who sometimes act worse than their kids, to rearing children who sometimes forget to look back and be grateful once they could manage life on their own, these wives and mothers need to be recognized for their hard work. I sometimes even equate this hard work to "martyrdom."

I realized that in the subspecialization where I am in, I am dealing with most of them. Rheumatology deals with autoimmune diseases and these encompass diseases like lupus, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, etcetera. Majority of these diseases affect women of childbearing potential, like Lupus with an odds of 20:1. In other words, young wives and mothers who are all subject to stress in their everyday living are afflicted. Stress is actually one of the factors that could trigger such diseases. With all those patients I've seen in the Out-patient department, I always wonder what could have triggered their disease. A good research question actually that I would want to further investigate, but I've seen a good number who point to their works as the stressors – grade school teachers, nursing students, soldiers' wives. Ooops, these aren't based from studies or facts and I don't want to be quoted here. I just happen to observe this in the patients I've handled.

I found my purpose. I was so interested in Psychiatry before and here I am, applying it to my patients in Rheumatology. These women no matter how strong they are needed someone to listen to them. They don't need my advice for they know better in life than I do. They don't need my words of comfort for I couldn't relate in the first place with what they are going through. They just wanted me to listen to them. To take their sentiments, concerns and pains without being judgmental. Ironic, but listening to them is therapeutic. It's not negative energy that they generate rather insights that I could also apply in my life. Listening to them made me admire them the more for their innate strength and unwavering faith. It's just that heroes that they are, they didn't want other people's help at first. They carried their stresses and handled them alone. Their spirits were great but their bodies just gave up. The reason why they succumbed to their diseases.

Finally, I'm starting to find light in this training program. The daily routine that I have with work now makes sense. I have been selfish for the past months I guess that I centered my vision on myself alone. I have been whining about my training and I never felt happy about it. It is only after I found my purpose that I realize that this is where I am really called. I just have to let go of my selfishness and just like my patients, be selfless. These unsung heroes who are now weakened by their disease need someone to lift their dampened spirits. They have carried their loads long enough and they need not just a doctor who shall prescribe them with their medications. They need a doctor who could help them unload their burden, minimize their stresses and mobilize their family support. Yep! The latter is also included in our job description. We talk with their families and ask them too for support. After all, this is the only thing that their families could do in return for the selfless heroes.

In Rheumatology, I realized that my patients aren't just my teachers who translate my written textbook into real life. These patients are also my heroes. Heroes I look up to for their courage, strength and faith. Heroes I could emulate for their selfless acts of love for their families. As a Rheumatologist, this I believe is my lifetime advocacy. To help fight their diseases with them.