Can you feel it?

Med school, on call in the ER.

My job consists roughly in seeing patients, asking them what they’re doing here and for how long they’ve had whatever brought them (“Oh, well, some time…”), and shadowing real doctors in white coats who make diagnoses and ask for exams.

A woman in her 60’s. Stomach ache.

History of  cancer a few years ago, the nasty sort, never-fully-recovered-of.

Pain started several days ago, then it only got worse. She kept away from the hospital as long as she could but now it’s hurting too much. I sort of remember her writhing on the bed, her skin a vague yellow-greyish, but I might be making things up after all these years.

Since she’s really not that well, a real doctor comes with me right away to see her, so that we do not waste too much time.

And not any doctor if you please, the surgeon. So that even less time is wasted. Pronounced Suuur-geeeooon, with a capital S. Surgery resident actually, but that’s all the same.

Good morning Madam, I’m the Suuuur-geeeooon.

Chief complain, where does it hurt, since when, since when her BM stopped, since when she’s been losing weight, and he nods.

He puts both his hands on her stomach, he waves his fingers, methodically, quadrant after quadrant, eyes raised to the ceiling as if to look in it for inspiration.

All of a sudden, his face lights up. He hesitates, he checks, he ends up keeping on the same spot and you can tell something’s happening here, under his fingers, and he’s really happy about it. Right now he’s even smiling.

With a triomphal look on his face, he says « Here you go, touch right here… »
So I lay my hands too. Because he asked me to. Because I didn’t give it a second thought. Because it’s so surrealist that I’m lost, far far away, somewhere between stupor and disbelief. Because I don’t want to think that what I think is going to happen is really going to happen, and of course, happens:  

« So ? (smiling) What do you feel ? »

You. Sick. Bastard. You mean besides my wanting to disappear? You mean, besides the overwhelming urge to scream your hideous wickedness right back into your face? You’re asking me, you creepy piece of shit, if I’m feeling anything else than my itching fists trying to keep from smashing your pretty white teethy smile?
Yes, I can feel the tumor, you fucking son of a bitch, right under the skin of the stomach to which is attached, with a closer look, a torso, and oh, a neck and a head. Of a lady. Who’s got ears.

I said « Nothing ».

Because it was about the only thing I could think of.

And when we left the room, struggling half with my stupid sense of hierarchy, half with my own pride and half with my own cowardice – which makes way too many halves – I said:

“Well, actually, I could feel it, but well, you know….”


Original post


Just after bear tamer – Juste après dresseuse d’ours

Just before being a doctor, I wanted to be a bear tamer.

That’s how long ago.

That’s funny, I can accurately remember the exact day I decided on my future career.

I was somewhere between 6 and 8, and I had an epiphany one morning in the bathroom.

Hard wake-up. Completely blinded by the light, I realized that by closing one eye, and only one eye, I was not blinded any more.

And that was it, the epiphany.

It was not my eye, my eye as an organ which was blinded, it was, somewhere behind it, the sum of my two eyes. I was not blinded in my eye, I was blinded in the sum of my eyes. My eyes summed up, they crossed over somewhere behind, inside my head, and there was the blinded point.


Realizing one morning at 7 years old that your eyes cross over inside your head is rather a shock. I had to sort this out, I had to be a neurosurgeon.

Screw my yet ever so promising bear tamer career.

Then I learnt that you could learn what’s going on inside someone’s head without doing surgery, so I decided I wanted to be a neurologist.

Then I learnt that no one exactly knows how everything works inside someone’s head, and I decided I wanted to be a doctor.

Then, after a long time, after some not so good hospital experiences, I had the chance to meet two family physicians, who did an incredible job, and who had an incredible passion for it. And, new revelation, I decided I wanted to be a family physician.

No regrets so far.

In french here