Today, I sat in a chair with a microphone in hand in the front of a classroom filled with 100-plus first-year University of Florida medical students. Dr. Averbuch sat in the other chair, sort of facing me and sort of facing the students whose eyes focused on both of us. Dr. Lynch, my oncologist and professor of the class, sat in the crowd and watched, nodded, caught my eye, and sent non-verbal support in my direction. Dr. Lynch has been in my corner, soothing my soul, for 10 years.
Dr. Lynch’s warmth and compassion are part of what I discussed this afternoon with the med students. My task for the class was to answer questions from Dr. Averbuch, a UF psychiatrist, who aimed to draw from my story the mental health implications of a cancer experience. For 1 hour, he did just that. We talked fear, anxiety, depression, therapy, medication, and the weepiness that consumed many of my treatment days. I choked up when I recalled the terrifying nighttimes just after diagnosis when I watched my sleeping babies and convinced myself that they would grow up without a mom. Those memories always get me, even though my babies are now 11 and 14 years old.
I also chatted about rebounding, recovering, coming back to life, and helping others through this blog, the wigs I loan out, and the gifts I drop on doorsteps and in mailboxes. Dr. Lynch says my visits with medical students help, too.
My message was just what they needed to hear, he said.
I do hope he is right.