Saturday, June 14, 2008

Pausch's Last Lecture

Four days of fever, 1 day of sore throat, and 1 day of recovery (6 days total) and I'm back to, that took way longer than expected. :( I'm a little bummed that my 2-week summer vacation was cut in half by a pediatric viral illness, but I'm glad that it happened at a "convenient" time (so to speak) when there was not much going on and no patients to see.

Talking to my roommate made me realize that there are different senses of the word "sick," there's the conversational "sick" when you have sniffles or a mild URI. Then there's the second-level "sick," when you can't get out of bed and feel truly miserable and incapacitated for a short while and remember how much it sucks to not be healthy. There's also "sick" in the sense of mental illness, which is chronic and difficult to describe and quantify, and there's also the profound sense of "sick," usually earning you that "coveted" admission to the hospital because one of your organs is failing, or you need surgery with dorky UC med students watching, or sometimes because you are dying.

Most people on the web have heard of Randy Pausch, PhD, the professor at Carnegie Mellon University dying from pancreatic cancer who gave a stirring "Last Lecture" about life lessons. A few months ago, I learned about him from an interview in Time magazine, but didn't bother to Google his lecture until a friend in pharmacy school told me about it in the laundry room today. You can watch it on Google videos, it's a bit long (76 minutes), but worth the investment.

Naturally, I was interested because Randy is a pancreatic cancer patient, and if you don't read my blog that often, I am interested in pancreatic cancer research. Different cancers have different mortality rates, but pancreatic cancer remains a fearsome predator among cancers with a median survival of 6 months depending on how far the tumor spreads.

Oncology keeps drawing me closer, but still no idea. I told my friend in the laundry room that I'm interested in oncology because it's work that continually reminds me by its very nature why I am working and what really matters in this life. Somehow, by working with pancreatic cancer patients who continually face this duel with death, I feel like oncology motivates me to work even harder and with more purpose. Paradoxically and more importantly, oncology also simultaneously inspires me to appreciate everything non-work related in life -- family, friends, food, food, creature comforts, beautiful moments, holidays, and the ease of health. How can anything else teach me so elegantly to value both work and everything non-work?

Dr. Pausch's video:
Dr. Pausch's homepage:

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