‘A Day in the Life of …’ is a series of blog posts from Onco.com, to celebrate the human side of our medical professionals. It is an effort to reduce the empathy gap between medical professionals and cancer patients or caregivers, to enable better interactions and more effective communication between them.
In this blog post, we take a peek into the life of Dr Pooja Nandwani Patel, Senior Consultant and Head – Radiation Oncology, Sterling Cancer Hospital, Ahmedabad.
Watch her talk about her personal journey.
Born to a doctor father, little Pooja always knew she wanted to be a doctor. It was her father’s dream for her. Having lost her father while she was still a child, fulfilling this dream of his became more than an ambition; it was a fervent passion.
When it was time to leave home for medical college in Surat, there were a lot of challenges facing her. It was the first time she was away from home and she had to learn to be independent.
She also learnt to understand and get along with people of different communities, from all four corners of the country.
Medical studies are an all-consuming phenomenon and it takes willpower and discipline to complete them. Here Dr Pooja learnt what would prove to be one of the most important lessons of life: to give her all to her studies and later to her work, without letting the stress get to her.
Dr Pooja recalls those years as the best years of her life. She enjoyed all the new experiences that medical college has in store for her, from the mouth-watering food of Surat, to the long hours spent in the library.
It was here that she met her husband Dr Nayan Patel for the first time. He was her senior, and in her own words, “He ragged me in college, and I am now ragging him for the rest of his life.”
Oncologist and mother
As a mother of two, Dr Pooja tries to put aside some time in her day for her children. From tolerating her bathroom singing, to asking her for gifts in return for allowing her to attend medical conferences, the children have a very jovial relationship with their mother.
Being an oncologist requires long hours away from home and her family respects that. Dr Pooja admits that she would not have been able to focus on her profession had she not had the full support of her husband.
Dr Pooja ensures that she stays healthy with the right physical exercise and nutrition. Doctors are often expected to lead by example and it is not easy to get patients to put physical fitness first, if you do not do so yourself.
Always on her mind
No matter where she is, there is a part of her that is tuned in to the needs of her patients. Even though she has treated several patients over the years, it is still difficult to stay detached from what they go through.
She recalls a patient who was at an advanced stage of cancer and going through radiation. His cheerfulness and positive attitude touched her so much that she can recall all his jokes and comments. His birthday celebration at the hospital is one of her cherished memories of him.
After he passed away, Dr Pooja felt a sense of loss and helplessness. In spite of their best efforts, oncologists have to face situations where the prognosis is beyond their control. But she believes that such experiences are what keep her humble and eager to keep giving her best every day.
When we listen to Dr Pooja’s life journey, we realise our oncologists have a vulnerable side that they rarely show at work. They work everyday among patients, trying their best to reduce our suffering in whatever way possible. Sometimes they succeed and sometimes they fail.
Cancer is not an easy enemy to fight. They fight it every single day. Unlike the patient, they have a choice in this matter. And yet, they choose to keep fighting daily, by our side.
It is easy to forget that they too have good days and bad days of their own. Like the rest of us, they too fight personal battles, emotional, physical and mental. We forget this because when they stand before us in their white coats, they erase everything else to give us their complete attention.