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Voices: With Gratitude and Thanksgiving | Wellness Task Force

Nov 15, 2018

With Gratitude and Thanksgiving | Wellness Task Force

Ready or not, the holiday season is upon us. And while it is traditionally a time of giving thanks, many of us will be on call. Some of us will miss family dinner and holiday traditions, and undoubtedly all of us at some point in our career, have felt guilt over gratitude on Thanksgiving (or any) Day, as we ask our loved ones to sacrifice for the career we have chosen. Here’s the thing that is easy to forget – our loved ones are proud of us and the work we do.

In this special Thanksgiving edition of the SGO Wellness blog, we hear from a daughter and two husbands of SGO members about life with a gynecologic oncologist in the family. We share these with you in gratitude this holiday season, in recognition of your dedication and in appreciation for you and your families. On behalf of the SGO Wellness Task Force, thank you for all that you do. The following are presented with the permission of both the author and the SGO member.

Sean David, MD, SM, D.Phil, spouse of Shannon MacLaughlan David, MD

Sean David, MD, SM, D.Phil, and Shannon MacLaughlan David, MD.

I met Shannon when she was straight out of her residency, and was about to start her gyn onc fellowship. As our relationship grew, I was struck by the insane hours she worked—up before dawn and home after dark, then back to the OR at 2:00 a.m. for emergency surgeries. There have been sacrifices and challenges for us, including two years on opposite coasts so Shannon could finish her fellowship, before we were married. But we are all enriched by her dedication to her patients. If anything, I regret her feelings of guilt for the times she is pulled away from family events to do her job; but it was never an imposition on us. It’s about family. We just love, admire, and miss her in those times; and there will be open arms and turkey sandwiches in the fridge for her after any Thanksgiving she misses.

Despite the heartbreaks that come with treating cancer patients and time away from family, she never loses her focus or her humanity. She has the equanimity to go from the OR to the theater, change from scrubs to a ballroom gown in the car, or from sharing laughter and tears with patients to bringing groceries to homeless families or blankets and water to families displaced by wildfires. Her heart bleeds for those who suffer, but there is an overflowing well of love leftover for us, her family and friends. Character. Grit. Beauty. Grace. That is my wife.

Jose M Torrealba, spouse of Trevor Tejada-Berges, MD, MSc, FRCPSC, FACOG, FRANZCOG

Trevor Tejada-Berges, MD, MSc, FRCPSC, FACOG, FRANZCOG, and Jose M Torrealba.

Trevor and I began dating before he began medical school and well before he even thought of becoming a gynecologic oncologist. Having now lived with him for over 22 years has made me appreciate the little treasures life provides us on a daily basis. Through his experience caring for patients with cancer, and the stories he is able to share, I realize how fortunate I have been to be spending my life with such a giving, caring and generous man. And while this does, at times, mean we need to make sacrifices, it also implies that I am somehow contributing to support his efforts to save a woman’s life or improve her wellbeing. That is a great privilege I would otherwise never have experienced. The work of an oncologist confronts us directly with our mortality and reminds us daily that we are not here forever. As a result, we have learned to value every minute we can spend together immensely, making our bond and relationship stronger, real and, remarkably, fun. I feel absolutely blessed to have Trevor be part of my life, and thankful to life for allowing me to share his path.

Jessie Duska, daughter of Linda Duska, MD

Linda Duska, MD, and her daughter Jesse.

Cancer took over my mom’s life (and the lives of our entire family) – but unlike the way it affects a patient. It consumed her time, her thoughts, and most importantly in my younger self’s mind, the attention she gave me. I resented my mom’s “stupid” job for most of my childhood. Maybe I was being dramatic, but it seemed rational at the time. She obviously didn’t mind waking up in the middle of the night to go into the hospital or being home alone on Christmas in case she needs to take care of a patient.

I have seen my mom upset from a patient passing, passed out on the couch with her favorite child (the dog) from a long day, and working extra hours on weekends “off.” What I failed to see for a long time was why. Why she worked twice as hard as any other parent I knew; why she kept going back and trying her hardest just to face defeat and sadness; why she had missed my super important 5th grade graduation.

One day I was rummaging through her phone like any normal, nosy child and found a picture of her patients. These smiling women—survivors—were the reason my mom has stared cancer in the face every day for the past 25 years.

I realized it was stupid to get upset with her over a missed soccer game. She was helping people in a way that most others could not. She sacrificed her life, her sanity, her time, AND my graduation. She has attacked cancer with scalpel, robot, chemotherapy, and her mind a thousand times over. She’s crazy and–crazy passionate–about fighting to find a cure. I guess she’s rubbed off on me a little.