SGO Issues Jan. 26, 2017
Finding time to be balanced about wellness | Diljeet K. Singh, MD, DrPH
World Cancer Day 2017 on Feb. 4
FWC releases State of the State of GYN Cancers report
FWC Ovarian Cancer Survivors Courses scheduled for 2017
Book hotel rooms now for the SGO Annual Meeting
When I first learned about the benefits of a wellness approach, my autopilot applied it to my patients and trainees. And when the “practice what you preach” got loud enough in my head, I put it on my to-do list, and whined to myself, “Really? Not only am I supposed to be mindfully treating patients with expertise and compassion, skillfully using the most up-to-date approaches by reading and teaching, thereby curing, etc., but now I need to be Zen about it all?” And to have a healthier “work-life balance,” I need to spend less time doing it?
Of course, there is “life,” i.e., raising the next generation, caring for the previous one, paying the mortgage, contributing to the community and planning for the future? And I can’t forget to spend time with the people I love. I can’t forget to exercise, meditate, live clean, eat locally, you know the drill. But when? And how? What does work-life balance mean? Is it an either/or? How bad is bringing my work home for me? Is it more like champagne or grain alcohol?
And aren’t “we” different? Gynecologic oncology doesn’t seem to lend itself to balance and wellness. Enhanced sympathetic tone is how we operate. Adrenaline allows us to multi-task and respond to crisis but doesn’t serve us when a word alone can stimulate a fight or flight response. Try phrases such as performance metrics, lawsuit, deposition, loss of insurance, uncovered service, or drug shortage.
Being a gynecologic oncologist is different. Every day there’s death and dying and pain and suffering and loss and grief and none of it seems fair. And we still live in the regular world where there is gender inequality, racism, poverty, climate change, violence against women, and injustice.
I struggled with finding “time for wellness” and fretted when hours at work were outweighing my “life” hours. However, working with patients on this topic made it clear to me that wellness cannot be a bullet point on a to-do list and work-life balance is not a math problem. Patients talk with us about what matters to them and goals for their palpably limited time. They are motivated by their diagnosis and prognosis to change an unhealthy home life or leave an unsatisfying job. In my mind I call these “soul goal” discussions, and I found myself applying this thought process to myself. What do I want to do with the time I have in this life? What brings me joy? What are my soul goals?
This was harder than I thought and for me the tricky parts were:
- Separating obligations from responsibilities. Responsibilities are what we take on, ideally reflecting our goals and abilities.
- Focusing not on the future achievement of a goal but on the day to day reality of it. (e.g., I want to run a marathon but I hate running.)
- Letting go of judgment. Hiking on every continent is as worthy a goal as serving humanity.
- Staying aware of how my soul goals evolve and shift in priority.
- Giving my goals the time they deserve.
Time management is a learned skill. A week into a “30-day time diary” for a workshop, I realized I spent a lot of time doing things that did not matter to me and that I did not like to do. Delegating, outsourcing and delivery got me back 6 hours a week. Further, building my calendar with my soul goals in mind instead of letting my calendar tell me what to do opened up additional time that I was convinced did not exist. Self-care has been more doable with this “recovered time” and as a result my remaining hours seem more productive and fulfilling.
Being a gynecologic oncologist IS different. This job lets me pay the bills, use my brain and my heart, work with amazing colleagues, witness the strength and resilience of women and their families, help women save their own lives and so fulfills many of my soul goals. I don’t sweat the time I spend doing it.
Diljeet K. Singh, MD, DrPH, is a Gynecologic Oncologist at the Mid Atlantic Permanente Medical Group in McClean, VA.
Saturday, Feb. 4, is World Cancer Day. As an initiative of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), the goal of World Cancer Day is to prevent millions of deaths each year by raising awareness and education. Supporters can get involved by hosting a related activity, participating in the social media campaign, or distributing cancer fact sheets. Tweet your support for World Cancer Day using the hashtags #WorldCancerDay and #WeCanICan.
On Jan. 24, the Foundation for Women’s Cancer released the 2016 State of the State of Gynecologic Cancers: Report to the Women of America, which details the progress in the field of gynecologic oncology, and calls for the need for more research funding. The document is available on both the SGO and FWC websites. The following SGO members were report contributors:
Andrew Berchuck, MD, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC
Angeles Alvarez-Secord, MD, Duke University Medical, Center Durham, NC
Carol L. Brown, MD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY
David Cohn, MD, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Mark H. Einstein, MD, MS, FACS, FACOG, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Newark, NJ
Jeffrey M. Fowler, MD, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Ginger J. Gardner, MD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY
David G. Mutch, MD, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO
Leslie M. Randall, MD, UC Irvine Medical Center, Orange, CA
Brian M. Slomovitz, MD, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Miami, FL
Anil K. Sood, MD, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX
The Foundation for Women’s Cancer has scheduled at least five Ovarian Cancer Survivors Courses throughout the United States this year, and more courses will be added once dates are confirmed. The next Survivors Course will be in Anchorage, AK, Feb. 3-5, followed by West Palm Beach, FL, Feb. 25; Duarte, CA, April 22; Houston, TX, May 5 and Washington, DC, Nov. 4, during the National Race to End Women’s Cancer weekend.
The reserved block of rooms for the SGO Annual Meeting is filling up fast; the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center is close to capacity on Tuesday, March 14. For best availability and immediate confirmation, make your reservation online. You may also make your reservation by contacting the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center at 1-877-382-7299 or 1-301-965-4000 (International). Be sure to press 4 for the Gaylord National Resort and mention “SGO Annual Meeting” to receive the discounted rates. SGO has another block of rooms at the brand new MGM National Harbor Hotel, just over a mile away from the Gaylord Hotel. Make your reservation online in order to receive the discounted rate.