Caring for my father- why I want to become a doctor
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I found a  ‘Living With Prostate Cancer’ leaflet burrowed under a pile of clothes. Until then I had never heard of the prostate and since, I’ve never heard anything more. I probably avoid hearing about it as I associate the cancer with the adversities of my father. 

A while after unearthing the truth, my dad’s health started to deteriorate. Along with the illness came the endless supply of pills and supplements: apricot kernels, calcium, turmeric. Soon after, my youtube search history was flooded with videos on “how to cure metastatic cancer”, and this became very public to the rest of my family. The more I read, the more I wanted to learn and this is where my inquisitive nature, coupled with a desire to want to help someone derived.

My mum and I were mainly responsible for looking after him. It was challenging for my mother who was still working. It was particularly hard for me as I was juggling coursework and mock exams in preparation for my GCSEs. As it became more and more difficult a Willen Hospice nurse began to support us in caring for him. 

I continued to make smoothies that my mum researched could possible help in the cancer process – we were willing to try anything at this point. I sorted his medication and moved him from his in-home hospital bed to the commode or the wheelchair. He often complained of leg pain so I would massage and stretch his legs daily. 

Helping to alleviate my mother’s stress was probably the hardest thing through the process. She had to provide for our family, work, while also looking after father. I did as much as I could while preparing what felt like the most important exams of my life to date – my GCSEs. I learnt a lot about myself personally, my own skills and weaknesses and developed my communication and caring skills in the process.

When my father sadly passed away a couple of days after being rushed to hospital after having low glucose concentration and subsequent complications of cancer, it hit me like a tonne of bricks - I didn't fully understand what happened as it all happened so quickly. I trusted the medical team knew what was happening and did all that they could. His passing away birthed a stronger desire to study medicine, and understand what happened. These experiences gave me the motivation and strength to do so. 

This period showed I could cope with loss of life as well as stay academically on top despite the unfavourable circumstances the way a doctor would. My days caring for my father have some resemblance of a life of a doctor. Doctors are exposed to patients that they may have had for a long time crossing the barrier between life and death daily. They may feel hurt and I certainly did when my dad passed but that doesn’t stop doctors so it won’t stop me. I will use the memories of my father, positive and negative and the experiences I learned to do well in medicine and to help care for others the way I cared for him.

Emmanuella Okueguale

Originally published 26 August 2019 , updated 24/01/2020

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