Luckily, the first time we do onc, we get a co-intern as a partner. The second time we're alone, but the first time we are not. My co-oncie is Cat, my Women and Infants BFF. It makes the day better. Less lonely. We can complain to each other when we feel put upon. We help each other out with the work load. And we talk about the patients.
The patients are the worst part. This is not post-partum floor work, where everyone is healthy and relatively young and really quite annoying at times because you get pages about the mundane ("I feel a little sore, you know, down there." Um, yes, you just pushed 8lbs of human out of you. What did you expect to feel?). On onc, the complaints are tragic, heartbreaking. On onc, half of your patients will be dead before you finish residency. This is where we learn about managing pain in the terminally ill, as the tumor presses on their spine or erodes the bone in their hip or compresses their bowel.
One of my patients is one of these patients. She has cancer, doesn't matter what kind, and she is not doing well. She knows it. Her husband knows it, and he is lost. And yet, she always wants to know how I'm doing, if I'm eating enough, if I'm sleeping. She offers me food from her tray. I refuse. I tell her I had pancakes for breakfast. She looks dubious. I ask her about her pain. She tries not to complain, but I end up increasing her dose every day. I don't know if we'll ever catch up to what she needs.
On Saturday, I go on vacation. Every day, driving home, some song on the radio makes me burst into tears. I live 1.8 miles from work. There aren't that many songs. On Saturday, I go on vacation.