Probably every physician has heard this quote by Voltaire: “The art of medicine consists of entertaining the patient while nature cures the disease.”

I am not sure how everyone else feels about that statement (feel free to comment and tell me your thoughts), but I happen to particularly love it. For one thing, it is true in so many cases. That is not to say that you should ignore symptoms and hope they go away. You often need a physician to help you see what is important and what you can ignore. I cannot tell you how often we end up doing thousands of dollars of testing only to have things “disappear” in the end.

But why I really, really like this quote is that it reminds us all to be humble.  In the end, we are not the ones curing anyone.  We are the instruments of a higher power.  Not that we are that higher power.  We are instruments of it.

Today, I am humbled.



Apparently, shedding a few tears over my morning yesterday really freaked out my staff and my partners. I was asked all day long how my kids were doing, if they were feeling better. While I appreciated the concern expressed about my children, it was really not about them. Everyone was worried about me. I NEVER cry. At least not as far as they are aware. And if I am honest with myself, my heart still feels a bit bruised.

So, I sit here sipping chamomile tea and eating a ginger chocolate chip cookie.

An aside: Seriously, you need to try this recipe on Epicurious…it will change how you look at cookies for the rest of your life!

I feel I should say something profound. Surely, somewhere in my head there is something profound? Honestly, my brain is mush. Between a full day of patients (everyone showed up today) and two meetings, kids, and then listening to board prep CDs on my commute back and forth, I’ve got nuthin’ left to give.  The dishes will stand dirty tonight.

So I will leave you with this thought:  Vulnerability.  It is hard to give yourself the permission to be vulnerable.  I am on the fence about it.  On the one hand, a cry was very therapeutic.  On the other, I am embarrassed by the visible chink in my armor.

Now they know who I am!

I should have closed the door.

Just Why?

This morning I dragged two very cranky children to daycare kicking and screaming. I was running late after fighting with them…potty, dressing, cough medication…and before it was over with each of us was crying, for different reasons. My daughter wanted her blankie. My son wanted to NOT go to “school”. Me, I just wanted to stop feeling like the worst mother ever.

How many other women lived this today?

By the time I got to the office, my first patient had been roomed. Running late REALLY stresses me out. I spent a minute or two trying to choke back the tears and frustration, because let’s face it, no one wants to hear about their doctor’s problems and then ran into the room apologizing and smiling, praying the bloodshot eyes were not terribly noticeable.

Then, my next three patients did not show up.

This does not happen often. Usually I am terribly overbooked, so when I get a no show, I feel…lost. For a whole hour and fifteen minutes I had no patients! I used the time to get caught back up on all of the charting and paperwork that I am responsible for, but in the back of my mind the frustration was mounting. This morning I had felt as if I had incarcerated my children in some awful foreign gulag with strangers that would surely torture them given the opportunity. My son had begged and pleaded with me, sobbing, to stay “Just one more minute, mommy!” My daughter stared at me accusingly with pain in her eyes as big, wet tears of sadness rolled down her cheeks. Why? So I could go to work and do nothing. Never mind the fact that these missing patients may have had mornings like mine, or worse.

I started fantasizing about quitting my job, becoming a stay at home mom. My student loans are paid off. I could do that. For a year.

Then the self pity started. No one understands what I go through every day to be here. They don’t know that I worked all while pregnant, praying that I did not go into labor early because I could not find a locum to cover my practice. They don’t understand when I have to take a day off for family emergencies or a long overdue vacation so I don’t go crazy or for studying to retake my boards (yeah, another ten years gone by). No one cares how little sleep I get, how many hours I work on charting from home, or how hurt I get when a patient gets ugly with me, or that when they are calling the “on call doctor” that I may be in the middle of cleaning up toddler vomit. Blah, blah, blah.

I need to tell someone!

The truth is that I think we all want our physicians to have it all together. Give me an illusion of a capable individual who has everything in hand any day. Particularly if you are going to be operating on me. I don’t want to know that your are frustrated with your kids or your spouse right before you cut me open to resect my colon cancer. Or before you do a pelvic exam. Or talk to me about my depression.

The afternoon was a whirlwind, running from one room to the next, and kept me from thinking any more until now. The kids are fed and in bed and peace has returned to the house, and to my heart. As I hold my daughter’s little hands as she is drifting off to sleep I remember these important things:

Children make your life terribly complicated. But they also make enduring the other crap in your life much more worthwhile.

A hug and a kiss and an “I love you, Mommy!” can make it all go away better than a martini. Most days. Sometimes I still need that martini. Just not as often.

Being a physician is an honor and a privilege and worth working hard at. I wrestle daily with motherhood and work and how to balance it all. Sometimes I feel guilty that I find my job so fulfilling. Then a patient says, “Thank you!” and gives me a hug and I find peace again.

And now….

The dishes are not going to wash themselves!