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08 August 2009

Of bodies and minds….

This week has had some surreal moments attached to it. We are learning about the mechanisms of cancer, using examples of a 5 year old with leukemia and a woman with an unexpected result on mammogram, ending with her death of metastatic disease. Cheery stuff. My friend Jorin's daughter has was diagnosed with the same type of leukemia (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, or ALL) at age 5, and is just to the maintenance phase of treatment. Their story has been blogged at The parallels were so eerie that I recommended Jorin's blog to the group (with permission) Even the drugs were the same, except now I know how they actually work.
the next strange moment was on Tuesday, during anatomy lab. Our group is dissecting an arm and shoulder section. As we finished cleaning up at the end, I walked by a large trolley bin, filled with skinned legs. The weird part was when I caught myself being blandly accepting of a bin full of cadaver (dead people) legs, as if it were a bin of potatoes at the store. Shouldn't I be somewhere between mildly nauseated to deeply disturbed? I am intrigued by my lack of emotional response. I'm pretty sure I'm not repressing.
Friday afternoon, I was invited by my mentor (from the Australian Medical Association), Dr. Chris Davis, to sit in on his geriatric dementia clinic. It turned out a colleague of his filled in at the last minute, but I was still allowed to observe. The first patient was experiencing memory loss, but was actually suffering with accompanying depression. The second was a patient with advanced Alzheimers disease who had exhausted most of the treatment avenues available. The drugs she was on caused Parkinson-like symptoms, and she is in the final stages of her struggle. The third was a patient diagnosed early with Alzheimers, but was responding extremely well to his medication. The disease was actually almost at a stand-still in it's progression. WOW. Even the consultant commented, "X is a poster patient for THAT drug company!" after the consultation. It IS good to see drugs actually working the way we hope, and people gain or at least keep their function as a result. Very encouraging. This afternoon DOES mean I need to do some serious reading and studying before the next time I sit in, in order to be able to understand more of what I am observing.

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