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  • Alyse Gray

Dying, it's a Living


I've worked in cancer research for a year now. Seven of my patients have died. I wept for all of them. These are people I've gotten to know. I talk to them in the waiting room before they receive chemotherapy for the metastatic cancer that will more than likely kill them. I often spend more time with them than their physicians do. We share pictures of children, talk about travel, work, and life in general. Sometimes they tell me their antivaxxer conspiracy theories. And I just listen.

My medical training only taught how to dissect specimens. Patient care is not part of the curriculum for pathologists' assistants. But I have life experience. I've spent enough hours in waiting rooms and oncologist's offices with my mother to compensate for any lack of an internship. It's given me more compassion for people than an internship ever would. These are human beings. It hurts my heart to sit by idly and do nothing but collect their blood.

In some ways, this keeps me motivated at work. I have to believe what we are doing will someday help people like this. But it doesn't help them right now. These patients will die before new drugs are developed. I am still researching ways to help more immediately, but find I lack the resources to begin the charity work I want to do. Sometimes this throws me into a dark despair that seems inescapable. Other times it fuels me to work harder against the grain to acquire those resources.

The odds I'm up against seem impossible. I feel completely alone in my purpose. But I have to keep trying for the sake of my patients.


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