atile

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I'm in a weird situation and I honestly don't know how to deal with it mentally. My dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer last year due to a medical oversight (they actually found a tumor in his lungs FIVE YEARS ago but forgot to monitor it). I ended up taking a family medical leave to help him navigate through the system as my mom was also going through her own medical issues at the time.

Now I'm heading back to school thousands of miles away and the timing couldn't be worse. My dad was actually doing fine on targeted therapy for a long while but suddenly deteriorated -- he literally dropped 50 pounds in a month due to constant vomiting and diarrhea. He's now on TPN and I'm sitting here in my apartment an entire country away and feeling like the saddest and most disgusting human being in the world. I can't help but feel incredibly selfish for leaving him in this state; this was the guy who worked 70 hours a week to put me through school. I might not ever see him again. I promised him everything would be okay but I guess I was lying to both him and myself?? I'm so angry and frustrated and devastated. The last thing I want to do is start third year like this. Has anyone gone through a similar situation? How did you deal?

Thank you so much everybody for any and all words of advice ; n;
 

DBV

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Sounds like seeing this through was important to him if he spent 70 hours per week working for it. I would try to get as much time as possible but press forward if I were you, at least in his memory.
 

md hope

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Sep 25, 2016
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I am so sorry to hear you are going through this. My heart hurts just reading this. I cannot even imagine how you feel right now. Anyone in your situation would be feeling the same way. Are there any away rotations located where your dad is? Or maybe you can visit during long weekends? In the short term, I would say you could benefit from some self-care and counseling. Please reach out to those around you at least, and if you need an ear, you can message me. Sending hugs and positive vibes.
 

Crayola227

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This is really tough. There's no right or wrong, only what is going to lead to the best outcome for you, and that's a little bit dependent on you.

Only you can try to answer if you think you can continue and succeed in medical school (there's no do-overs, sometimes another LOA is best), and only you can try to ask yourself if you'll be able to forgive yourself or medicine for any bad feelings for continuing on.

On one hand, this is the sort of career where part of the sacrifice we are expected to make is to show up for work and care for the ill no matter what is going on in your personal life, even when you could use time for your own health and that of your loved ones.

It can be very easy to set yourself up to resent medicine for these sacrifices.

If you can continue, and you and your father and the rest of your family can understand that, then that's not wrong.

OTOH, and forgive me if this sounds crass, you will only lose your father once in your life. Perhaps that means you will need to try to put your career on hold, if you can, for right now.

I faced a similar issue in medical school. I tried to be there for my family as best as I could while continuing as a medical student. My family understood. I was able to go forward and I was able to live with my choice, and I only resent the profession just a little bit. My mentors were aware of the sacrifices I was making, and it reflected well on me in continuing on. However, I also lived a bit closer to my family than you do to yours.

I will say, that on one hand, I was able to connect better to my patients while I was grieving. On the other hand, in some ways I was really checked out. I don't think there was a right answer that would have maximized my education, but I was glad overall that I continued.

My thoughts are with you, feel free to continue to reach out here. I'm very sorry that this is happening to you and your family. I wish you the best.
 

bashwell

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Mar 20, 2013
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OP, I'm sorry to hear this, but I think you really should try to see if you can take time off. This is one of those very few times in life where it's perfectly understandable to any reasonable person why you're taking time off. I also had a close family member (though not a parent) die during med school and it was very difficult. Time off would've been ideal.
 

Light at end of tunnel

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So sorry about your dad, OP. Being with family during such difficult times is paramount, and I hope you can find a way to do that. At the end of the day, family is everything (and everything else can wait).
 
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fw5tape6kq

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May 28, 2012
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My heart goes out to you in this very difficult and emotional situation. This must be so challenging on so many different levels, and I sympathize with you sincerely. I only have two things to say about this, and they are diametrically opposed. 1) You will never regret spending time with your family. If you really feel your father is deteriorating to the point where he has only a few weeks or months to live, then you must ask yourself how important it is to the both of you to be together during that time. In the grand scheme of things, Medical school can wait, lives cannot. 2) It sounds like your father cares for you very much, and vice versa. If he is willing to put in that amount of time to get you through school, then he is clearly dedicated to you and wants you to succeed. Perhaps it is best to honor him by pushing forward and doing the best you can academically, in every way. Ultimately, I think you should ask your father what he wants, weigh that against what you want, and make the decision from there.
 
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irJanus

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My dad passed away at 3am while I was on an away rotation. I walked out the door, threw my bags in the car, and drove 5h overnight.

Years of slow deterioration and I couldn't be there for my family. I went home every moment I could, but... There is guilt. I still feel it. It's a horrible thing to have to do through and I'm so sorry for you and your family. I was comforted by the fact that my pursuit was all my dad ever wanted from me... Didn't dull the sting, but I'll tell you... It's a hard balance to strike, family and medicine.

I'm so sorry... Thinking about you and your family and I wish you luck.
 

Smurfette

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I'm in a weird situation and I honestly don't know how to deal with it mentally. My dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer last year due to a medical oversight (they actually found a tumor in his lungs FIVE YEARS ago but forgot to monitor it). I ended up taking a family medical leave to help him navigate through the system as my mom was also going through her own medical issues at the time.

Now I'm heading back to school thousands of miles away and the timing couldn't be worse. My dad was actually doing fine on targeted therapy for a long while but suddenly deteriorated -- he literally dropped 50 pounds in a month due to constant vomiting and diarrhea. He's now on TPN and I'm sitting here in my apartment an entire country away and feeling like the saddest and most disgusting human being in the world. I can't help but feel incredibly selfish for leaving him in this state; this was the guy who worked 70 hours a week to put me through school. I might not ever see him again. I promised him everything would be okay but I guess I was lying to both him and myself?? I'm so angry and frustrated and devastated. The last thing I want to do is start third year like this. Has anyone gone through a similar situation? How did you deal?

Thank you so much everybody for any and all words of advice ; n;
Sorry to hear about what you're going through.

My father died when I was in college and one of my close med school friends had her father die right before starting 3rd year. While it was a sudden event for both of us, we both actually found distractions/work/activities were good ways to keep our minds off of all the emotions, etc. My friend found being on the wards helped her keep moving forward and avoid dwelling on things she couldn't change. I had a lot of guilt about going back to school and almost dropped out in order to help out at home; when I mentioned this to my mother, who I assumed wanted me at home, she gave me an earful about how much my father would have been horrified if I ever did that, etc., and how she'd never forgive herself for letting me do that either. I tell you this because you need to talk to your parents about this, and will likely find that they WANT you to continue in school and NOT to feel like you are somehow neglecting the family by being across the country. In fact, it may give your father a bit of comfort to know your life is on track (even though it doesn't feel like it for you right now, but you already took a LOA which may be above and beyond what he ever wanted one of his kids to have to do for him) and that you will be able to continue on your chosen path after he is gone. Basically, you need to talk to them to get some reassurance that you aren't abandoning them. You still will have a lot on your plate, but at least bringing this out in the open will help you feel less guilty about it or give you motivation to study and do well instead of feeling like you're under water. And if they do want you to be back home, you can talk to your school about extending your LOA further.

My other suggestion is to make sure you communicate with your school about what is going on now that you are returning; if you need to take leave suddenly or require any other accommodations, letting them know ahead of time what you are going through will make it easier on you. This may mean mentioning to a clerkship director about your father's condition so that they are also prepared for a sudden absence or change in your schedule. You also may need to seek emotional support in the form of friends/counselor/etc. to help you cope.
 

IslandStyle808

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My dad fell into a coma when I started college, and then passed away 3 years later. We were in another country at the time (and based on my posts you know which one I'm talking about). I was at the breaking point of just stoping school and taking care of my dad. However, my mom said should continue school. She was right. Who know when my dad would have woken up and how long I should be out of school 1 years? 5 years? 10 years?... I realized that our survival was our top priority and if I asked my dad this he would most likely say the same thing. It was a struggle to deal with both the family stuff (I would travel back from my home town to school every 2 months) and academics and sadly my grades took a hit. Unfortunately, life isn't forgiving and so I bare the weight of my past academics for a very long time.

You have to keep moving OP, life isn't going to stand still for you to completely deal with the situation. Complete medical school and keep in touch with your family. Find that balance but don't feel afraid to reach out for help.

I don't regret my decision to continue college even till this day...
 

Crayola227

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I think a lot of people are making it sound like the best thing to do is to continue on - and maybe that is what your family wants, what you want - but no one wants you to fail, either.

If your mental health is at risk, I would urge you to consult with some personal health care providers and with your school.

When people push on in medicine with mental health struggles, and don't do well, often there isn't much slack. People will always say, "you could have taken time off," even when that's an asinine response.

If you need time off, take it. Don't show up and do poorly, even if it's with good reason, trust me.
 

irJanus

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I think a lot of people are making it sound like the best thing to do is to continue on - and maybe that is what your family wants, what you want - but no one wants you to fail, either.

If your mental health is at risk, I would urge you to consult with some personal health care providers and with your school.

When people push on in medicine with mental health struggles, and don't do well, often there isn't much slack. People will always say, "you could have taken time off," even when that's an asinine response.

If you need time off, take it. Don't show up and do poorly, even if it's with good reason, trust me.
This...

Don't be afraid to reach out. To family, friends, a counselor... Whoever you can or need. Don't let this overwhelm you and ignore your well-being. This takes time. A lot of time.
 

libertyyne

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Mar 5, 2015
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I am sorry to hear about your father OP. Sounds like a terrible situation. If you are unable to focus on your studies while your father is dying. I dont think anyone would say that you are being unreasonable if you take a leave of absence.
If you are unable to study /focus powering through makes even less sense and only puts you at risk of failing.
 
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sb247

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It sucks op, I'm sorry

You just need to do some honest self assessment. Not even about whether you want to stay as opposed to take a LOA, but whether you can handle staying.

If you don't know that you can hold emotionally and know that you can pull passing grades, you need a LOA. Yes it will mess with timing, yes it means lost salary in life......but staying and failing costs much more

If you want to stay and can do it? Ok
If you want to stay and can't hang emotionally? LOA
If you would not forgive yourself if staying meant you don't see him again? LOA

Talk it through with the school and decide what you need
 

Kkshake

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Sep 21, 2016
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I know what you're going through, my dad is dying from ALS as I'm in medical school. If you ever need to talk about it, feel free to message me.
 

meowfish6868

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Jun 26, 2014
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It sucks op, I'm sorry

You just need to do some honest self assessment. Not even about whether you want to stay as opposed to take a LOA, but whether you can handle staying.

If you don't know that you can hold emotionally and know that you can pull passing grades, you need a LOA. Yes it will mess with timing, yes it means lost salary in life......but staying and failing costs much more

If you want to stay and can do it? Ok
If you want to stay and can't hang emotionally? LOA
If you would not forgive yourself if staying meant you don't see him again? LOA

Talk it through with the school and decide what you need
I totally agree with SB247's post and just wanted to add a few more tidbits.
You should also consider whether a LOA or staying in school would be more emotionally beneficial. Med school is rough enough as it is, let alone having to cope with your father's illness. That being said, some people can continue on with a situation like this and do so successfully.

Both myself and my classmate loss one of our parents earlier in second year and both of us decided against taking LOA. I can speak for my classmate, but personally, I felt like a LOA would put me in a far worse place emotionally. School gave me something to focus on besides my grief and I got to stay connected with my class. Lastly, I do still have a teeny twinge of regret for not seeing my mom much in her last few weeks, but we both agreed that staying in school was the best option for me.

I'm so sorry you're going through this, OP. Like others have said before, you have to choose what's best for you. It might also help to chat with your dad about it.
 

Goro

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Jun 10, 2010
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I'm in a weird situation and I honestly don't know how to deal with it mentally. My dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer last year due to a medical oversight (they actually found a tumor in his lungs FIVE YEARS ago but forgot to monitor it). I ended up taking a family medical leave to help him navigate through the system as my mom was also going through her own medical issues at the time.

Now I'm heading back to school thousands of miles away and the timing couldn't be worse. My dad was actually doing fine on targeted therapy for a long while but suddenly deteriorated -- he literally dropped 50 pounds in a month due to constant vomiting and diarrhea. He's now on TPN and I'm sitting here in my apartment an entire country away and feeling like the saddest and most disgusting human being in the world. I can't help but feel incredibly selfish for leaving him in this state; this was the guy who worked 70 hours a week to put me through school. I might not ever see him again. I promised him everything would be okay but I guess I was lying to both him and myself?? I'm so angry and frustrated and devastated. The last thing I want to do is start third year like this. Has anyone gone through a similar situation? How did you deal?

Thank you so much everybody for any and all words of advice ; n;
Brokenhearted to read this, atile. I advise the LOA.

Having gone through this with loved ones myself, cry when you feel the need to cry. You'll reach a point where you'll cry yourself out, but still be sad. At that point, stay busy. And life does go on. Really!
 

Newyawk

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Sep 30, 2016
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Im sorry i dont have advice for you. I just wanted to say im sorry youre going through this and i hope everything works out OK.
While i cant relate with you, OP, i can say that reading yours and others posts on this topic has forced me to think about how ive been conducting myself the last few years. Thank you for that.