Below, Shira Einstein, a third-year medical student at the OHSU School of Medicine, shares her powerful Doernbecher story.
Many of us who decide to go into the medical field do so bearing scars. Mine happens to be about 1-inch-long under my left collarbone, where a port-a-cath was placed nine years ago in order to administer my IV chemotherapy treatments.
I was a freshman in high school when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, stage 2A. After months of frustrating symptoms and an MRI scan, I sat in a meeting room with my parents on either side of me and a team of oncologists on the 10th floor of OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital on March 9, 2007, I was told I had cancer. One of the people in the room was Dr. Linda Stork, who continues to be a blessing in my life.
As many of my friends and family members would attest, I am obnoxiously optimistic and positive. If you want someone to mope with about the deep dark troubles of the world I am not your girl.
That’s how I dealt with cancer. I swept the fear, pain, anxiety and confusion under the rug to deal with at a later time. This was, for the time being, a helpful coping mechanism for 15-year-old bald cancer patient me, who tried to hold onto every piece of sunshine during those dark months. My family, friends, nurses and doctors caught onto this strategy. They also did not take long to realize that I was extremely curious about the science and medicine of my disease. My treatments became lessons about cells and the human body.
I also recognized that I had incredible privilege to have access to excellent medical care, an understanding that is painfully validated each time I travel to impoverished communities locally and globally, witnessing the suffering that others experience under similar circumstances.
There was only one journey for me to embark on, I decided. I was going to become a doctor.
This August I will officially be eight years cancer free! I am finishing up my second year of medical school at OHSU, and celebrate being healthy each day by striving to learn as much as possible and provide compassionate care to each patient I have the privilege of meeting. In the same rooms where I once was the patient, it is now my turn to provide information, strength, and hope when I can. For me, being a cancer survivor comes with a responsibility to love my life and to invest in the health of others. It is a privilege to embark on a career path where I will have that opportunity each day!