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Page 596 – Stanford Medicine X

From patient to physician to ePatient

Chethan Sarabu chethan.sarabu@gmail.com


Last year at Medicine X I was told that a particular event was for patients only and that I could not participate. I wanted to explain that I actually am a patient, a patient with a chronic illness that affects my daily activities. I am a patient with an illness that significantly increases my risk for cancer. I am a patient with an illness I’ve spent my whole life disguising from those around me, including myself.

I received the diagnosis around 2 years of age and it led to significant social stigma as a child. I did the best I could to blend in and vehemently deny some of the obvious outward signs. I had to have surgeries that I was not fully briefed about. After a month in the hospital the most vivid and visceral memory is that of waking up in a recovery room with the driest of throats. I wanted to scream but I couldn’t. I will never forget that moment of feeling hopeless and lost even though I knew that family was around.

The funny thing is that my disease and denial of it drove me towards medicine. I had had so many experiences as a patient and wanted to be on the other side where I could share my wisdom as a physician. As I made the long journey through medical school and residency I still could not publicly share the reason I was there in the first place. It was all driven by my chronic problem but I would not let that condition speak out.

Then I attended my first Medicine X conference and I saw the power of the ePatient community. It inspired me to reach out and connect with others who might have my condition but I retreated back to my old ways of keeping my illness under wraps.

When I was told that I was not a patient I realized that there is often a false dichotomy between physician and patient. Many physicians I know have gone into medicine because of personal illness they themselves have had. Ultimately even though we all have specific roles we play we are all human first.

Medicine X has inspired me to move towards becoming an ePatient and connect with others who may have my diagnosis. I have not made the leap yet but would like to share my diagnosis with the Medicine X community and make the journey from physician back to patient. 
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