—- Better or Worse? —-
Before this tumor struck me, I was once a professional athlete. Thus I’d like to think my attributes like agility, speed, and strength were above average. Playing tennis also requires much hand-eye coordination. Because of this, if I were asked to rate my hand-eye coordination (before the tumor) it’d be above average (I hope I’m not falling into the trap of the thinking ‘the older I get the better I was’). I also like to think that my mind was sharp, that I was quick to learn and spot things. When it came to patient care, I was lucky to have the ability to connect with any patient. Because patient care is the name of the game, I would think I was on my way to becoming an above-average clinician. If I were asked to list some qualities in which I were below average, the first athletic attribute that comes to mind would be my balance. I would often tell my wife that if I were to have better balance on the court, I could have achieved much more in the sport (the older I get, the better I was). In fact, my speed, strength, and agility were good enough to mask my poor balance. I’ll admit that when I was away from the hospital I was a bad listener. I would often ‘tune out’ during conversations when not with a patient. I also think I was a below average husband and father prior to this ordeal. I would spend long hours in the hospital devoting much of my life to medicine. My rationale was that this devotion was to provide for my family and because of that, any time away from them was justified. Since the surgery this has all flipped: anything that involves motor skills or athletic ability I am now well below average. In terms of speed and agility, the only running I do now is for therapy on a treadmill and I can only run with the assistance of handlebars. Actually, even walking from point A to B is slowed, as I’m often passed on sidewalks by slow walkers. My hand-eye coordination is diminished, as I struggle to hit a balloon with a mini-tennis racquet to my son Cormac. I hate to dwell on deficits though, as I know that through this I have become well above average when it comes to being a husband and father. I am now home almost too much for the taste of my older son; he sometimes asks me when I will return to the hospital. For my wife, not only do I make sure dinner is prepared for her every day, but I also put a lot of effort into listening to every word she says. I have said it before in previous posts, but this ordeal has brought us closer than ever. The one attribute in which the effects are unknown is with respects to patient care. I am currently in the process of attempting to return to residency, and have not yet been involved in patient care, thus I do not know how my medical skills have been affected.
—- What’s Your Average? —-
Hopefully this makes you think, like it did for me, about the term ‘average’ and what you’re above or below average at. Maybe you’re in peak physical condition and a fantastic parent and spouse, and a skilled Nascar-like driver—maybe there is nothing you are below average at. But I bet if you think long and hard about it, you’ll come up with a list with both sides filled in. It is okay to be below average at some things. Remember, rating yourself as below average does not mean you are bad at it, it simply means that half of the people in the world are better at it. But the question you have to then ask yourself is, “What can I do to make myself above-average at this?” For me, it took a brain tumor to improve in these categories; hopefully for you it only takes some pondering and some minor changes.