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Monday, November 26, 2012
CRNA at the VA
As a new anesthesia resident, my first two weeks in the OR were with direct supervision from the CRNA's at the VA. The attending was in charge for both of us, and the CRNA was in charge of showing me the ropes.
Those were special times. I learned a lot, by working together and talking. In my excitement I talked with Gina about my future, and shared how after being a doctor, I wanted to paint, go in nature, and write in my twilight years.
'I'm not going to make it to sixty.' Gina said, in a matter of fact tone, totally serious. I was taken aback.
'How can you say this? How do you know?' I asked, in surprise at how this beautiful nurse anesthetist, in the peak of her career, the prime of her life, could have anything wrong with her!
'Because everyone in my family gets cancer and dies an early death. I am going to die of cancer too.'
At once I was moved with pity, compassion, and empathy for her emotional toll of having an 'expiration date stamp' on her life. I encouraged her not to believe it, to take what comes, and to live her life with joy as she had always been doing. Her vibrancy, her big blue eyes, and her smile were effervescent.
As an attending, I learned that Gina found a husband. And in her physical exam for her new life insurance policy, a lab abnormality came up. The follow up radiological study found cancer had invaded a large organ and spread to the bones. She bravely continued to work while undergoing treatment. She started losing weight, missing more and more days, and went on disability. She passed, barely making it to fifty. Her internal 'story' was right.
Metaphysically, what is going on here? Gina is an example of a 'tribal belief'. In growing up, she must have heard countless times, 'we all die of cancer. we all die young.' and gone to a lot of funerals. Somehow it got into her belief system that she would succumb to the disease too.
A tribal belief is something that we get from growing up in an extended family. It is a motto, a creed. Imagine the mafia or the cabal, and the 'tribal beliefs' that must have been passed down to them.
Did they have a choice? Do you recall Michael Corleone and his questioning his fate?
The most important thing to know about tribal beliefs is to know that they exist, and to examine them. You have a choice as to whether you wish to believe in them or not. Only you can decide what is right for you. Even if you grow up in a cancer family. For example, some families with a high risk of colon cancer have annual colonoscopies from a young age, to be proactive about it. They are not as accepting of their genetic risk as Gina's family. Everyone has a choice, a path to follow, something that is right for them. Sometimes there is pressure from the family to accept the tribal belief. Sometimes there is guilt. Both of these are not based on spirit and the heart. Free yourself from anything you have not consciously decided is the right belief for you.
This concept of tribal belief is from Christel Nani, RN, who worked in the ER in NY, and became a Medical Intuitive. She was a pioneer in the 1990's. I greatly admire her work.