Two days I arrived in San Diego for the annual integrative medicine conference of the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine (AIHM). It was two years ago that I first came to this conference, then in Clearwater, Florida, and was introduced to the topic of integrative medicine. After years of feeling unaligned with the practice of psychiatry, I had discovered a way to practice medicine that inspired me, that made me honored to be a doctor, that made me excited about my work and the future. I had never felt happier or more fulfilled. The world felt full of possibility.
It was at this conference, in November of 2013, that I first noticed a strange cough. It did not go away, and six weeks later I went to the ER thinking I had developed pneumonia. After a chest x-ray and CT scan it was discovered I in fact had a large mass in my chest that was later diagnosed as Stage IV Acute Lymphoblastic T-Cell Lymphoma. Over the following months I lost everything I had been moving toward in my career and was unable to work even on a basic level.
A year later I was in remission but still on an intensive chemotherapy regimen. I had signed up again for the 2014 annual integrative medicine conference as well as the board exam, and even though I was very ill and not working I spent months studying for the exam and looking forward to the trip. A week before my scheduled flight, however, I developed dystonia and became terrified of doing anything or going anywhere for fear something else bad would happen. I flew down to San Diego, had a series of panic attacks in the hotel room, and got on a plane and flew right back.
So needless to say I signed up for the 2015 conference with a little trepidation. I wasn’t sure until the morning of the conference that I would really go. I am taking each day as it comes, and go to the lectures and talks I feel up for and take breaks to rest when I need to.
But here I am, and I am still not fully well and I’m still on chemotherapy… but I made it. And I am learning new things, and meeting inspiring doctors and healthcare practitioners who are opening my eyes to new possibilities within the practice of medicine, and I am putting my life back together, and with honesty and humility discovering a new future that may be even brighter than the one I had imagined for myself when I first came to this conference on that fateful trip two years ago.
I will keep this brief because, hey, I have lectures to go to and things to learn and people to meet and reconnect with. But I plan to write more about this conference and topic soon, and in the meantime please check out the AIHM’s website to learn more about this important movement within the field of health and medicine.
As a side note, thank you to those who signed up to learn more about my upcoming workshop on working through trauma! Over 500 of you signed up to receive email updates, and hundreds of you sent me heartfelt messages about the struggles you are facing. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability and I so look forward planning this workshop with you. If you are interested but haven’t yet signed up, please check out my blog from last week and sign up there asap. I will be closing the list to new signups either late tonight or early tomorrow morning. (But also keep in mind that in the grand scheme of things there is no rush—dealing with trauma takes work and energy and if you are not ready now, that is okay. I’m sure I will offer this course again in the future. When the time is right for you, you will know).
If you are on the list, stay tuned and you will hear from me later this week with more information!