The story of medical school has just gone viral. You see, when 27-year-old Paul Donnelly* was a third year medical student in Manchester, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer (*not his real name). That’s not the problem. The problem is that he finished the course and now has to spend the next three years fighting it from home.
This infuriating story is only one of countless examples where students have been forced to withdraw from their studies for health reasons. And although the feeling of being abandoned by your institution can be utterly heartbreaking, this does happen to a lot of people – around ten percent according to recent estimates. UW health mytime is a fantastic resource for students to use, to see if it is a viable option for them.
1. This is what happened-
Paul graduated from medical school in the UK. He had a great time, was accepted into a good hospital, and seemed well on his way to becoming a practicing doctor. Then one day he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a rare and aggressive cancer that attacks all of the body’s lymph nodes, major organs like the heart and lungs, bones, skin and soft tissue.
The treatment is called Proton Beam Therapy and it’s so precise it can be used to target tumors without affecting the rest of the body. The good news is that it has a success rate of up to 95%. But the bad news is that this type of treatment is only available in three hospitals in the UK, two in Scotland and one in Northern England. Paul was told that he could not have this treatment because there were no hospital appointments for over seven months. He also discovered that he was not eligible for any clinical trials because his cancer had already spread outside of his lymph nodes.
2. The treatment
Paul has decided to go ahead with the Proton Beam Therapy in Edinburgh. Unfortunately, this involves a two week stay at a cancer center in Scotland – more than two thousand miles away from his home in Manchester. He will have to travel to Scotland once every month for treatment. But that is not the only problem. Just one day after receiving the news that he might be eligible for Proton Beam therapy, he was informed that because of his condition and the disease progression he may not be able to return home after his treatment.
This was not just a risk from a medical standpoint, but also from an emotional one. He felt like his life was over and had thrown himself into studying medicine as a way of living again. But now he was struggling to come to terms with the fact that he may never have a career in medicine.
3. The Decision To Drop Out :
After thinking very carefully about his options, eventually Paul decided that he would not continue with his medical studies. He realized that while his condition was serious, it wasn’t an emergency and there was no point in spending all of his time worrying about what might happen instead of enjoying the time he had left (he has an estimated 20% chance of living more than five years). Now Paul says he is just focusing on getting better and enjoying life as much as possible – which right now means spending some time traveling around Europe with friends.
Paul says: “I’m really enjoying October and it’s great to be back home with my family, it feels like a weight has finally been lifted off my shoulders. I’ve never been one for sitting at home and waiting for bad news. When I was first diagnosed, all I could think about was medical school, but now that I’m not going to be a doctor any more, I have time for other things and to spend some time with friends and family.”
4. The Result Of Dropping Out :
After leaving medical school in the UK, Paul started working as a health care assistant in the same hospital where he had studied. But after three months, he became friends with a doctor in the urology department who offered him a job. Paul now works as a health care assistant at the Royal Oldham Hospital and is loving every minute of it.
He says: “I’ve been waiting for something like this to come along ever since I left medical school and I’m really enjoying it. I’m working alongside some great people who are very supportive and it’s so much better to be working with doctors because they don’t want you to make mistakes.” Paul’s advice for any medical students facing a similar situation is to go into medical school knowing that anything can happen and not get too stressed about what might or might not happen in the future.