Clinical

Overcoming A Difficult Diagnosis in Medical School

Arman Israelyan
Published on Sep 10, 2020. Updated on Sep 15, 2020.

Medical school is all about learning to provide the best care possible to others. So what happens when you’re faced with a difficult diagnosis of your own? Today on the Osmosis blog, Arman Israelyan, a recent graduate of the Osmosis Medical Education Fellowship program, shares how he handled one of his biggest challenges in medical school: being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

A lot can happen during medical school: engagements, weddings, new children, emergencies, funerals… As students and future health care professionals, we are trained to be resilient and prepared to deal with whatever life throws at us. Life goes on. Almost everyone in graduate school has had to overcome barriers to get to where they are currently, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t challenging to cope with the unexpected. 

How do we best manage these “road bumps” during medical school, and in our careers? I’d like to share my personal story and hope that this blog is helpful and equally inspiring.

Osmosis illustration of a car hitting a road bump.

Diagnosis

I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma during my first year of medical school. It was truly shocking to hear, given my age (I was 26) and the fact that I’d been taking good care of my health.

Treatment 

10 rounds of chemotherapy total: six rounds of outpatient and four rounds of inpatient treatment. The outpatient cycles were easier to handle given the guarantee of going home despite all of the side effects. Inpatient treatments were much more difficult: from a psychological standpoint, given I’d have to spend two or three nights in the hospital for monitoring (never underestimate the benefits that your patients can experience when they’re able to recover at home!). 

Osmosis illustration of a medical student in chemotherapy, thinking about medical school.

Outlook

Imaging showed complete remission by the third outpatient cycle. I’ve been cancer-free ever since!

Action Plan

Like most Type A personalities, I’m very task-oriented. One of my first thoughts after hearing the news was how I was going to beat this and get through the year without having to take any time off. Once my doctor laid out a plan, I felt very optimistic. 

Optimism 

Weed out any negativity—don’t focus on the prognosis or the statistics. There are numerous studies which suggest that a depressed mood and pessimism decreases overall health, particularly in a sick population. 

Faith

As an Armenian Orthodox Christian, faith played a major role in my healing. Anchoring onto a higher being and prayer proved to be a great way to improve my mood and express my gratitude for everything that I have. Instead of focusing on the diagnosis, focus on what you are grateful for and how fortunate you are. 

Support system

Family, friends, school community, nurses, doctors—I am eternally grateful to my support system. Without them, I would not have been able to beat this disease. It’s amazing how people come together and do things that are completely unexpected. A sense of community definitely helps and you will need it whether you are in medical school, out on your rotations, etc. 

Osmosis illustration of a medical student with a support system.

All right, as a quick recap...

I’m so grateful for expert care and the decades of research that made this all possible. Some words of advice if you encounter a “road bump” in the near future:

  1. Be grateful for what you have.

  2. Remain optimistic despite what anyone tells you.

  3. Appreciate every opportunity and give it your best.

About Arman

Arman Israelyan is an OMS-3 at the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine. Born and raised in San Francisco, California, he loves going on hikes with his fiancé and their Boxer/Ridgeback mix, watching his favorite sports teams, and trying new food and beer. Arman would like to pursue a career in Emergency Medicine, Pediatric/Surgical Oncology, or Interventional Radiology.

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