I wonder if I will still hate Sunday nights when I retire. I’m quite sure that I am not the only one who feels this way. Sundays used to be a day of rest—perhaps for some it still is. But for me, it’s panic day. So very much to do, so little time to do it. I just came in from grooming and feeding the horses, brushing three deerhounds, clipping forty-eight dog toenails and then cleaning the results off the garage floor, it’s almost 7 and I haven’t showered or washed my hair or paid the bills. Damn it, the leftover turkey is gone and I have nothing in the house to take for lunch tomorrow. Run to the store. Oh, no gas in the car? Damn it. Most Sunday nights I stay up til 1 or 2 am, because that’s what it takes to get ready for Monday.
This particular Sunday night panic is even worse than usual, because it is coming after I have had an entire week off work. I briefly check the list of things that I had promised myself I would do during my week off, most importantly, as I mentioned in a previous post, get rid of many of the superfluous belongings I have accumulated in the last 15 years. In this task I failed, despite my father presenting me with the gift of one of his favorite books, entitled “Clutter’s Last Stand”, likely destined in my hands to become another piece of clutter. I had even planned to take a picture of my three now adult children for a Christmas card (wishful thinking, I know) since they were all home and actually in one place at the same time—well that idea was roundly vetoed with painful choruses of “you gotta be kidding me!” Which prompted me to remind my daughter of her childhood girlfriend’s family, the parents and six children, still dressing up each year in matching outfits with a theme—I’ll never forget the eight matching red and white Ducati motorcycles, with matching leather outfits, and their matching long blond hair flowing as they simultaneously shook their ringlets out of their helmets, but I digress. Some things you just can’t compete with. At least the white table cloth and napkins that were hiding out in the rarely used dining room are finally washed and put away.
Re-entry is always tough—take it from NASA. I’ve learned over the years to try not to think too much about my patients and my staff when I am off, otherwise it’s not a true break from the routine. But being away from cancer patients for a week is a double edged sword. Oncologists tend over time to become, in the words of that old Pink Floyd song, “comfortably numb.” Coming back to work after a week or two off is like reentering a world where the colors of panic and pain and sorrow are suddenly more vivid, and more deeply felt. It takes a few hours, or even a day to get back into the rhythm of the cancer center, and then suddenly, it’s like I never left— “just another manic Monday.” Thirty times tomorrow, I will open an electronic chart on my desktop, walk into an exam room, and say, “How are you feeling today, and how was your Thanksgiving?” I hope they had a nice holiday. I know that I did.