Ever wonder what the day looks like for a nutritionist. Well it’s not a regular 9-5, but a great way to make a living and make a difference. So for me, the alarm goes off at 7:30 am and after hitting a dozen of snoozes I get up and try to give my day a happy start.
I have been working as a pediatric-onco nutritionist for the past 3.5 years and if I sit back and think about it I feel that same level of enthusiasm like I did on my first day in spite of the notion that a hospital can be a very cold and sterile place.
If you go by my designation then according to you my work routine is more or less the same each day i.e providing nutritional counselling to paediatric cancer patients which includes monitoring the child’s progress, creating diet plans or nutritional charts along with educating the parents/caretakers about the importance of proper nutrition. But trust me it’s soo much more than that for me.
It’s not just about telling the kids/parents/caregivers, what to eat and what not to eat. It’s more about the relationships I develop with the kids and their families which is the most rewarding and at the same time the most challenging part of my job. It is like a journey and well in my case many journeys where you start when these kids begin their treatment and go all the way through to the end which is either a cure or death. We, as nutritionists, have a unique window through which we get to know about these little ones, their stories, their struggles and get to help them when they are most vulnerable points.
Children fighting cancer not only feel sick and go through tremendous pain, they also fight isolation from friends, low self-esteem and the boredom of long hours of clinic and hospital treatments. But the bravery and courage that these kids show in the face of this disease is awe inspiring and this is something we all as adults need to learn from them. They have a different attitude. If they are alive they are living fully even during treatment. They still want to play and have fun. They want to feel better. Treatment is just a part of their lives and not the end of their lives.
I am even more inspired from the teenagers and love talking to them because they are super bright and funny and they do think that they are going to beat the odds which is very important. All the kids I have met over the years have wanted to live so badly. All of them have had dreams about what they want to do in life and I see it as an important part of my job to help them with this difficult phase so that they can get on to those dreams.
I love my job! I wouldn’t trade it for anything else and I love being a nutritionist. It is an honor for me to be trusted with another human being’s health and well-being. With that being said, there are days when I hate it and it’s not because of having a strict boss or having to sit in a cubicle for 40 hrs in a week or any other clichéd office issues. No it’s none of that at all, I hate my job because everyday I see innocent children suffering and sometimes dying. Yes, this is one part of my job I dislike the most. When people ask me what I do for a living, their first response to which is “ohh.. that must be soo hard.” But they actually have no idea about the kind of hard it is.
When I actually hear that a child died, my immediate response is anger and I don’t want to accept it. I was rooting so hard for him or her in spite of knowing that he or she had a poor prognosis. But you still believe that for each patient you still have hope. You just wish..you hope.. and you pray.
Sometimes you can’t find words to comfort the mother. It’s times like these when the only thing going through my mind is “I am 26 years old, and I have no idea what the real struggles or difficulties in life are.” Even though I am not a mother who just lost a beautiful child. I am not the sister who just lost her baby brother. I am not a friend who just lost another friend/buddy/peer. No, I am simply a nutritionist who lost her patient. Still, I want to give my patients the best day or week or a month of wellness regardless of their state of cancer.
Like every job, even my job has its own pros and cons. And in my case it is the hospital set up where I work. Being a government hospital, my hospital doesn’t have enough space and that is in terms of everything – no space for storage of supplements, no space for proper sitting arrangements like other fancy private hospitals. I am most of the times doing counselling while standing and making diet charts on my lap or have a pile of bananas or supplements under my chair. But all these things or struggles mean nothing when I see those kids coming to me with their sparkling eyes, shiny cheeks, wearing oversized pants and smiling while I hand out a banana to them. It is that moment where you realise that my worries or stress is nothing as compared to these children.
I learn every day from these children and the thing that keeps me going is that I know I am making a positive contribution to my community and society. By providing good medical care to my patients I feel like I have the opportunity to have an impact on others. For me this is a key aspect of happiness and fulfilment in life.
Mitika Kashyap, Cuddles Nutritionist, AIIMS Delhi