The golden thread

Maria Hancock, Second year medical student

Published in JHH17.1 – Stories in Medicine

I’m a second year medical student who is rooted towards the artistic end of scale, driven by a love of narrative, creativity and a sense of ‘the bigger picture’. My Russian heritage has shaped my love of language and culture. When I’m not experimenting with unusual flavour combinations in the kitchen, I enjoy swing dancing, calligraphy, singing and writing poetry. I also run the Bristol medical student magazine, the Black Bag and have been involved in writing and directing the annual medics’ satirical comedy show (Medics’ Review).

I lead University Engagement for the Bristol branch of Nutritank, a nationwide organisation of medical students who promote more nutritional and lifestyle education within the curriculum. We have recently worked with the National Centre of Integrative Medicine to run a Food for Mood course for students. We believe that educating ourselves and our patients about preventing illness before it happens is one of the most powerful changes we could make, as the power of food as medicine tackles the root cause of numerous chronic illnesses. For my student choice placement in my second year of medical school, I was fortunate enough to spend three weeks at Penny Brohn in Bristol. This place empowers people with cancer and their supporters using integrative medicine. During my time there, I was struck by the profound impact of cancer on all aspects of a person’s life, and how a doctor must look beyond medicine alone to support them. These realisations came through a collection of specific words, phrases and images. Reflecting on each day, I would write these down, and they formed a makeshift diary of my time at Penny Brohn. For our final presentation, I wanted to infuse the most memorable words from the clients I had the privilege to speak to, so I compiled my fervid scribbles into a more structured poem. I hope it can tell the story of the people I met; the final verse then offers my response as a student. I would like to thank Dr Catherine Zollman and Dr Derek Chase for their support, insight and wisdom.