Coffee With A Doc
Medical oncologist Dr Arun Warrier is a foodie, book-lover, movie buff and travel enthusiastBy Deepti Deepak Varma
“An oncologist doesn’t have a life outside of work,” a renowned oncologist once told me. Back then I thought it was true, for oncologists do spend most of their time within hospital walls dealing with ailing patients. So it is hard to stay positive or have a social life, right?
Allow Dr. Arun Warrier, Consultant Medical Oncologist, Aster Medcity, Kochi, to show you otherwise. A busy man with an ever-smiling face, Dr. Warrier carved out some time from his schedule to share snippets of his life with us. Here’s a snatch of our conversation:
What inspired you to take up medicine?
Well, it has to be the fact that I grew up in a family of doctors and was exposed to all aspects of the medical profession from a very young age. And although getting into the field was not easy as pie back then, the hard work seemed worthwhile when I looked at the possibilities and opportunities the profession offered. For me, becoming a doctor seemed the best way to connect with and give back to the society I lived in.
With over 10 years of experience in medical oncology, what would you say is the best part of your profession?
Medical oncologists are the lynchpin of the oncology field. They are the ones who are there with cancer patients throughout the arduous journey of battling cancer, right from diagnosis and prolonged chemotherapy sessions to followups; medical oncologists don the hat of not only a doctor but also that of a caregiver, counselor, teacher, and sometimes, even a philosopher! Constantly coordinating the link between diagnostic, surgical and radiation oncologists, and patient care—it is that very interaction which is the best part of my job.
If not a doctor, what would you have been?
I probably would have been an English professor! I love reading, and being a professor would have given me the opportunity to read scores of books, discuss the various nuances of literature, engage in teaching youth, and who knows, I could have even written a book! chuckles.
Please share with us an anecdote from your life journey that has created a deep impact on you.
Just a few years after my studies, when I was a fresh oncologist, there was a lady patient of mine who came for a review three years after she had undergone extensive treatment for advanced stages of breast cancer. I expressed my unhappiness at the delay and asked for the whys and wherefores. All she said then was: ‘I didn’t come earlier because my children were preparing for entrance examinations. I was apprehensive about any interruptions or unpleasantness popping up; it would have had an adverse effect on them and their academics. So I chose to continue my medication while staying home and helping them prepare.
And I’m on top of the world right now as my daughter has enrolled for MBBS in JIPMER, Puducherry, and my son has cleared the IIT entrance! It’s also safe to say I’m no longer afraid about any medical tests or their results, and I promise I’ll be regular for follow-ups and reviews.’ I couldn’t embrace the situation immediately, and I sent her in for investigations, all of which came back normal; she continues to live a cancer-free life even today. Her talks were food for thought for me, and it really led me to think that there is a lot beyond science and medicines.
How do you maintain a work-life balance?
For me, the tip of work-life balance begins with leaving work (or at least trying to) at a specific time every day. I swear by this practice as it ensures that the rest of my evening/night falls into place.
Tell us a bit about one person who has inspired you the most.
Honestly, it’s hard to pick just one. Each of my patients has inspired me in ways more than one, from how they face the diagnosis head-on to how they brave the rigorous treatment procedures.
At the end of a long day, how do you unwind?
I slip into what I call my ‘ideal state of relaxation’ by tuning into the radio the moment I get in my car. I enjoy my drive back home listening to music, unaffected by the chaos of the outside world. Sometimes, I tune the radio out and ring up an old friend