5 Things: Pieces of Advice for My Younger Self

Don Dizon, MD

Disclosures

October 04, 2021

In Medscape's "5 Things" series, enthusiasm is contagious. Here, physicians share the handful of fascinations that they can't get enough of. From classic novels to overseas adventures to the cutthroat world of family board games, get ready to find your next obsession. Have a "5 Things" of your own? Email us to share.

Imagine, for a moment, that time travel is real. Explore the past with oncologist Don Dizon, MD, as he ruminates on his childhood, what it means to grow up, and the pearls of wisdom he would share with his younger self if he could.

I grew up on the island of Guam. I was the kid who didn't like the beach. I wore sweaters constantly, going from air conditioned room to air conditioned room, just waiting for the day I would be able to leave. I didn't want to be in such a small place. I wanted something more for my life.

At a very early age, I knew I wanted to be a doctor. During college and medical school, I realized that I wanted to practice academic medicine, and in that journey, I wound up back home. Now, decades later, I realize what a gift it was to live on that island and to grow up with the values it instilled in me. 

Here's what I would tell that kid longing to leave the island if I could.

Don Dizon, MD

Stop Wishing You Were Grown Up

I was enamored with the thought of getting older. When I was 10, I couldn't wait to be 18. When I was 20, I couldn't wait to be 30. You only have one chance to be a kid, a teenager — to make mistakes. For the most part, the world forgives them. Enjoy your youth.

Appreciate Your Home

No matter how many places I've moved or lived, I still consider myself a son of the island. It's what shaped me and gave me the principles I carry forward. It was the place where I grew up simply as a person, not as a minority. I was able to just be me, and my friends were able to just be my friends. In that way, I was protected. The majority of kids in my school were not White, and the White kids were from military families. Everyone was treated the same. For that, I appreciate my home.

Don't Take Support for Granted

My parents did nothing but support my dreams and ambitions. There was a time when I couldn't wait to get away from them. I dreamed of going to boarding school and of escaping. My mom is my best friend, and my father, even though he's passed on, still very much remains part of who I am.

Stop Running

I went from high school to college, college to medical school, and medical school to residency with just 1 year off before I started my fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering. Along the way, I met people who took their time. They took time to live their life, and time off before medical school, residency, and a fellowship. This time made them who they were and gave them experiences of life outside of medicine. Instead of running, be comfortable remaining in place and pausing to see what's around you.

Be Present

If you keep thinking about your future, you're going to miss out on what's happening today. I've learned that from all the people who came to me for cancer treatment. I've learned it from my friends — some who have passed on and some who are very much still a part of my life. Go on this journey with those who support you instead of staring into the horizon. Realize who is by your side at this moment. That's what really matters.

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