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A Rewarding Medical Internship – Documenting the Case of a Colorectal Cancer Patient with Hematochezia and Melena

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During the summer of 2011, I was a medical intern at 463rd People’s Liberal Army (PLA) Hospital in China. The experience did not only challenge me academically, but it also helped me mature as a person. My beginning of this learning journey was filled with setbacks and criticism that disheartened me tremendously, to the point of fighting back tears on the bus ride home. But, as I learned to find motivation from criticism, prepare research information thoroughly to answer the doctors’ questions, and brighten the patients’ day with a genuine smile and a compassionate attitude, I began to earn the encouragement I previously had not deserved.

I was also able to follow the case of an anemic colorectal patient who had both hematochezia and melena. My role was to confirm melena without relying on a fecal blood occult test that was compromised due to a procedural mistake. The task required me to integrate my research information to realize how medication could be confounded with disease symptom. Specifically, I was required to discern the black tarry stool of melena from the dark greenish black stool caused by iron supplement treatment.

Looking back two years, those seemingly impossible obstacles were just small hurdles compared with what I need to prepare myself for in the future. Obstacles test my ability to understand, apply, analyse, evaluate, and most importantly—create. Obstacles make my life eventful, for I certainly do not intend for it to be as smooth as a straight line on an electrocardiogram.

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