Updated: Sep 24
A handmade card from my daughter a few years ago.
For all of my life, I've had more than my fair share of blessings. Those blessings usually come in the form of love and support, and most of the time, that love and support have come from the women in my life.
I've received so much kindness, advice, love, and support from the constant stream of female communities passing through every stage of my life that it's been a struggle to keep up with paying it all forward.
From my mom who serves as a great example of resiliency to the sisters who provide detailed life advice, from the groups of friends throughout schools, colleges, and medical school to volleyball teammates and scout troopers, from the beautiful post-grads in all the labs who teaches me how to write research papers to the stranger in the bathroom who taught me how to wash blood out of jeans with cold water, there always seems to be a community of women to hang out with, to play ball, discuss politics, share recipes, teach new tricks, laugh and cry about life's victories and frustrations.
In the last few decades of my life, it has mostly been the patients in my practice who played these roles. Some of these patients can remember my first pregnancy 23 years ago while I could recall their marriages, divorces, children, careers, and retirement.
To this day, I still think about Betty N. whenever I pass by a pastry shop. She got me hooked on croissant raisin rolls because she would bring one in for me each time she had an appointment.
Reni R. taught me to let go when she asked me to stop the weekly blood transfusion that was keeping her alive.
Susan L. showed me how to live every precious moment by insisting on working as a housecleaner up until the day when we put her in hospice care for her lung cancer.
Sally D. taught me to be kind and respectful to the mentally ill by bringing in a flower for me with each appointment, even on days when she held loud arguments with the water cooler in my waiting room.
Molly M. showed me compassion by knitting scarves for the homeless while she was lying in a nursing home from her failing heart.
I could go on and on. I remember something special about most of the patients I've met. After all, we share some of the most personal, traumatic, embarrassing, pivotal moments of life with each other.
I always gain something, learn something in my interactions with my patients, even when I seem to be the one giving care, treatment, and advice. So instead of paying forward all the time, today I'm paying back, thanking all of these women for all that they've given to me and to the world.
Here's to the mothers:
To my quiet, hard-working mom who ran multiple businesses and raised 11 children through two decades of the Vietnam war, to Teresa H. and Eunice C. who raised amazing children amid nightmarish personal hardships, and to all the mothers who took the brunt of the pandemic shutdown to take care of the children, and to shepherd them through 2 years of remote schooling, even quitting their job and uprooting their families, thank you for your sacrifice.
Here's to the sisters:
To Tessa who shares my love of books and music, to Amy who guided me through college with her advice, to chi Hong who taught me how to cook, and chi Van who showed me what to wear, to the sisters-in-law chi Loan who taught me how to be good, chi Ba who showed me how to be kind, and chi Hai who is always generous, thank you for holding my hand through life's major crossroads.
Here's to the friends:
To Wendy and Michelle of Minneapolis, to Thuy, Tung, Diep, Khanh and Phuong of New Orleans, to Merci, Tamara, Yukio of San Diego, to Jessica, Julie, Hien, BC, Thuy, Trang and Lien of Irvine, to Kathy, Terri, and Jodie of UCLA, to Betty, Judy, Phoenix, Connie, Sara of medical school, and the myriad of girls who share my formative years, thank you for your joy, sadness, moodiness, and personalities, for your knowledge and ignorance and willingness to share.
To Chau who founded non-profits as a hobby, MK who literally cares for lepers and the poor, who ran for public office despite her own illnesses, TV who is tireless in community service, Diepy who won a Global Citizen award for rescuing trafficked girls, and other women who share my dream of making a difference, who continue to motivate and inspire me every day, thank you for your idealism.
Here's to the teachers:
To Mrs. Redmond in Edna Karr junior high who encouraged and promoted a little refugee girl who barely spoke English to the highest academic achievement of the school, to Dr. Nancy Feldman at Olive View who taught the importance of being conscientious and thorough, to Dr. TuongVi Ta who showed me how much insight a doctor can gain by asking patients about their personal life, and to all other teachers I've known, thank you for your wisdom.
Here's to the nurses and doctors:
To those of us in the healthcare system who have had to put up with so much craziness throughout this pandemic while struggling with our own personal illnesses and tragedies,
to the hospital nurses who had to come into work to care for the Covid patients while trying to protect their vulnerable families from the contagion: a child with leukemia, an elderly parent, a husband with diabetes, a partner with cancer, to the doctors who had to deal with the combative, belligerent family members who refuse to believe that Covid is real, who refuse to wear masks, who insist on hydroxychloroquine, colchicine, ivermectin, or whatever drug-du-jour their social media feeds tells them is the miracle cure of the month, and who are always threatening to sue everyone in sight, thank you for your courage and patience.
Here's to the warriors:
To Arlene M. the detective who became a policewoman because she was tired of the abuse in her own family, to Sonia A. of LA family housing, Jackie M. of the FBI, to Tiffany P. the public defender, Barbara Ferrer of LA public health who I see at vaccination sites every weekend throughout the pandemic, and other social justice warriors who head to the front lines every day, thank you for your grit.
Here's to the creators:
To Paulette M. the famous jazz singer, Rebecca B. chef extraordinaire, Maria M. the graphic designer, Amelia A. the writer, Lan P. architect of skyscrapers, amusement parks, and other artists everywhere, thank you for the beauty you bring to the world.
Here's to the businesswomen:
To Christine L., one of the first women programmers at IBM, Lori Z headmaster of a high school, Nadine N. who was the CEO of a tech think tank, Gloria B. administrator of nursing schools, to Pamela J., Tina S. and Claudia L small business owners, and other women forging their way through glass ceilings everywhere, thank you for your strength.
All these women and many many others I've known throughout my life provide me with the structure of my being. I build the backbone, the muscle, and the sinews of my soul with what they gave me. They, the community of women who sends their love out to the world in various ways, are what keep me going year after year so that I can be, in turn, the Gibraltar rock that other women can lean on in times of need.
Happy Women's Day !!!