Nikhil Joshi, M.D.
Doctor, Author, Leader
Nikhil Joshi is a young physician, writer, and speaker. He is passionate about furthering his ability to touch the lives of people positively.

The Insistence of Happiness

The Insistence of Happiness

I catch myself in the midst of my laughter.

It was something they said on the Cleveland Show. It feels like V. and I have been through all three seasons this week, in the midst of endless football and a steady diet of Kronenberg’s. I caught myself because I had two realizations. 1) That the week after the week after chemo was so freaking sweet and 2) That I was genuinely happy.

I think back before this all happened. Months before I had cancer I found myself in the CCU (Cardiac Care Unit). I was on call for cardiology, on night float and I walked in to see the nurses there, and even though the night ultimately turned out to be completely crazy as can happen in CCU, I remember the nurses laughing at me being excited to be on call, saying I was one of the happiest residents they knew. The truth is that this was partially because I loved being on for cardiology. I find it much more straightforward than being on call for medicine, I enjoy the responsibility it entails and I knew if things ever got really dicey I could call Anand in a panic. Yes, having a brother who is a brilliant and some might say “workaholic” Cardiologist has its benefits.

I absolutely adored the nurses working in the hospital and they took such good care of me, from emerg, to the CCU, to the floors and now in ATP- there was always a kind word for me. You know what, more than that, throughout this whole cancer journey and my residency they’ve been loving, funny and kind to me- and if anyone has a word about these people to the contrary they are cordially invited to go fuck themselves. When residents start off one of the big worries is: will the nurses like me? Will I have to fight with them and other docs? I’ve always found that in 95% of cases no one needs to fight with each other and people you work with are truly wonderful. Sure there are 5% of cases when people fight- it’s healthcare, there is stress, there are personalities- sometimes people fight. But you got to pick those battles for when 5% is someone’s life or quality of life- that’s the only thing worth fighting over. Everything else is a pissing contest or pass the buck bullshit I have no fucking time for. It’s healthcare and patients- if you don’t want to admit the patient because you’re a lazy shitty doctor, I will admit the patient and look after them. And if you think that not admitting or passing on patients to other services is ‘winning’ then you live a small and very sad life and I hope you get an anal fissure and have intense pain while defecating.

But as usual I fucking digress. The point is that when they told me in CCU I was one of the happiest residents they knew it was both true and untrue. The truth is that I’m a pretty happy guy, that even when all the shit hit the fan I was pretty positive and upbeat about the whole thing. But the thing is being happy isn’t something that’s happened to me naturally.

I wouldn’t describe myself as a naturally happy person. As you can guess, like many writers, I’d actually be more of a grey melancholic. I mean Hemingway seems like he’s the happiest guy in the world in “Moveable feast” and then later BANG! I don’t know what it is about writers, but I’d say in my case it would be my perceptions of people, my endless need to think and dissect situations- these traits are not exactly conducive to making one happy.

But I am truly and genuinely happy now. And I think it’s because I insist it of myself incessantly. I insist that I be happy. Why? Because no matter what it’s the best choice of mood. Because you can either be unhappy or happy- so be happy. Life is short, and no one wants to fucking cry with you all the time. Life is hard for all of us, we all have our own shit, so yeah from time to time you can lean on someone, but to constantly just drop shit on someone- your wife or best friend or co-workers doesn’t matter- it’s fucking selfish and shitty. Now I’m not talking about depression here- I’m not talking about actual biological mental illness- that’s something different. I’m talking about the everyday existentialist shit we all go through, life and love and loss and parking tickets. That’s what we must rebel against, against the thousand reasons we have to be unhappy but the one reason we must be- because to choose anything else is cowardly and ultimately more difficult for ourselves. Because even though we all get shit, if you’re using a computer and reading this you are more fortunate than 90% of the world. But even, perhaps especially when your life is shit, and we all get shit on eventually, that’s when it’s really most important to be happy paradoxically- because if you can be happy and laugh during your worst days, then all the rest of your days are just so easy by comparison. And to be happy during your worst days is how you form character, show grace, and attempt to make the world a better place.

Today’s a day I choose to be happy despite the fact that I have cancer, and am about to get chemo. And chemo’s going to lead me to a dark place, and it’s going to be bad- there’s really no use lying about it- but that’s later. I’ll deal with that when it comes to me. Today and this breath, that’s all that’s given to me, and it’s my responsibility to make sure that’s enough for me and to put a smile on my face. And the person I owe this to is myself. Because one day I’m going to die, and that day is not up to me- it might be sooner but hopefully later than I think it will be. And when I do go I’m going to have to ask myself if I filled my days with joy to the best of my ability. And if my answer isn’t yes, then I will have wasted my life. And I can’t fucking afford that. No one can.

Lots of Love

16 Responses to “The Insistence of Happiness”

  1. Stephanie

    You inspire others….I truly wish you all the best.

  2. Michelle

    your most inspiring writing so far. You uplift people’s souls more than you will ever know. I wish you so much happiness and success in winning this fight!!

  3. Roxane

    Nik, we love and miss you!
    Your CCU fanclub…

  4. Michele

    You are an inspiration. I hope a vast number of people read your pieces! I’m in your camp.

  5. Sheri Noseworthy

    You rock my friend! LMFAO about the anal fissure…thought I was the only one with an over-active/vivid imagination. Love reading your blog. Good luck with your next round of chemo.[fist bump].

  6. Colleen

    You are an inspiration Nik , my prayers are with you always. We miss seeing you @ St.Clares ER & wish you the best.

  7. mary power

    I am a Nurse and a cancer survivor.Diagnosed in 2006 with liver,had bowel resection followed by two liver resections one year apart,and the wonderful chemo.I survived, 6 years now.Keep smiling ,stay positive and live life and do it with a vengeance.I am back to work three years now and kicking ass

  8. Len

    Hey Nik,
    Love your writing my old friend. You and Anand are like my lil bro’s. Keep smiling and continue to be an inspiration to so many of us!
    Love Len

  9. Ann

    PRAYERS ARE COMING YOUR WAY, KEEP A SMILE ON YOUR FACE. You are helping more than you know . Hugs

  10. Steve

    Damn right, fill your days with happiness. Good on you.

  11. Linda

    Hi Nik, shocked to hear you had the big “C”. I remember our chats in the WCWL office at the U of O before you became a doc, good on you. Love your blog and your writing. Looking forward to hearing about the lady in the blue dress. Good luck with chemo, sending very positive thoughts your way. xoxo

  12. Dana

    My niece who is a did her BN at MUN and is now in Thompson. Manitoba posted your first post on CBC to her facebook. I am fascinated by you and your very adaept writing and insight. I just lost a dear family member to Cancer..I enjoy reading your blog and your CBC post. I would also like to follow u on facebook. I think positive energy and prayers go a long way. I am from NL originally and went to MUN. Love home and I hope all goes well for you and that you beat the crap out of the bully we call cancer. Such a &^%$#! God bless and Merry Xmas my friend.

  13. Jackie

    Keep writing…’s fantastic an inspiring. Keep the faith!

  14. Len White

    What a fabulous message Nikhil! So simple in some ways, yet quite challenging on a daily basis. The essence of life! Thanks for sharing your inspirational message and trying to live it daily. Take care my friend.

  15. Judith Day

    I don’t like writing or speaking the F word, but that is because I really am a prude. It came naturally from my mother and father. I told my brother that I was nearly at the end of my bucket list, once I had written my book Judging Judi, but I am not ready to die yet, so he suggested that I start my f#%$ it list. Now I try to say the word every time I tell that story, but can’t get past the F. I think it was quite a come back. Take care of yourself and keep happy. Doing good deeds and helping others is the best way to remain positive, happy and healthy. good luck with all three.

  16. Stan

    Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could ALL speak to each other with such raw honesty. “Today and this breath, that’s all that’s given to me…”, and you define it well. Bravo!

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