I was going "back to the bucket" (go back to the original specimen and hunt through formalin soaked tissue scraps) on a tumor which I refer to as this individual's abdomen being full of "unspeakable evil" and the attending said "You did have a rough day on Wednesday" and I made some sort of chuffing noise, and she said "Makes you wonder why you went into pathology", etc.
Same attending, special stains come out on *another* abdomen full of unspeakable evil and everything is negative. This tumor looks awful, is everywhere, and as of right now, cannot be identified. On standard microscopy it looks like generic unspeakable evil, it's not forming patterns; it's hard to even determine what organ it came from. Special expensive stains are sent out which show... nothing.
From my internal medicine days, it was about halfway through the equivalent process that someone would say "mm... cancer.. bad prognosis" and I'd go "What kind of cancer" and they'd say "Does it matter?" or turf it to another specialty.
My attending, on the other hand, begins flipping through her encyclopedic knowledge of zebra and unicorn diagnoses, turns to her wall-o-books and starts hunting for other stains she can do to force this thing into the light.
This scab picking approach to problem solving is why I'm becoming a pathologist. Because when the stains came back negative, I stopped thinking "It's Friday and I want to go home", and started with "We're not giving up, are we?" It's because every pathologist's office is filled with tomes like "The Color Atlas of Bodily Fluids" and "Vaginal Lesions" and papers and slides stacked to the ceiling.
I just need to remind myself of that the next time I'm crying into a bucket of formalin.