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29 September 2006 @ 10:43 am
One of my favorite books as a kid was called Miss Rumphius. Miss Rumphius was about a woman who went through the country side dropping flower seeds wherever she went and brought so much pleasure to the world around her.

Yesterday, I bought a bag of chocolate truffles and handed them out throughout the day to people who seemed like they might need them. I had so much fun. It always amazes me the power of a small gesture to bring a smile to someone's face.

I want to live my life personally/ professionally with this philosophy. This is not to say that I want to give out candy to my patients as they leave my office (that would be a problem for me because I would end up eating all the candy myself). Rather I hope that the comfort I can offer my patients will plant a small seed of reassurance, that can bloom into something larger.
Current Location: School
Current Mood: so glad it is friday
22 September 2006 @ 08:03 pm
Thinking back over the past few years friends of our family have often referred to it as the perfect storm. And they're right there has been a lot of **big** stuff going on. And yet, when people ask me how I made it through, how I've managed to do as well as I am --the answer is simple the love of my family and friends and being able to love them in return gets me through.

I remember when I was sick and hurting my sister didn't know what to do, so she did what came naturally to her, she crawled into bed with me and held me.

I remember when I was with my grandmother at the hospital the night that the doctor's first suspected she had pancreatic cancer. I didn't know what else to do but crawl into bed and hold her.

I remember the tenderness with which my dad carried me down the stairs when I couldn't make it myself.

And so my thoughts for this evening are this, physical and emotional challenges are difficult to say the least. There are tons of ways out there to get help, but all the modern medicine, self help books or pints of Ben and Jerry's pale in comparison to the power of love to get one through.
Current Mood: Its Friday...what could be bad
19 September 2006 @ 07:57 am
So I just parked in my first handicap spot ever and it left me viscerally ill. Yesterday I felt a moment of relief as I shleped my aching body down to the mailbox and found that after a month the department of transportation had finally gotten their act together to send me this thing. Today as I fought to get it over my rearview mirror I resisted the urge to throw the thing out the window. Balancing one's emotions with the reality of life is so complex.
17 September 2006 @ 11:00 am
So I was sitting in a coffee shop this morning half studying orgo, half listening on a conversation about college applications between parents and their son-- a senior in high school. I was thinking about how much I could garner from their conversation about their family. The father seemed to be only half listening to the son, he was directing the conversation. Although he wasn't speaking in directives "you should go here" or "you will go here" there was something about his tone, his confidence that suggested he knew what was best for his son. His son spent more time saying "you're right" than asserting himself. His son wanted to go south and his father kept talking about schools in the northeast and the mid-west. His mother was silent through all of this except to wonder about support systems at the various schools.

So in the half hour that I observed their conversation, I formed the probably generalized at least partially wrong impressions that these were two parents who really cared about their son, but still weren't ready to grant him the autonomy that he would be assuming as an adult in just about a year.

I really don't know anything about these people, I'll probably never see them again. But those 30 minutes gave me a small window into their lives.

I was thinking about the fact that doctors generally have less than 15 minutes to spend with a patient at an appointment. During that appointment not only are they evaluating physical problems, but they are looking for subtle, unspoken clues about the patient's life. Do they manifest signs of depression? Are there problems in his or her personal or occupational life that may be effecting their physical health without them knowing? Is the patient being truthful with the doctor? These and many others are all snap judgements that a doctor must make and decide whether or not to pursue.

I wonder how will it feel at night to go home knowing that you have done the best you can, but that you have made decisions based on windows into people's lives that may profoundly effect the course of their lives. My guess is, it is a huge privilege to be trusted with the windows you do get--since they are often a person's most vulnerable details and a huge responsibility to be the best detective you can be and make the most informed decisions.

But only time will tell...
Current Location: the usual
Current Mood: non-descript
15 September 2006 @ 05:26 pm
and on and on and on.

Spent a ton of time on organic nomenclature today. Although there are a lot of little details that I keep forgetting there is something reassuring about the logic and patterns to it. Our professor keeps mentioning how arbitrary the naming system is, a point I totally agree with as I struggle with some compounds. Yet, I find comfort in the arbitrary guidelines. The guidelines are designed to give a definite answer with no ambiguity. It sounds trite but I wish more of my life was like that.

Paul Klee has a quote "Becoming is better than being" which I guess is meant to get you to live in the moment--the process. I've talked about "the process" ad nauseum here. But today, there was something nice about figuring out the names of the compounds and being able to state them with no ambiguity.

Ironically, I think a lot of people are drawn to science by this point. The idea that there is a right and wrong answer is appealing to anyone who exists in a world of uncertainty (that would be everyone). The irony, however, is that while introductory science may have right or wrong answers....the real world of science..medical or otherwise does not.

This ambiguity is part of what initially attracted me to medicine because it meant that medicine required a large amount of problem solving. And yet, today it was nice to wrap everything up in nice little bows.

Maybe it was just a nice conclusive way to start the weekend.
Current Mood: satisfiedsatisfied
12 September 2006 @ 08:56 pm
So I told somebody today that I plan to volunteer in a wheelchair community. He said oh you'll probably be really good at that, because you can empathsize.

But can I really? I've never been confined to a wheelchair for all of my waking hours unable to get in or out of the wheelchair by myself. I've never had MS or been paralyzed from a car accident or ALS or both of my legs amputated or any of the plethora of other things these patients may have. I've never been confined to an institution for months or years on end. In fact, the longest I was in the hospital even at my sickest was 1 week.

I didn't grow up not living with my family because they physically couldn't take care of me or was married to someone who had to be in an institution because I couldn't take care of him.

Sure, ok. I have a disease, I have a disability, I walk with a cane. But first and foremost I'm a human being. But really I think of all these patients as people, as individuals, who happen to be in a wheelchair whose life happens to be mostly confined to an institution.

We all have ways that we can empathsize with other people. But I think when we do that too much, the risk is that it becomes more about us than about them. Sure my experiences with the medical profession will INFORM the work I do there. But when I interact with the patients there, I hope that it will be first and foremost about me taking in what they are saying to me, rather than me saying oh I understand your position. Because you know what? I don't and I have a lot to learn from them.

Its possible that my walking with a cane could make me seem more approachable to a resident than if I was not. I mean I think appearances of all sorts are hugely relevant to how we are percieved and if that was how they felt comfortable connecting with me on that day. That's fine. But I feel strongly that it is there choice to use illness or disability as a conduit and not mine to assume that we are coming from the same or even vaguely the same place.
Current Location: At my desk
Current Mood: I just am
Current Music: The banging of my drier
I want no one to read this journal and feel sorry for me...I have a lot of things in my life that give me joy and happiness and keep me going even on the tough days...

My family
My friends
My mentors
My strange love of mixing lemonade with selzer water
My love of my science classes (some of my friends can't figure out what happened to me since high school)
My love of helping people
My love of driving alone down an empty road with music blaring
My love of art museums
and so on and so forth.

The point is this: I have all sorts of things in my life, my illness is there, it is one indisputable contributor to my reality, but it is only one. My life is more complex than that. And yet, I think it is hard sometimes to present myself as a person with all these interests. How do you tell your friends that you love art galleries when you are too tired to go after a week of work? At what point do they stop asking even though on a good day you might actually be able to go? I guess it is a good thing that I enjoy my own company almost as much as the company of others. But my enjoyment of my own company only takes me so far and is only a band-aid solution. I yearn to be able to do things I can not do and interact with people in ways I can't.

Nonetheless, when my body is really tired and can't do anything else I don't mind curling up in bed watching TV on DVD's. It is relaxing and diverting and in that painful state it gives me what little pleasure I can get. Even though I'm by myself, in pain, I can find some momentary "happiness".

I think that when you have a chronic illness and still have ambitious goals you are intent on pursuing, something has to give. Right now that something, for me is being able to go out and do things with friends. Whatever free time I do have goes to studying, study groups or just taking care of myself. I hope one day the balance will shift more whether because I make it so or my health permits it. A medical career is demanding from start to finish, but I will pursue it and I will have a family as well.

In the mean time, being happy means taking one day at a time, finding the joy as it comes and not dwelling to much in that which I cannot have. It is sad that at the end of the summer there are dwindling supplies of peaches--but I'm hapy that apples have started to appear in earnest again.
Current Location: At my desk...again
Current Music: Dar Williams
10 September 2006 @ 05:37 pm
Dear Body,

Deal with it. This is your reality now and forever. Figure out a way to cope, but above all keep working.

Sincerely Mind

Dear Mind,

Take it easy. You require me to function. I require you to function. Stop thinking I'm just a machine.

Me: Can't you two just get along and mind your own business. Where is Descartes when you need him?
Current Mood: satisfiedsatisfied--weekend well done
Current Music: Silence except for incessant banging outside
05 September 2006 @ 05:32 pm
Well it has only been two days and already everyone is talking about the wealth of information we are expected to absorb.
Here is the philosophy I have decided to adapt.

I will not absorb every piece of information that I'm taught or I read this year.

Once I get that piece out of the way. My only goal is to push myself as much as I possibly can. There is no finite goal. This goes back to some of my previous posts about process. I believe the only way to survive the next eight years is to find enjoyment in every step of the way.

If I try to absorb all the information that is presented to me, my work becomes solely pragmatic and that makes it a lot harder.

I've tried to adopt this philosophy in dealing with the rest of my life.
I may never fully recover physically from my illness. I may never run through Central Park like I did one glorious summer or along the beach or what have you. But that doesn't mean that I haven't made progress in my recovery. I see it every day. I'm stronger physically and mentally. I work hard to keep myself functional in my daily life. I find pleasure in the little things.

Though I've not been completely "successful" in overcoming my illness, my recovery has been a success.
Current Location: At my desk, where else?
Current Mood: saturated
04 September 2006 @ 05:25 pm
Well..one day down, many more to go. But it felt good coming back to school after the summer. I felt stronger, armed and ready for battle. And, although it is a graphic analogy I think it is an apt one. Every day that I get out of bed and attempt school, I'm fighting one battle out of a long war. I'll have some bad days, some good days coming down the pike, but my goal isn't to win every battle, just (to use a cliche) to win the war.

I was relieved to finally start orgo class. I'm so sick of hearing all the hype about orgo, I just want to jump in and learn the stuff and see how I feel about it. I feel like there is so much hype about the difficulty of orgo that you never hear about the material in general. I started learning functional groups this afternoon. As I flipped through my book to look at the different charachteristics of functional groups we'd be learning this semester, I got excited.

Go figure. More later, its been one day and I'm behind already. I've informed my family and friends that aside from this forum they can plan on talking to me in eight years :).
Current Location: At my desk
Current Mood: excitedexcited
Current Music: Commercials on the radio-- yuck