My Doctor Reading List

Monday, April 30, 2012

My week off

I'm taking this week off from all things med school related. I need a break and need to catch up on a bunch of administrative stuff. I need to catch up on my work, need to sort out some sort of childcare for Tubes for before/after school (my baby is starting kindergarten in September!) and just do some stuff around the house I've been meaning to for a while, but never felt I could justify doing instead of studying. Like organizing this one drawer in my kitchen that's full of random documents, hanging some pictures on the wall in my living room and preparing for my trip to Poland in 2 weeks. I also want to do something for me, like get my hair cut and get a massage.

Lastly, I want to develop a good, realistic study schedule for MCAT attempt #2 (and need to register for it as well). My definitely learned my lesson with being too optimistic. I need to make sure my schedule is not too daunting and has enough buffer room in case my son gets sick, to factor in in-law entertaining (they are visiting us from New Zealand for a month) and for those days when I just can't be bothered.

Anyway, I'm sure this week is going to go by really quickly so am going to enjoy myself as much as I can.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

MCAT - 1st attempt done

So I just finished writing the MCAT. It went as well as expected (i.e. terribly).

That being said...I feel surprisingly good right now. I feel proud of myself for actually doing it - actually writing the MCAT. And even though doing those questions that I clearly didn't know the answers to most, I did understand for the most part what was being asked - which is a huge improvement. I remember when I did my first practice exam, I literally had no clue what was going on. None of the questions made any sense to me and I would guess them all. I was especially surprised at myself regarding the chemistry questions - I was actually able to work through them and I think get the right answer.

I'm mostly a little worried about the verbal section since I got stuck on a really hard passage and then ended up having to guess on one completely (and it looked easier) but I guess we'll see. Also because I really have no excuse to do badly in verbal. I'll be honest - I'll be very disappointed if I get anything lower than a 10 in verbal.

I was a little tempted to void my score when I got to the end, and I DID hesitate for a second - but I still want to KNOW how I did and see where I stand, so I didn't. Anyway, I'll find out in 30 days.

Now I'm going to go out for dinner with friends, forget about everything and hope for the best.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I think I'm getting sick

Not sure if its due to pent up stress and general roller coaster of emotions I've been feeling lately, but today I had to leave the library (after a really decent O-chem study session) earlier than planned this afternoon because I was feeling like crap. Sudden on set of a headache, my throat sore and lymph nodes swollen. I checked in the mirror and my throat is red and tonsils have ballooned. I even thought I was going to puke when I got home but luckily that nauseated feeling passed after I sat on the couch for a while.

If my Saturday exam was "for real" I'd be really nervous now, but honestly at this point all I can do is shrug my shoulders and just hope whatever I have passes before Saturday because I don't want to be sitting in a room feeling like crap for 5+ hours.

Anyway, am going to eat another peanut butter cookie my husband made, watch Modern Family and go to be early.



Tuesday, April 24, 2012

This is gonna be painful

I'm so mad at myself right now. My first attempt at the MCAT is on Saturday and really, I shouldn't even bother taking it. I'm only really taking it at this point because a) I've paid for it and can't get a refund if I cancel and b) I'm secretly hoping for a small miracle that I guess correctly enough to get a 9. For the verbal reasoning section I might be ok but I know I'm screwed for biological sciences and I'm probably going to get a 3 in physical sciences. Seriously, its that bad.

And its all my fault. I had a course, which I didn't take advantage of enough. I had TIME which is a luxury and that so many people would kill for. I'm just disorganized and when push came to shove, I just didn't study enough.

I have some "excuses" but who cares? This is all on me and I've let myself down. I knew I wouldn't be prepared by this point but I didn't think I'd be THIS unprepared. I don't know why I couldn't motivate myself enough to study just that little bit more. I'd let myself be distracted by thoughts of being a doctor, browsing med school web pages, forums and blogs instead of doing the things I need to do to actually get in, like STUDYING FOR THE MCAT.

I know I wrote in a previous post that I'd not be too hard on myself...but deep down I know I could have done more, even with everything that is going on in my life. And it scares me because I wonder, if I didn't put the effort in for this, the MCAT which is so important, does that mean that deep down I also don't want it? Because I feel like I do, I really do want this and yet I'm NOT proving it. At least, I'm not proving it to myself.

I guess I'm lucky because I still have the time to redeem myself. I'm going to take next week off and try and come up with a reasonable study schedule so that I can rewrite some time in August - I think my worst mistake was thinking I could study everything in 6 weeks. So unreasonable - and not only because I have a husband and child but because I am not one of those that can focus for 6-8 hours per day every day, which is what would have been required for that 6 week schedule to work. A perfect study schedule (for me) would be 2-3 hours per day MAX with an exam day thrown in once a week for practice.

But UGH.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Studyin'

For my last 5 days before my first MCAT attempt am going to be studying like mad at a local university library. I found a great spot right next to a Starbucks and hope to cram as much info into the limbic system of my brain (the part of the brain that helps with memory storage and retrieval - see have learned something!).

Wish me luck!

Friday, April 20, 2012

This is a marathon - not a sprint

How true. I'll be honest - I really and truly thought that I'd be able to do what I needed to do in the 9-10 months before the next application cycle, because 9-10 months just seemed like such a long time - at the time when I started.

I naively thought that "all" I needed to do was to do a couple prereqs, the MCAT and throw in a bit more volunteering and I'd be set. Ok, I still thought my chances would be a long shot, but I thought I'd have it all "down" and it would only be a matter of waiting.

But its been hard - especially as a mother and wife - to just get those things done. Maybe all of the above would have been doable if I had been single and with no one to answer to except myself. That's just not the case in my situation and I should have factored in more family incidents that would undoubtedly pop up and take me off course and slow me down.

Take for example, me getting that nasty GI bug. I was pretty much out of commission for over a week. This caused me to have to reschedule my Bio final. And then studying for it started to overlap with my MCAT course. Which I then started to fall behind in. Then Tubes had the visit to the ER that pretty much took up the entire weekend (and caused me to miss two MCAT sessions - more falling behind). Sprinkle in a few more sick kid days, public holidays and just days when I didn't have the energy to study due to having to deal with many errands and other life stuff, its no wonder that I'm NOT ready for the MCAT next week and that I won't be done my prereq's for the one university I wanted to go to the most.

Not to mention the mistakes I made along the way. Registering for the MCAT course while trying to get my first Bio prepreq done. Taking Tubes out of daycare part-time to save money...only to completely lose those days for studying (best decision ever was to put him back in!). Not preparing properly for my MCAT course and letting distractions hold me back.

My advice to anyone who is pursuing medicine as a second career and later on in life, especially if you are a parent, is to prepare for it to be a marathon. Life does not stop just because you want to do something else with your life. Groceries have to be shopped for, meals prepared, houses cleaned, laundry done...your spouse will want to spend time with you, your child will demand your attention...your family and friends will still expect some sort of participation in their lives too...you will get sick and have days when you just don't want to do anything. And that's OK.

So I've decided to take a step back and let life happen without stressing over the consequences. I'm trying to study everyday, but instead of hoping to cram in 8 hours and cover off a bunch of topics, I'm ok if I only manage 2 or 3 and get 1 topic done. At this rate I should be ready for the MCAT in August even if there are days I get precious little done. Because being stressed out is so counter-productive - I lose my focus and don't absorb the material anyway.

So just like in a marathon you might get cramps, sore muscles...you might need to walk in places and stop for a drink. But at the end of the day, what matters is that your crossed that finish line. Who cares how long it took?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Catalyst

When I first started this blog, I alluded to some major life events that led to me taking the drastic step to quit my job and pursue a career in medicine.

And these were:  my second and third miscarriages and the toll they had on my health, both physical and mental, as well as the indirect affect on my marriage and overall happiness.

Its hard when you are 26 and have had 3 miscarriages. I always thought that the first miscarriage I had was just bad luck. But after the third one I started to worry that there was something wrong with me. It seemed so unfair, I'm young and healthy and I wanted those babies so badly - why did it keep happening to me?

Looking back especially after that third miscarriage I was desperately unhappy. Nothing seemed to be going well with my life, even though on the outside it looked great. I had a gorgeous kid, great new house, a handsome husband, a prestigious career. I acted normally around family and friends because I didn't want anyone to worry about me and kept telling myself it will get better.

However I hated my job (and was stuck with it as I had signed a commitment to stay for 2 years in return for my relocation costs from Australia) but had no idea what else I would want to do. Nothing CA related really appealed to me. I felt a bit desperate about my future and hated the uncertainty of what I should do with my life. In a sense the pregnancy was a bit of a relief as I thought it would buy me time to think about it.

Then I had that third miscarriage and never really properly had time to grieve it (nor the one before it). I had the D&C on a Friday and was back at work on the Monday, having convinced myself that I needed to get on with my life as soon as possible (and because I felt guilty having had already taken a week off because of all my doctors visits, ultrasounds etc). Looking back, I think I was legitimately depressed. The amount of times I broke down crying at work would be embarrassing if I hadn't gone through what I had and I really had a hard time keeping it together.

The emotional toll the miscarriage had compounded the unhappiness I felt from my dislike of my job. Jordan, I think just felt a bit helpless because I was constantly sad - and bitching about how I hate my job, how there was something wrong with me that I couldn't seem to stay pregnant. It definitely took a toll on our marriage for a while because I started to internalize my feelings when I noticed how he seemed to be a bit tired of hearing me complain about it. And I resented him for it.

At the time I started this blog, I just wasn't ready to talk about it yet, other than with a few close friends and family and just didn't want it to be "public" knowledge. I was still just too raw emotionally and needed time to do its thing before I could discuss it.

Its weird how things work out. If I hadn't had those miscarriages maybe I wouldn't have quit. Maybe I wouldn't have been pushed to my emotional limits so much that I couldn't bare it anymore. I probably wouldn't have been pushed to such an uncomfortable state in my life that I had to change it. For the first time I started to think about what I really, really wanted to do and I kept coming back to medicine.

So in many ways that miscarriage was the catalyst for making this change and putting me on this course. It has also made my marriage stronger as I saw just how much Jordan's support of everything has meant to me - what great evidence of how much he loves me and wants me to be happy. Because let me tell you, supporting your spouse through such a commitment is HARD. And yet he has not wavered with his support. He told me that he's willing to move wherever I get in, be it Kingston, Ontario or back to Australia.

Even if it doesn't work out I feel like the process has been healing for me in many ways and I'm grateful for that.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Some positive news

One of the reasons I've been feeling so discouraged is because I realized that with my lack of pre-requisites and potentially terrible MCAT score, I'd be left with pretty much one university to apply to. Its my second choice (but only due to location, the program itself is my first choice) but its also the hardest to get into in Ontario because of its favorable admissions requirements (low GPA min, only verbal score of MCAT counts etc) so way more people apply there than other universities.

But today I found out that for the 2013 application cycle, an awesome university has abolished their pre-requisites requirements AND don't have any MCAT cut-offs! Mind you, that doesn't mean I can tank the MCAT (they will have their own internal cut-off for sure) but just the knowledge that they won't toss my application because of one bad number is uplifting (and the fact that they take your best MCAT score only). And this ironically makes me more motivated to study harder. Also, I have heard that they really value extra-curricular activities highly and I think mine are pretty solid. That's one thing I'm really grateful to my undergrad for - we were required to keep a certain level of activities during the year, so at least I tick that box.

So all in all...feeling  a bit better about it all today.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Feeling discouraged

I'm feeling really discouraged today and having one of those "what the HELL am I doing?!?!?" moments. Honestly, the MCAT is scaring me so much that I've started researching other options if I don't get accepted here, such as applying to Australia where my GPA is higher, MCAT minimums are lower and competition (for international spots) is less fierce, but its also not without its downside.

The reality is that it takes the average Canadian applicant 2.7 attempts to get accepted - and as a "below" average candidate (I'm being realistic), I'm sure it would take me longer to up my ante, unless I'm extremely lucky. And I don't want to wait 3 more years! I feel like my life is on hold until I know if I get in or not and I can't "not know" for 3+ years. Its just not fair to my family, and I don't think I could take it.

At first I was really excited about the prospect of Australia. I've lived there before and really enjoyed it. Yes, it was hard being away from family and friends but at least I know what its like, and if I went to Brisbane, I already have some family and friends there already. I think I'd get a great education and luckily even if I were to do my residency over there I'd be able to come back and practice here in Canada without redoing a residency (in family medicine). Also, as the wife and mother of New Zealand citizens, I could actually get permanent residency standing in Australia very easily, which would allow me to do my medical residency training, if I were to not match in Canada or if we decided to stay. It also qualifies me for cheaper tuition.

That being said, after doing some research I've since found out that while I am able to apply as an international student and can switch over to being a PR/domestic student, the tuition benefits are not as great as they initially appeared to be. That is because domestic students get what is called CSPs (Commonwealth Supported Places), which are heavily subsidized by the government. But, the only way to qualify for that would be to become a PR first (meaning I'd have to move there first) and then apply in the same manner as Australian's - which is again very competitive, plus I'd have to write the GAMSAT (the Aussie version of the MCAT) and would have to physically attend interviews (as an international I could have my interview via Skype). If I were to apply as an international and switch over to PR status, I'd only qualify for a "full-fee" paying spot, which is still very expensive (and more than in Canada). I'm still trying to determine exactly what the cost of doing this in Australia would be but I'm worried that if its too expensive, I'm not sure if I'm willing to do it.

I don't know. Maybe I don't want it badly enough. Maybe my struggles with the MCAT are a sign its not meant for me. I can totally see why some people would give up this dream because, man is this hard.