My Doctor Reading List

Friday, March 23, 2018

Women’s Rights

Today I’m going to a protest here in Warsaw. We are going to protest a recent government proposal, influenced by Catholic bishops, to further restrict the already incredibly strict abortions laws in Poland. Currently the law allows abortion only in the case of rape, mortal danger to the mother’s health or in the event the fetus has a lethal or very serious congenital condition. The new law proposes to get rid of the last condition and require that a women who is pregnant with a fetus with serious defects or illness carry to term. 

This is unfathomable to me. I cannot imagine what it would be like to know that my child has no brain or a condition that would mean they will suffer after  birth and die because their condition is not compatible with life - and be FORCED to carry that child to term, to endure childbirth and then have to watch that child die or linger in pain and suffering for an indefinite period of time. I cannot imagine being FORCED to give birth to a child that will be so sick or disabled that my life would be forced to revolve around their care. Because let’s be real - this responsibly falls to the woman, the mother, in the vast majority of cases. 

I cannot support this. I cannot stay home and quietly rage about it either. I’m not going to get into a discussion on abortion in general. I’m 100% pro-choice, however it’s a choice that I wouldn’t be able to make lightly. I don’t know what I’d do if I discovered I was pregnant with a horrifically sick child. I don’t know because I haven’t been in that position. Not only that, I come from a position of incredible privilege. I’m in a loving, stable relationship. I have a ton of resources - physical and financial - available to me, to support me, to help me. I’d be able to afford the best medical treatment and additional help. I have a family and friends who would be there for me. I have a husband who would be able to support our family on his own without me working. And yet. I still don’t know what I’d do if I were faced with it in reality and not in a hypothetical situation. But I know one thing for sure. I’d want the choice to be MINE. Because the consequences would be MINE. 

I value life. Don’t get me wrong. I know that abortion is ending a life. I’m not going to give the argument that a fetus isn’t a person, or that it’s just a bunch of cells or anything like that. To me, it’s a life. But the mother’s life is ALSO a life. It is the mother alone that faces the risk of death (childbirth is still a leading cause of women’s death all over the world), it’s the mother alone whose body is changed, often damaged, who will lose opportunities, will lose wages, lose time with family and friends and who will ultimately be left with the care of the baby afterwards. How is that caring about and valuing life? Life is more than the physical act of being alive, breathing and blood circulating the body. At least, to me.

I also respect the Catholic Church’s position. They can have the position of no abortion in any case. That’s fine. But what they shouldn’t do is force this on anyone. If someone is Catholic and chooses to submit to the church’s position, that should be their choice. The church has its platform, it has many ways to try and persuade its followers and others to adopt this position too. They can appeal to people’s consciences, their morality, their faith. But NOT to the legal system. In my opinion, if the church, with its incredibly strong reach and influence here in Poland, cannot convince people without forcing their beliefs into law, then that is their failure. 

Similarly with the government. If they want to persuade women to not have abortions, they should do much, much more to help those women during their pregnancies and after birth. Not redirect EU funds for aiding families with children with disabilities to antiabortion campaigns. Not banning children with disabilities from public schools because of the “cost” accommodate those children. Not allowing pharmacies to not fulfill birth control prescriptions because the pharmacist’s “conscience” is against birth control. 

So today I’ll be joining thousands of women in Warsaw and around Poland and demand that this law is not enacted. 

I’m AGAINST further restrictions on abortion in Poland. I stand with Polish women. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

A new why

Today we had our first day of new course called Addiction Medicine.

Hands down my favourite day of class so far to date because today we got hear and speak with a real patient.

It was so amazing, so informative and so USEFUL for us as future doctors. I've been very interested in addiction for a long time. One of my favourite authors is this Irish woman called Marian Keyes and her books though I guess technically would fall under the "chick-lit" category, are so insightful into this topic because she herself is an alcoholic and actually wrote her first book while in rehab. It was her book "Rachel's Holiday" about a 20-something girl who ends up in rehab after an accidental overdose that sparked my interest in addiction and taught me so much (honestly, today I felt like the book was taken from the course, it had so many parallels).

Anyway, one thing that I learned today that I didn't know before and was mentioned by our professor is that often addiction is masked by or overshadowed by depression because people are more likely to bring up being sad, tired etc to a healthcare practitioner but are usually in denial about substance abuse and won't bring it up. Often addiction and depression go together, however they are two separate diseases and that the addiction often needs to be treated first. Because treating depression on its own will not treat addiction and can in fact make it worse, as depression often has a therapy component that causes us to face certain feelings that are hard to cope with.

So basically I learned that when I'm a practicing doctor, I need to make sure I look to addiction issues if I ever suspect depression.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

When the novelty wears off

I don't know if its the weather (bitterly cold, smoggy) or because I had a roughish night last night, but I'm at a point now where the novelty has worn off a bit and I'm feeling it.

Don't get me wrong. I LOVE this program. So much. I love every class, even the classes that other people hate or think are useless. Every day I'm convinced over again that this is where I belong. That I was meant to do this.

But one thing I find harder is being away from the kids, even though this morning I was happy to escape. Last night's interrupted sleep made me grumpy and impatient and so not in the mood to deal with missing Lego Ninjago pieces, uncharged cell phones and a whiney toddler while trying to get ready for a long day.

However I just had three weeks off to spend with them and it was nice to be there for them. Timing worked out and I got to go to some school plays, take them out for hot chocolates and read every night. And it was nice not to have to rush too much to get out of the house and sleep in a bit.

And next week my husband is taking the younger two off to visit his family in New Zealand for a month and it makes my heart tighten when I think of them being away from me. I already miss them, tantrums and all. But I'm also a bit relieved that I'll have more time to devote to school. This semester is a killer and a lot of courses I have are front-loaded.

I guess I've been feeling guilty about this in a way that I wasn't when I first started the program. My oldest had an issue at school and I wonder if its somehow my fault because I'm not around as much. My middle asked me why I have to be away so much and when I explained that I'm learning how to be a doctor, he flat out said "I DON'T WANT YOU to be a doctor mummy. I miss you."  I feel bad about missing out on the trip to New Zealand and that my husband will need to put them into daycare for a few hours a day when he has to work. I realize its all because of my decision to go to medical school.

Sigh. I know this is normal. I know I'm allowed to be selfish and I deserve to follow this dream. But it doesn't make it easier.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Sigh of relief

A huge weight was lifted off my shoulders today. I got the results back from my Histology theoretical exam. I got 80%, which was the 5th highest score out of 117 people who wrote it AND only 30% of the people who wrote passed. So I'm very proud of myself. I got 100% on the practical, but it was really easy and most people passed (we just had to correctly identify 3 out of 5 histological slides). The theoretical had me worried because I found a lot of the past tests to be difficult.

I have my anatomy exams, both practical and theoretical tomorrow, so I'm not out of the woods yet. Anatomy is much harder in my opinion but I feel now that I have a renewed energy and confidence that I know what I'm doing.

Anyway, back to anatomy! Wish me luck for tomorrow.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Of course this would happen.

Ugh. I've been away for just a few days and already am feeling wretched for leaving the kids. My mom called me just now to inform me that my two year old daughter has croup. She has been coughing badly for a few days and my mom called the doctor (we have an amazing insurance that includes free house calls) and she just called me to tell me that the doctor diagnosed croup.

I really wish I could be there, just to cuddle her. My husband told me that she has been in an awful grump today, likely because her coughing caused her to have a poor quality sleep, and she practically dove into her crib for nap.

I know this is what I signed up for and I knew that my kids would have to make sacrifices. I know that my daughter is getting excellent care from my mom and my husband. But I want to be there too.

Sigh. Back to studying. Hopefully she'll feel better soon, once she gets her meds. In the meantime I'll just have to deal with a bit of an ache in my heart.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Moving out

My midterms are starting in two weeks, so I made the decision to move out of my house for those two weeks so I can focus on studying.

I've found myself an Airbnb a few blocks from where I have class and plan to hole myself up here and study.

I was hoping to get some studying done over the holidays and I barely got any in. First my husband and I fell sick and then my parents did. Any time I would try and get some quiet time to do some studying, I wound up getting interrupted so I just gave up the attempt.

At first I planned on just taking a week but when I realized my exams were earlier than officially posted (gotta love that shitty admin - luckily was mentally prepared for this), I knew there was no way I'd be prepared well enough.

Its hard though. I already miss the kids so much and can't shake the guilt tugging at my heart. Even though I know they will be totally fine with my mom, my husband and our wonderful nanny. They're more than capable of taking care of them.

Still. I do feel a bit guilty about being able to get the proper sleep and time to relax and get ready for these exams. They will be the first "real" test of my progress and I'm nervous. Not panicky, but still, nervous.

To make the most of my time, I also booked myself a tutor from Anatomy to help me prepare.

I definitely get a wave of gratitude washing over me when I think about how lucky I am to have the support that I do. That my husband was totally ok with me moving out - and in fact was the one who encouraged me to do the full two weeks -  and paying to live away from home for such a long time. That my mom volunteered to come and help. That we can afford our incredibly flexible nanny.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Reality check

I knew that being a mom and med student wouldn't be easy. That it would be hard to balance and that I will have to make sacrifices. I would spend less time with my kids, less time with my husband, less time doing things I enjoy (like watching certain shows, reading, exercise).

But one thing I didn't consider was the sacrifices to my studying and potential grades. I am a pretty competitive person and I always liked to be the best or one of the best students. All through high school, all through university. I never had a "C for degree" type attitude. And I'd feel guilty and angry with myself on the rare occasion that I did let my grades slip.

This has also been the case with medical school. I have a LOT of stuff to learn, and my classes are very demanding. I have two tests from Anatomy and one test from Histology every week. Both of these require a lot of memorization and learning of different systems and is very fast paced.

And I haven't been able to be as prepared as I'd like to be for some of the classes. Don't get me wrong, I'm doing well so far BUT I want to be better, to be the best. I wish I had more time to study, to properly learn certain concepts that I just get a rough outline of. I want to be 100% prepared for every class.

However I've realized that I can't be. That while I do need to do my best, my best might not lead me to be THE best. I can't. I don't have any more time available for studying. I often have to use time when I don't have class or lectures to do adult stuff, like take the dog to the vet or the car to get serviced or attend my son's Christmas concert. I can't study till the wee hours and then sleep in the next day. And that's ok.

I mean, I do laugh a little (on the inside) when I hear classmates complaining about lack of sleep or not having enough time to study. I wonder what the hell they are doing? I forget that I was young without any responsibilities once too - and luckily social media or Netflix weren't really a thing (read: time suck) so in many ways it was easier than today.

Anyway, back to the grind.