Abaton 2015

  

Relationships with patients have always held a special interest with me. It is quite often that I go looking for essays and poems about doctors’ experiences, to learn from them how to be a better physician and how to cope with the things we deal with every day.

Years ago, I stumbled upon a little publication in medical humanities, and I told myself that someday I’d get a piece of my writing published in it. This year marks the third year I’ve had a piece accepted and I’m still as thrilled as the first time. Des Moines University publishes Abaton annually, and I always enjoy reading the pieces they select. The current issue, in addition to the previous issues, can all be found here. 

Year in Review: 2014

Following the sappy trend of reflecting upon the wonderful year that was 2014, below are my responses to 50 questions about the last year and looking ahead to the next:

YOUR 2014

1. What one event, big or small, are you going to tell your grandchildren about?

This was the year we welcomed our firstborn. This is the year we will never forget.

2. If you had to describe your 2014 in 3 words, what would they be?

Studying, sleepless, blessed.

3. What new things did you discover about yourself?

That I am capable of much more than I imagined, but also that I need to scale back some things…. sure, I can kill myself through working too hard, or I can relax a bit and be much happier and much more fulfilled. I’ve discovered that I rather like the latter these days.

4. What single achievement are you most proud of?

I am really excited that my writing is seeming to take off. I’m excited to see where that trail leads. That was always a huge dream of mine, and to have an outlet like in-Training to share my work, and even have an article picked up by Student Doctor Network was a huge accomplishment.

5. What was the best news you received?

That Ladybug is healthy. 100%, perfectly healthy. Having to go through both Medical Embryology and Biochemistry/Genetics while pregnant is not the best idea… you learn absolutely every tiny thing that can possibly go wrong. It turns out that hearing about such awful things like holoprosencephaly and the mucopolysaccharidoses makes you think that it’s inevitable that your growing baby will likely have one of those horrid things.

6.What was your favourite place that you visited in 2014?

When we went on our road trip to Galveston in April so I could present my research at the UTMB conference, we side-tracked on our way home to visit, for the first time, our long-lost friends who live in Louisiana. That has to be at the top of my favorites list, since we didn’t get to travel as much as we’d hoped, and this was a bonus state and bonus layover with great friends (who selflessly gave this 8-month pregnant lady a warm, comfortable bed for a great night’s sleep).

7.Which of your personal qualities turned out to be the most helpful this year?

Hands down… perseverance.

8.Who was your number one go-to person that you could always rely on?

David is my hero when I need one, my comedian on occasion, my travel buddy, my partner in crime, my co-daydreamer… my other half.

9.Which new skills did you learn?

I learned how to really use my stethoscope, and I’ve been practicing with heart sounds. I know this sounds extremely nerdy and not very useful in the long run, but since the sounds are difficult for me to hear correctly, to me, it’s a big accomplishment to gain this skill.

I am also much, much better about keeping my mouth shut these days. It’s really hard to do around friends who are anti-vaxxers or when friends and family members ask me questions about their health, but I’m learning discretion in my remarks. I have a feeling that this will be a very valuable skill.

10.What, or who, are you most thankful for?

I can’t just say one person and do justice to anyone who has helped me through the past year. David was my hero every day of my pregnancy, and my parents help us out so much now so that I can continue to pursue my dream. Dr. H, Dr. F, Dr. B-C, Dr. T, G, A, and Dr. C were all instrumental in helping me finish my first year strong. I couldn’t have done it without all of these lovely people.

11.If someone wrote a book about your life in 2014, what kind of genre would it be? A comedy, love story, drama, film noir or something else?

It would have to be a comedy. Me, waddling everywhere for half the year. Me, sleep deprived ^1000th degree. All of my mishaps in first year and the first few weeks of Ladybug’s life. Yep, a comedy.

12.What was the most important lesson you learnt in 2014?

How much I value calm, relaxed days at home. I used to be such a busy-body. Now I value my time to relax, regroup, focus, and rejuvenate so much more. I realize that I have to make time for myself, and it’s ok to ask for help–even if I just need a morning to sleep in and have one of the “aunts” come over to babysit. Calmness, the need for less “stuff” and more memories, is something that I have appreciated even more this year, and I’m ready to start downsizing and enjoying life more than stuff and clutter and tasks. Downsizing will be good for the long run as well… looking ahead to moving for residency.

13.Which mental block(s) did you overcome?

There were several times where I thought that I couldn’t do this…. “this” being, being pregnant and a student. When I got to the point where I got overwhelmed when I was slow to get ready in the morning, couldn’t tie my own shoes, and had trouble with getting winded just walking to class, I wanted to give up. That was really tough. I’m so glad that phase is over.

14.What 5 people did you most enjoy spending time with?

Aunt Sherry and Uncle Mike; David; Ladybug; and the other Aunt Sherry. All people I either take for granted, don’t get to see often, or enjoy down-time with.

15.What was your biggest break-through moment career-wise?

When I realized that I really was made for this. Every time I get to see a patient that really sticks with me, I am so glad that I chose this path, and this path seemed to also choose me. I am always amazed by how many things there are to do with a medical degree, and I am encouraged that all the things I want to do, eventually, I will be able to with all of these skills.

16. How did your relationship to your family evolve?

It became much stronger. I am ever so amazed by the intense love my parents feel for my child, and we have grown much closer with her arrival.

17. What book or movie affected your life in a profound way?

I grew up watching the 1980’s cartoon version of The Hobbit. When I was a bit older, I read the Tolkien books. And now, the cinematic adaptations have come to an end. While they’re not dead set on the book plot, I love all of them, all 6. But seeing the last Hobbit movie, The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies, was harder on me than I had predicted. Now that they are over and there are no more to look forward to seeing, it feels like a bit of my childhood has died, and this makes me immensely sad.

18. What was your favourite compliment that you received this year?

That my daughter is a great baby. I know this sounds totally cliche, but it’s true. The whole time I was pregnant, I was hoping she would be a happy and healthy baby. The first 8 weeks were the hardest part about being a mom, because I’m learning how she likes things, and she’s learning to cope with being on the outside. It was really, really rough for what seemed to be a long time. But in all honesty, she’s a great baby. She hardly ever cries; she gets fussy when she’s hungry, or sleepy, or needs changed. That’s it. We’ve gone out to dinner with family and friends, and no one can believe she is already as well-behaved as she is. I prayed so hard during my pregnancy that she wouldn’t have colic and that she’d be a calm, happy baby.

19. What little things did you most enjoy during your day-to-day life?

Once Ladybug goes to bed and I can have some quiet time with David. Everything is always so busy… and I’m of the frame of mind to “quit glorifying busy-ness”. It’s nice at the end of the day to relax and remember who we are as a couple, not as parents or employees or students, but as “just us.”

20. What cool things did you create this year?

I am working on a project for Ladybug’s room: a travel map of everywhere she’s been. It’s not done yet, but I love this little project and I hope we instill a love of traveling and adventure in her as she grows up.

21. What was your most common mental state this year (e.g. excited, curious, stressed)?

Worried. Ever so worried. Worried about how I’d survive the semester pregnant… worried that what if I had to repeat the year, or needed to take a leave of absence… worried that maybe she wouldn’t be healthy…. worried about how my relationship with my husband would change… worried about how I would juggle school with being a mom… worried that I’d made the wrong decision and should have taken the year off… worried that I wouldn’t be a good wife/mom/student. Always so worried, with no need to be!

22.Was there anything you did for the very first time in your life this year?

Of all the things I could choose, I’m going with this one: observing an autopsy. Hats off to the pathologists who have a stomach for this endeavor. While I was fine with the physical work that was involved, as I learned more about the case from the coroner, the more I did NOT want to know… and I think the “knowing” about these cases, and having to testify for cases as part of my job, would wear down my soul. I firmly believe that forensic pathology is out of the question for me. I cried on the way home that day–the case was just too overwhelming.

23. What was your favourite moment spent with your friends?

Taking Ladybug to see one of my best friends for the first time. This friend likes her dogs more than she likes kids, but she took right to Ladybug and I’m pretty sure the love was mutual.

24. What major goal did you lay the foundations for?

For a long time, I’ve wanted to be a runner. Even when I was in the best shape of my life in high school running track, I was mostly a thrower–discus and shot put–and running has always been a challenge for me. I do not have the hips of a runner… but I’ve wanted to overcome that and start to actually enjoy running. While we lived in Indianapolis, I convinced (conned?) David into running a 5k with me (The Color Run), which was tons of fun, but my goal was to run a mini marathon. My dad started running several years ago, and has run 7 mini’s. If he could do it, I could too. So we trained, and we finished! That medal is something that I’m extremely proud of. But it’s not enough. Not long after, I started school, got pregnant, and couldn’t run the second mini I had already signed up for. (Dad couldn’t run it that year. So I wanted to finish it, 7 months pregnant, with a shirt I made that said “For my Dad… (and my grandpa!)” and present him with the medal. But this was not to be. At 7 months pregnant, I could barely waddle from the parking garage to campus, less than a mile.) So my goal is to run the Derby City Mini Marathon in April of 2015, with hopes to keep running after that. I’ve recently found out about the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital mini marathon, and a series of races in the national parks that I really want to participate in, in the future.

25. Which worries turned out to be completely unnecessary?

Worries are always, always, always unnecessary.

26. What experience would you love to do all over again?

The holidays with Ladybug for the first time. Sure, she won’t remember it, but since she means so much to all of her family members, their reaction to her was my favorite thing about the holidays so far, and I’ve really relished it.

27. What was the best gift you received?

I don’t want everything to tie into having a baby, but she is definitely the greatest gift… I am also so thankful for our health, insurance, family and friends…. but if I have to pick just one gift that someone gave to me this year, I would have to say that the luggage tag that David made for me, custom with one of his photos from our roadtrip vacation to Glacier National Park, is probably my favorite.

28. How did your overall outlook on life evolve?

I have discovered what I want my long-term life to look like. It seems like so much of my life has been working toward just getting to the “next step”… high school, college, med school…. or just making it from exam to exam. Now, though, I’m learning what I want my life to look like when I am–finally–working. (I miss working.) I don’t want my child to feel neglected. I don’t want to keep my focus on the “next step” of climbing rungs on a ladder. I’m the type that is a badass at her job, uses all of my vacation days to their fullest, and strives to be happy. I don’t think I would do well in hospital administration or any type of work where climbing the ladder is expected.

29. What was the biggest problem you solved?

The biggest problem that I needed help with, especially once the semester began, was how to manage my time most effectively so I could save time, be less stressed, and make as much time as possible to spend with family. It was a learning process, and took awhile with trial and error to get down to a science… Now that we have our routine, I can study effectively when I need to focus, and once I come home I can relax and not worry.

30. What was the funniest moment of your year, one that still makes it hard not to burst out laughing when you think about it?

David made the mistake of telling me that his mind is a colander, and this has definitely came back to bite him on several occasions. This has made me burst out laughing many times, but I guess the story is only funny if you were there at the time.

31. What idea turned out to be the best decision ever?

Using my “last summer ever” as my maternity leave. I was uncertain about what this would mean for my career, but I’m glad I had that time at home to recover and focus on myself and my family instead of worrying about how a few weeks would affect my entire, decades-long career.

32. What one thing would you do differently and why?

I would not listen to the hospital staff about breastfeeding. The best advice I got came from another OB in the group practice that came to see me when mine had the day off–and he was male! I stressed out so much over breastfeeding in the beginning, something that is supposed to be natural. In the long run though, I think it’ll make me a better doctor because I know what it’s like to be in a tough situation as a brand-spanking-new mom with a brand-spanking new baby who are both learning how to fill those new roles. And, note to self: if I’m ever in a private practice pediatrician’s office, hire a full-time lactation consultant, and don’t rely on nurses for such services.

33. What do you deserve a pat on the back for?

Continuing with M2 without taking time off. I’ve wondered if I made the right decision many times, but pursuing this so I can graduate on time and move on with life has been a great decision for us, even though it has been much, much more difficult than I had imagined.

34. What activities made you lose track of time?

Showing Ladybug the world… reading to her, watching her learn and play. She’s such a smart baby already, and curious about everything. The days of breaks go by so quickly now that we have her.

35. What did you think about more than anything else?

Vacations and trips. I have had intense travel fever for about a year. When I was working full time, I could go about three months before I needed a trip somewhere to clear my head–even if it was only an extended weekend. I tend to feel better about myself and am able to focus better if I have had a trip somewhere new.

36. What topics did you most enjoy learning about?

Over the past several years, I’ve started following blogs written by medical students all over the world: Canada, South Africa, the UK, Australia, the Philippines, etc. I love learning about all styles of healthcare and medical education. What I find to be endearing is that even though the countries are different, the systems are different and the curricula vary dramatically, is that we are all going through a lot of the same things as we grow as physicians-in-training. It’s nice to see other students’ lives and how we manage all of the stress, the unknowns, and life outside of medicine.

37.What new habits did you cultivate?

I am not an optimist by nature. I tend to always think about worse-case-scenario first… and my lifelong motto has been “always be prepared.” So this year I have made a conscious effort to be an encourager. This academic year is stressful by nature, with the constant reminder that Step 1 is just around the corner. I don’t like seeing people so overly stressed when we are already pushed to our limits. Simple things, such as a smile or a hello or a complement, can really turn someone’s day around. I try to do that for everyone, every day. It’s made a difference in me as well; I’m not nearly as pessimistic as I have been in the past.

38.What advice would you give your early-2014 self if you could)?

I would tell myself not to worry so much. Lord knows I worried way too much about how things would turn out with having the baby and then going back to school. It all has worked out far better than we imagined.

39. Did any parts of your self or your life do a complete 180 this year?

The things that I worry about, and even worrying itself. There are some things that I used to care a lot about that now, I simply don’t have the time for, and letting them go has made me a lot more stress-free.

40. What or who had the biggest positive impact on your life this year?

Dr. T has played a huge role in my school life, and she’s been a key player in formulating what I want my future career to look like. She also has a family, so she is a great mentor.  I hope I can adopt her outlook on life. I have never, ever seen anything but a smile on her face. Her husband is actually in the first year class this year, so she understands a lot about what is going on in the lives of students.

YOUR 2015

41.What do you want the overarching theme for your 2015 to be?

Learning/Leading/Random Acts of Kindness

42.What do you want to see, discover, explore?

I am dying to get back to the mountains. Being in nature and not thinking about school or work does a wonder for my mind. I can’t wait to go back.

43.Who do you want to spend more time with in 2015?

My baby girl. I love her so much. She is growing so quickly and let me tell you, this kiddo is already so smart. I cannot wait to take her to the Smoky Mountains for her first birthday, to teach her all about hiking and exploring. I can’t wait to see how much she continues to grow and learn from now til then.

44.What skills do you want to learn, improve or master?

I still want to learn medical Spanish so I can optimize my time with patients. I’d still like to get better with suturing. I really, really hope that I can work my way up to being an avid runner. I want to be a great mom. I hope I grow in Christ, and love my husband well. I want to get back into yoga again, and improve my own health overall. I hope to start reading more for fun instead of just studying or avoiding fun reading. Improving my SOAP notes and clinical knowledge and experience are always high on my list.

45.Which personal quality do you want to develop or strengthen?

I want to continue to strengthen my generosity. Since moving home, I’ve had less opportunity to serve the homeless in my community like I did in Indianapolis.

46.What do you want your everyday life to be like?

Happier. Sure we’re more stressed because Step 1 is approaching, but there is no reason we shouldn’t still be having fun while in the preclinical portion of our medical education, the very last year that we’ll ever be in a classroom.

47.Which habits do you want to change, cultivate or get rid of?

My laziness. I’ve been so lazy this year. The habits that I cultivated while pregnant (take it easy!) have persisted and I’m working on getting back to the before-pregnancy mindset and being more active.

48.What do you want to achieve career-wise?

  1. Get a great score on the USMLE Step 1 so that when it comes time to Match, I don’t go without a job, and hopefully we wind up somewhere that all 3 of us love.
  2. Solidify my global health research project.
  3. Spend more time in the NICU–I really miss those tiny babies. I have much to learn from them.

49. How do you want to remember the year 2015 when you look back on it 10/20/50 years from now?

It is my hope that 2015 will be the year I gain more confidence in my clinical skills, and sets me up well for my first job, residency after graduation.

50.What is your number one goal for 2015?

KILL STEP 1. This “silly summer quiz” has taken over so much of my life and my friends’ lives, and it has such a huge influence on what we can do for our careers and where we can train, that I cannot wait to get it over with… and hopefully have a score that reflects competence, hard work, and dedication.

Projects

I haven’t written anything lately for this blog. Block 3 is already upon us. (Seriously. There’s only 7 blocks for the YEAR and we’re at the 3rd one already?) I have no idea where the month of October went, but it went far too quickly.

Here is what has been keeping me busy, outside of schoolwork and wife/mom time:

My sister-in-law’s wedding. Megan and Dustin got married on the same night as our annual Halloween party at school, affectionately called Cadaver Ball. I didn’t get to go last year due to being sick (from pregnancy….that no one knew about at the time), and I was really hoping to go this year. The wedding was pretty nice (given the pickup trucks that served as an aisle, the barn in the background, and the Jack Daniels’ label invitations…), we got to see family, and our sweet Ladybug was good as gold, as usual. It was wonderful, but we got home really late, which I hadn’t planned on.

Aunt Kathy’s Kicked Cancer Party! My aunt(-in-law) finished her chemo for breast cancer, and her daughter planned a wonderful surprise party for her. It was so much fun to get to surprise her (and she loved spending more time with Ladybug!). We are so proud of her!

My birthday! So this year has been nuts so far and I kinda forgot my own birthday. Because it’s not a big deal anymore. I’m fine with keeping this number as my “last birthday” and letting that be that. I had family and a friend over for chili (that I made), we ate a grocery store cake (I wasn’t baking my own cake on a Tuesday…), and I went to bed early. Such excitement, I tell you.

My article was picked up by SDN! And…. my editors have asked me to start writing a column since the feedback and viewership of my last article was so positive! I am very excited about this!

In speaking of publications, a piece I wrote has been accepted for publication it the next edition of Abaton! This makes my second piece published here.

The Biennial Conference of the Arnold P. Gold Foundation was held in Atlanta, and my abstract was presented! I’m hoping to get to go again during 4th year; maybe as a spinoff project from my Distinction Track.

Ebola Fundraiser: a professor at my school has been at home in Sierra Leone treating Ebola patients while working for an NGO, and has finally been allowed back to the States to teach. She has graciously accepted our invitation to speak about her experiences to our Global Health Interest Group. Ebola is ubiquitous in the news lately, and there is a lot of misinformation (or just plain BAD information!) circulating in every form. Because of this, and because the problem in Sierra Leone is so severe, a few colleagues and I have been working with the faculty at the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health to put on an information program for health science workers as well a fundraiser to ship supplies to Sierra Leone. This program took place yesterday, and we had a great turnout with lots of great discussion! We are hoping to raise some funds tomorrow night at the “Beers for Ebola” event at a local newspaper.

SMILE: I adore this program. Two shifts every month, I have the privilege to spend time playing with the kiddos in the hematology/oncology ward at our freestanding children’s hospital. This has been an eye-opening program and I have learned so much about the humanistic side of medicine through interacting with these kids and their families. I admire the courageous kids and the strength of the parents. I have no idea how they are able to cope, but they are an inspiration to me.

St. Baldrick’s: St. Baldrick’s is an organization that supports children with cancer. Volunteers (“shavees”) shave their heads to be in solidarity with these kids, while raising funds for pediatric oncology research. While I have the opportunity to shave my head, I think I will bypass that and offer to donate my hair to make wigs for pediatric cancer patients. I’ve donated my hair before, but this offers the opportunity to also raise funds for a worthy cause! Feel like donating? Visit their website at:

Systole: Our school’s literary magazine is now completely student-led, and is currently accepting submissions. I haven’t worked on a literary magazine in a few years, so I’m excited for this opportunity.

Heart2Heart Discussion Series: There is a group on campus composed of faculty, staff, and students dedicated to fostering humanism in medicine. This group is an umbrella for several programs–a chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society, the literary magazine Systole, and the Heart2Heart discussion series. Last year a session was held on human trafficking, including how to spot instances of trafficking and who to turn to for help for these (usually) women. This year, we’re working on having two sessions, one later this semester and one in the spring.

These are all the projects that I’m working on for the year, which keeps me engaged and foster my interests outside of medicine. Sometimes, I get volunteered for stuff that I don’t want to do. I don’t know who thinks this is funny or a good idea, but I am definitely going to have to start saying NO. For instance, back at the beginning of the semester, someone gave my name to a professor who needed volunteers for an event. The professor asked that information be shared with the listserv email addresses, and I was cc’d on this email. Since I had no idea what they were talking about and it didn’t seem to pertain to me, I ignored the email. A week later, I got a very nasty email about not having a list of volunteers yet. So I rounded up quite a few volunteers, only to be told the very next day that they weren’t needed. This was a giant Charlie Fox that I hope to avoid in the future.

This year is flying by. I’m having so much fun (But I’m still learning a ton and working really hard!). Overall, though, this is exactly why I love medicine so very much–you can do just about anything you want, from teaching to research to literary art to fundraising for good causes… it’s incredible. I’m still going to lectures, using an insane amount of resources (including First Aid for the USMLE Step 1–which I officially registered for today!), sleeping, playing with my Ladybug when I pick her up from daycare, and doing well in classes. There IS time for life outside of school and doing stuff that I love. I’m having a blast as a second-year medical student!

Returned to Life

This little blog of mine has been quiet lately… for far too long. But not without good reason.

I have felt more like a med school zombie robot in the past few weeks than I have felt like an actual person. We’ve had neuro exams, an ICM humanism project and exam, our final ICM clinical exam, the last few gross anatomy labs, our last embryology presentation, and… *gulp*… FINALS.

Not to mention keeping up with volunteering, being a research assistant, HEART meetings, and fundraising for Ecuador and St. Baldrick’s.

I’ve been exhausted.

And then, in the middle of all this, I got blindsided with the stomach flu. For two straight days I thought I was dying. Which resulted in having to push back a couple of my finals.

For the record, I passed all my classes! I am so thankful that I never have to dissect again! Dissecting is just not my forte.

In the few days that I’ve been on break, I’ve done a lot of sleeping, Christmas shopping, seeing friends, and in general being glad to be part of the world again. David and I took a short trip to a little winery I know just south of Louisville, and I felt like I was on a great escape because, for the first time in months, I was outside my general home-school-hospital route. Who knew that being just a few miles outside of the daily route could feel so much like an adventure?!

Someday soon I’ll post about what all I have learned during my first semester. But for now, this should suffice as proof that school did not kill me in the first semester, and I did in fact make it out alive!

Our Great Escape

We leave in the morning for our 2013 vacation! I am so excited! There will be plenty of updates with pictures, so stay tuned while we go “get lost”!

Monday we got our first choice in living arrangements in Iowa (YAY!). Tuesday I finished my cousin’s bridal shower gift, which is being taken to the shower for me since we’ll be deep in the heart of Yellowstone’s caldera by then. Wednesday we packed and attempted to get ready for the trip and the move. Today I mailed my brother’s 21st birthday present (yep, we’re missing that too).

This week at work has been draining. In addition to regular lab stuff, we (not me) decided to run two sets of surgeries and two sets of Flow in the four days I was working. Let me tell you, this was SO MUCH FUN.

Today was an adventure. My boss’ wife was in a car accident yesterday afternoon (she’s fine; the car, not so much), so I was going to be on my own for the harvest in the morning, with backup from M. We decided to start at 9am. Starting at 9am generally means getting there 8am to help prep. M didn’t decide to show up until 9:15am and then acted like we had never done this experiment before, so I had the privilege of starting out my day grumpy, stressed, and fatigued. I’m not quite sure what her problem was today, but somehow she managed to screw up our timeframe even though we cut out 3hrs from our original protocol. It was definitely not our best day in lab, and this definitely wasn’t how I wanted to spend my last day working with M. I was not full of grace today, unfortunately. C’est la vie.

But, there is lots of good news. By God’s grace, my To Do list (including school stuff) before the trip is completely finished, which is nothing short of miraculous. I finished going through two books I needed for my manuscript, and they have been returned on time (by the skin of my teeth). And I’m working on a few other things that have great possibilities. (If you submit a piece for publication, and within 24h you have a connection request on LinkedIn by the Editor… is that a good sign, or kinda creepy?!)

I am so ready to leave this mess behind, not think about moving or med school, and just get lost in the mountains. I think I am most excited about seeing the stars a lot more clearly than we can see them here. We’ve been planning this trip for a year and a half.(Well, really, David’s done most of the planning.) Happy second wedding anniversary to us!

Are we there yet? 😉

Noise

night sky

In my field, noise has another few names: background, junk. When we’re looking for peaks in a set of readings, we only want the significant ones, not all of the little ones. We ignore those. They are nothing. Useless.

Lately, I’ve been tuning out the noise.

I used to get up and turn on the news as I got ready for work. I can’t stand it anymore. Some guy jumps out of a boat to ride a whale shark. A weatherman, poor guy, has a case of the hiccups throughout a 3-minute weather story (and the CNN anchors waste 10 minutes talking about it). Celebrity so-and-so messed up (again). And this is newsworthy?! I think not. It’s noise. Junk. Useless.

My radio’s been off too. There is so much loveliness in quiet.

And, I have got to get out of the city. It’s driving me bonkers. I abhor all of the rude, selfish, dangerous drivers on the road. I am not surprised that there are so many “accidents” on the roads. I’ve stopped turning on the TV when I get home from work. I’d much rather put on some soft music instead. And honestly, I’ve been a lot happier that way.

We went camping a couple weekends ago (and I mean “camping”, very lightly) on my mother-in-law’s farmland in southern Indiana. With hills. And white-tailed deer. And it was quiet. So quiet, in fact, that was therapeutic for me. I hate, (hate, hate hate,) being woken up my the firetrucks in the station behind our apartment. I absolutely do not mind whatsoever being woken up by great-horned owl hoots, coyote pup yips, or a field mouse scurrying alongside our tent. It was the best night’s sleep I’d had in ages. It was so tranquil, so peaceful. So much like home.

I love the sounds of home. The horses playing, the fireflies/lightning bugs, birds’ chirpings, and the clean, clean air. Therapeutic, I tell you.

On my way home from work today, I ventured to turn on the radio just the once, mostly out of habit… and quite fittingly, Skillet’s new song “American Noise” was playing.

I need out of this city. Soon, so very soon we finally get our great road trip adventure we’ve been planning for a year and a half. I can’t wait to get “lost” in the mountains, feel the heat off the geysers, see animals I’ve seen with my own two eyes, stargaze…. I cannot, cannot wait. 7 more workdays til our trip. Only 17 more until I am unemployed and once again a student. If nothing else, I know what I want in my forever home. I used to think I could be a city girl; there is absolutely no way on earth I could give up the quiet for the noise.

Pay No Attention to the Woman Behind the Cells

In graduate school, I had one professor who we dubbed the “walking bibliography” during our Culture and Society in Healthcare course. Every time someone would postulate out loud, Dr. Potter would rattle off a string of books to look into, including title, author, and (I’m not kidding) publication date. And this was on a daily basis. Thanks to the lovely Dr. P, I discovered this book: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I loved this book so much that it now graces my personal library.

It's a bestseller for a reason! Go check it out!
It’s a bestseller for a reason! Go check it out!

I am so very thrilled that this book has been the hit that it is. In my opinion, there is not enough public discourse about biomedical research; there seems to be a veil that it hides under, the general public only getting glances of it when someone is close to a breakthrough or if something sensational happens. Examples of this would be the new MERS-CoV virus in the Middle East and Europe in the past few weeks, or the past month’s baby girl that has been “functionally cured” of HIV. Much like the line in the movie Wizard of Oz, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,” I feel that the same is being said about Henrietta and her ‘immortal’ cells. Focus on the magic, what is in front of you, and not the truth behind the curtain–that there is more to the story than many people know.

My undergraduate alma mater is using this book (!) as it’s Common Experience reading this fall. The Common Experience is, “An annual program designed to cultivate a common intellectual conversation across campus, to strengthen the sense of community at Southeast and in the region, to encourage open discussion, civil discourse, and critical thinking, and to enhance the reputation of Southeast as a regional center of learning excellence.” (From http://www.ius.edu) My Honors Program is hosting discussions on the book, and they’ve asked for me to join the discussion (via Skype) in Novemeber and April. I am so beyond thrilled that they’ve asked me to be a part of this!

The biochemist in me loves that people are reading about how researchers solve problems. The research technician in me is excited to talk about my experiences using HeLa cells in determining new drugs to use to combat breast cancer. The bioethicist in me is dying to talk about the cultural and social barriers that affect healthcare as well as the laws governing who really owns our bodies. I am so, so excited! But it also means more work–time to read this book again and assemble some notes before I get so lost in medical mumbo-jumbo that I lose all of my insight. At least this is a fun sort of work, and a distraction from all the chaos that will happen between now and August 1st.