Tuesday, 26 November 2013


My daughter has what can only be fifth disease. Butterfly rash, lots of spots/lacyness all over her. She's otherwise fine but we kept her out of daycare today because they are antsy about rashes. The doctor we saw was awesome - he was looking it up on UpToDate and we chatted a bit. I've seen him a few times and really like him.

Only 7 classes left this semester. Three tomorrow, one Thursday, three Friday, and that's it. It is utterly amazing how fast this semester seemed to go.

So far, I've had three requests I lead study groups or provide tutoring. I'm really surprised, to be honest. I'm not the most social person so I find it funny how many people seem to learn my name and feel comfortable coming to me for help. I don't mind helping interested people.

Next week I'm planning to hold an organic chemistry study group for people in my class because so many are freaking out about the final. I'll probably do that one on Wednesday. Many people are interested in that one, so I'm going to prepare ahead of time since I have a feeling I may be leading more than co-studying.

Found out today that I may be able to apply my life sciences physics classes towards a physics degree because my marks were so high. If I take the first year calculus I and II, I'll have what I need to be able to double major. The more physics classes I take, the more I want to take. Whether or not I can do it depends on intermediate calc. I'm very good at math - but am I good enough to get 85%+ in those courses?

Anyway, I have some thinking to do. After this year, I'll only actually need about five courses to meet the requirements for my bio degree (besides electives) and it would only take 15-16 courses for me to complete the physics degree (depends if the modern physics I took this year counts.) It may be doable in four years if I challenge calc this summer, but that's only if the classes end up REALLY well scheduled.

Going to go snuggle my red, blotchy little girl and then get my son in an hour or so.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Moving on

Just over a month ago, I cut ties with a group of women I'd been a part of for around seven and a half years.

A big disagreement about my son came up, which accelerated the move. Several maintained that he's a dangerous, manipulative monster lying in wait until he can hurt people, and insisted that he started the fire on purpose to hurt people (he didn't. He made a stupid decision to play with fire, which many thousands of kids make every year. He was not attempting murder. Had no idea it could have hurt us until we told him afterwards. He's still having horrific nightmares two months later.) He is six. And has massive executive function deficits. This has to be taken into account when trying to understand his behaviour. While he does have issues with aggression when not properly monitored, as do a huge portion of autistic children, he is not actually capable of being what they made him out to be. One of his specialists actually laughed at the absurdity of it when I showed her the messages because it so does not make sense in any way when you actually know this kid. I had maintained those relationships only because we'd been friends so long, and that conversation really made me see how incredibly stupid I had been to stay 'friends' with these people so long. 

I had also noticed that over the past few years, I'd spent way too much time being diplomatic about my opinions on things I actually really feel very strongly about. I didn't want to lose my friends, so I kept quiet on stuff and just rolled my eyes and scrolled down when one brought it up. 

Like the vaccines cause autism thing. 

Frankly, I think if you can look at the huge host of data surrounding this and think that this is still a matter of debate among scientists, you lack understanding of the scientific method or are massively gullible. Or both. 

I also tended to bite my tongue on the issues of this group being very heavily into the alt-med scene. It's treated like a religion. If I say something factual about their chosen quackery, I'm jumped on as though I'd shat on a bible or something. 

You know what? When people are distributing verifiably false information, I am going to say something about it. When I see people posting 'baking soda/coconut oil/unicorn poo cures cancer' stuff, I am damn well going to say something, not roll my eyes and keep scrolling. People die terribly and painfully because of these things. There is actual harm done by such quackery. Look up 'fungating wound' on google image search if you want to see what cancer NOT treated by actual medicine does. 

Dr Crislip (an infectious disease physician who writes/podcasts for Quackcast, Puscast, SBM, Rubor Dolor Calor Tumor, amongst others) tells a story of a patient my age who came to him with a necrotic leg. Her leg was rotting, caused by the osteosarcoma eating its way through her. Her naturopath told her that her leg was black because it was 'rejecting the cancer.' She refused any treatment and died a day later when the cancer ate through a major artery. 

I do think information can be dangerous, and lies shouldn't stand unchallenged. I'm tired of shutting up because I don't want to lose 'friends.'

Instead of staying in this group where saying anything against the demonstrably wrong beliefs/conspiracy theories of (certain) others was heresy, I left them, as well as the ones who most tended to viciously jump on those who disagreed, a few who I felt might feel 'put in the middle' if I terminated relationships with their close friend but not them, and a few others I just didn't talk to much. I've moved on. 

And I'm really happy for it. Are people truly friends when you can't speak your mind around them? 

I've noticed significantly less eye rolling recently, and overall a lower stress level. Obviously, getting rid of momentum-only friendships is something I needed to do for a while. 

Reality is not a matter of opinion. 

Science doesn't care what you believe. (Neil de Grasse-Tyson, sort of.)

Friday, 22 November 2013


I am straight up exhausted. Really looking forward to just working for a month.

This semester has flown by so fast. Just five days of class left, one assignment, one lab, one lab quiz. I'm sitting above 90% in every class now and fairly comfortable heading into exams.

School stuff hasn't worried me much. The material is not difficult, really, nor are any of the assignments time consuming. It's been a pretty nice semester scholastically, but it's the stuff outside of school that is causing issues.

First the fire, then stuff with my son's school. The school stuff for him is proving very time consuming, and I still have tons if stuff to do with the insurance to get the claim all wrapped up.

I knew coming into this that sometimes life would get in the way of school and that putting school first would prove difficult. I didn't expect it would live me so exhausted, but it has. Still, just another couple weeks and I'm done for this semester.

My son's school stuff is... difficult right now. His teacher is less than helpful and definitely doesn't seem comfortable implementing any accommodations. We had a team meeting yesterday and she tried to pull the 'the bullying isn't happening because I haven't seen it' thing, which is bullshit. Sorry, but it is. I had some hope that in the last twenty frigging years teachers would have progressed past that but apparently not.

She also justified the other kids making fun of him because they 'see all his behaviours' and are 'jealous of all the extra attention he gets.' (He has a full time aide - finally.)

I am considering requesting another classroom for him since she's made it pretty clear that she's not open to any behavioural work. He has not been in class the last two weeks - first week was a suspension, second week is so we can phase him back in slowly - and, surprise surprise, his behaviour is fine.

During the team meeting, she had nothing to contribute except on the 'problem behaviours' list. She did not know any motivating things for him, nothing about his interests, not a single clue about what his perceived function of the behaviours is. She had no clue what was going on before the behaviours, no idea about his sensory needs.

He has had pretty terrible behaviour at school, I'll admit. It needs to stop, which is why *I* requested a meeting, why I've been on the phone constantly, why I'm working so hard with him at home. These things don't happen at home, so they can be extinguished, we just need to find the right combination of approaches.

Thing is, when you look at isolated events, it looks like he's just a brat, but when you look at the whole picture, a lot more things become obvious. For instance, most of the negative behaviours are happening in music class, which is physically painful for him. Most behaviours are happening after he's been stopped from running (from a situation he knows he can't handle. He's trying to leave so he can calm down before he blows up.)

He's being bullied badly by a number of kids and has absolutely no friends, no one to play with. His teacher, instead of looking into why things happen, just sends him to the office (constantly) for behaviours and calls them 'unprovoked' when they are anything but. She doesn't pick up his huge red flags of overload. His EA doesn't either. He is pushed far beyond his limit and is refused when he requests cool down time.

Absolutely no accommodations for his sensory needs are being made. His teacher is ignorant of them, and appears unwilling to learn or do anything about them.

School is physically painful for him because of the overload, he's being denied in his requests to be able to calm down, he feels completely unwelcome and his teacher certainly doesn't seem to be helping that since she seems to have decided to write him off. I'd be doing anything I could to leave too!

I'm very angry and very frustrated and the school is going to hear from me regularly until we get things into place to help him. This has been a rough week.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Two to go

Two weeks left in the semester then I'll be into exams. It seems classes end a bit earlier at my school than at others. Not that I'm complaining, mind you.

I had a cell test on Friday that I'm really not happy with. I don't think I did very well, but we'll see. I just have to do better on the exam and it'll be dropped anyway.

I've been less prone to freaking out about my marks this year. I'm sitting at a comfortable 96% in organic chemistry, 95.4% in physics, 93% in cell, and only a 91% in animal diversity (which makes me a little uncomfortable - I prefer to have at least 93% going into exams. I hate depending on exams to bring up my mark.) The wild card is history of biology. While I'm sure I probably have a very high mark in the participation component, I don't actually know my mark. The only marks besides the exam are for participation, the midterm, and the presentation. I think we did very well on the presentation, but I don't know the mark. We still haven't gotten the midterms back after a month. Having absolutely no marks available to me in a course is very disconcerting only three weeks before the exam (it's my last exam which I write on December 9th.)

Obviously I've started reviewing, since it's less than three weeks to my first exam. The semester has gone by exceptionally fast, it seems like. I think with everything else going on, that was unavoidable.

It's just under eight months until OMSAS opens next year. That feels very, very soon. Eight months is nothing in the grand scheme of things. You can bet I'll be registering the first day it opens.

I'm still trying to figure out who my referees will be. I'm fairly certain my boss will act as one - she is awesome, I really like her, and she seems generally pleased with my work. I'll have to get on her early in the summer, though, since she's very, very busy and finding time to write me a recommendation may be difficult.

Another I was thinking could be the liaison for the mature students association - she is lovely and works hard for the students. She knows me well and I hope might be inclined to write one.

The third, I'm struggling with. There are two profs I think I could comfortably ask, but it feels like such an awkward thing to ask of someone. "Could you tell professional programs how awesome you think I am?" One prof is my faculty advisor who I have had for two courses, the other is a physics prof I will have had for three courses. Both are really amazing instructors and I did well in their courses and it's material I've been very enthusiastic about. 

Still have a while to decide, and it will also depend on whether they say yes. Having a short list helps, though, since I will need to ask in August. 

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Wrapping Up

Tomorrow I have my third test in cell and on the 28th is my lab exam for animal diversity, but otherwise, I'm done for the semester. Except for exams, of course.

My first exam is three weeks from today. I've already started studying, of course.

I have animal diversity first, then chem, then cell (on a Saturday!), and on the 9th I have history of biology and modern physics; my two favourite classes.

In 25 days, the semester will be completely finished. Then I just have to get through second semester, which shouldn't be too bad. Three biology, one math, one physics. I dropped the religious studies course as the professor (who I'd heard wonderful things about) is going to be having surgery and won't be able to teach the class. I'm looking forward to the physics course, though. It's radiation detection and measurement. My awesome physics prof from last year teaches it, and it's done once a week as a 2.5 hour lab-based course. I need it for my minor, but I'm also just really excited to take it since I took an interest in radiation measurements following the Fukushima disaster.

I'm seriously debating whether to take the stats course though. While, yes, additional statistical methods would be good things to learn... it's an 8:30am class. I prefer to avoid those if I can. I don't *have* to take this class, I'm taking it as an elective because way too many doctors suck at statistical analysis and I don't want to be one of those. However, the research methods course I'll be taking in third year goes over a lot of the material as well. I'm taking it because I'm really just good at math and I have a logical brain which makes statistics really easy for me conceptually. I don't like the idea of adding another material-heavy course to my schedule if it can be avoided, though.

Lots to think about.

Right now, I need to go study cell. The week has been crazy and I had to break my 'no studying within 24 hours of the test' rule.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Doctor, Teacher

I got a message from people I don't know who are in my physics class asking me for assistance.

It's happened before. This is the downside of being someone who is really interested in the subject matter and it getting out - people learn that you get it.

Honestly, I don't mind helping. Physics in particular is one of my favourite subjects, and I enjoy sharing that with others. I've made a few hours this week ahead of the midterm available to help them out if I'm able. They offered to pay, but I am not a tutor, just a fellow student, so I intend to refuse. School costs too much to begin with. While I do like teaching to a degree, it depends on the students. I refused last year because most of the students in the classes I was taking were just trying to get the necessary credits and didn't really care about the material, but this is a class you don't take unless you're already interested, so I don't mind helping these people. I'm flattered they asked, honestly.

Doctor means 'teacher.' Medicinae Doctor - what the MD after the name means - literally means 'teacher of medicine.' I am entering a career whose very definition involves teaching. I have to be comfortable doing it, so this provides me an opportunity to work on that role.

In the past, most of the teaching I've done has been with kids in an unstructured way, or with adults in a highly structured way in my employment.

While I know this isn't an EC I can list, it's worth the practice. I may apply to be a tutor next year if time permits and if I'm comfortable enough in my ability to help other students succeed.

Time to head to bed. I've got a lot to do over the next few days.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Stupid lungs

I hate when my health keeps me from doing what I need to do.

For the last year and a bit since I've been off my steroid, I've been doing okay. Getting sick less, but respiratory illness does hit me a bit harder. Been managing it okay.

But right now, I'm sitting here with a salbutamol/budesonide (bronchodilator and steroid) mask strapped to my face because I overdid it and couldn't catch my breath between coughing fits. This wouldn't have happened if I didnt already have a cold. I'll be fine, if jittery, after the mask, but I hate that my stupid lungs are costing me a good half hour of time I could be unpacking.

I hate that I either have to be fat or able to breathe. I have lost weight, but I've reached the point where diet can't take me further, I need to exercise heavily. I need to do cardio.

I can't do cardio. Like, physically can't. I can walk, I can even walk fairly quickly for quite a long time, which I suppose counts, but more than a bit of that sets off an attack and sends me to the nebulizer desperate for the disgusting-smelling mist that lets me breathe. I also can't walk outside for very long if the weather is too cold, because that sets it off.

Asthma has always seemed to me to be something kids have. I rarely see adults under 60-ish who are as controlled by their asthma as I am. Of the adults I know with asthma, none do more than take an occasional puffer when sick; they all 'grew out of' this severity. Why couldn't I?

I know why - my lungs didnt grow properly - but still, it sucks. At least I know that, barring very serious illness, the most I need the majority of the time is a quick puff on my inhaler or a mask, which takes 20 minutes max. It's annoying, but I'll live and it shouldn't impact my career plans. I'll just need to make sure I can access meds when I'm doing hospital shifts if for some reason, which I don't really see as being a problem in a hospital.


We're moving home today. Everything is here, most of it is in boxes. With the help of people from the company that cleaned my stuff, we got the kitchen, living room, and some of the basement unpacked. The bedrooms are going to take a while, but I hope we can finish this weekend.

Besides the bit of food we brought from my parents' house, we have pretty much none. Not even sugar or salt. That all has to be repurchased which means I am going to have to do the biggest grocery shopping trip of my life today. I'm waiting for my husband to finish work before I do that, because there's no way I'm bringing the kids.

I've got two midterms next week, but I'm doubting I'll have much time to study for them. I just have way too much to do.

Still, it's nice to be home. I'm curled up on the couch with the kids watching a movie while I take a bit of a break from unpacking.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Brain fried

Today was a long day.

I was up at 5:30 to go to my house for 6 to do some cleaning. Classes and a tutorial from 8:30-2:30, work from 3-5:30, lab from 6-9 (I finished at 8, though.)

My son had a crappy, crappy day behaviourally so I had to talk to the vice principal at his school. He was bad off enough that he needed to be restrained for his own safety. It's been a long time since that has happened. His specialist (the person who organizes his therapies and monitors his progress) this year has so far been almost completely absent. She came and saw him for less than an hour one day in September. It's now a week into November, and no follow up. I get that she's got a case load and has other kids, but if she can't find time to see a kid more than once in two months (when his former specialist saw him every 3 weeks) then she's got time management issues, or has put my kid at the bottom of the priority list for some reason.

He needs MORE support during transitional periods like this. And especially when we had the fire, she should have come in to see him, but she hasn't been since.

I'm going to call an IEP (his special needs individualized education plan) ASAP. Tomorrow is parent-teacher interviews, so I'm going to discuss that with his teacher too. We - me, his teacher, specialist, resource teacher, EA, ST, OT, and vice principal - are supposed to meet every 6-8 weeks.

We haven't met since June, and never with his new teacher. This is not acceptable.

I have an organic chemistry midterm on Friday and I can't be arsed to study right now. I have cell bio on Wednesday and physics next Thursday, but I have Monday and Tuesday off so I can do quite a bit of studying and unpacking.

In good news: That animal diversity midterm I thought I'd done terribly on, I got 85%. Below my 'happy' point, but still decent.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Almost home!

We'll be home within the next few days. The contractor taking care of my stuff is moving the last of it in tomorrow and they'll be unpacking. I have some unpacking to do as well, since I requested that they leave the bedrooms to me.

I cannot wait to sleep in my own bed and cook in my own kitchen and not have to drive over a half hour just to get to class in the morning.

This is kind of crappy timing (not that it could be *good* timing) because I have absolutely no time this week to do everything I need to do. I'm just going to have to get up really early and let my husband do 100% of the morning stuff so I can run around before classes in the morning.

I have an organic chemistry midterm this week and I'm really just not feeling it. Don't give a crap about studying for it. I got 100% on my first midterm, I'm averaging 97% on my labs (I expect the next one is going to be terrible, though. 7% yield! I screwed up somewhere...) and the midterms, labs, and exam are the only components of the class mark.

Organic chemistry and physics are my two highest marks right now at well over 95% in both classes. Animal diversity and Cell bio are both around 93%, and I still have yet to get a mark back in history of bio. With less than 4 weeks of class left, I have not yet received a single mark in that class. There's only three components to the mark besides the exam; a midterm, a presentation, and participation. I think I'm good in the participation area since it's a class that I really, really enjoy. We wrote the midterm on October 16th, and my friend and I did the presentation last week, so it's just down to the exam now. Nothing else I can do besides participate (which isn't difficult since it's fun.)

I'm going to be taking two third year courses next semester. My religious studies course has been cancelled due to the prof having a surgery with an extended recuperation period. Conveniently for me (not for him, obviously...) this leaves a space in my schedule for the radiation detection and measurement course I really wanted to take and need for my minor.

It's actually not scheduled, though it is offered. I asked the prof today and he explained that the class is typically so small that he just finds a time that works for everyone and schedules it as a once a week thing. It's a lab-based course taught by my physics prof from last year who I think is really awesome.

My brain's all over the map tonight. Time to go finish my assignment and get to bed.

Sunday, 3 November 2013


I've had a few people ask me how I study since my time is quite limited but I still manage to get pretty decent grades.

In summary, I have a few rules that I live by, and some methods I switch out depending on class.

The first thing is to pick courses strategically. Pick things you like, don't pick killer classes for electives (sometimes unavoidable as required classes.) Balance high-content/long assignment classes with lighter material electives. That's just basic university stuff, though.

The Rules:

GO TO CLASS! Unless completely unavoidable, go to every single lecture. Yes, even the 8am ones. Go for a bit of a walk before to wake yourself up.

Sit up front. Much harder to ignore the lecture, drift off, or get distracted by other people if you have the prof literally right in front of you - it would be rude to ignore someone who is talking right in front of you. Also makes the lecture feel more like a conversation which makes me more comfortable asking questions.

No tech. It's been shown repeatedly that using electronic devices in class is distracting and can impact your marks (and those of people around you!) Unless completely necessary, leave the laptop/tablet at home or in your bag. Take notes with a pen and paper. You will retain it better, and can add diagrams and symbols much more easily.

Know your prof. Research them. Research their research - if it overlaps with course material, which it usually does for obvious reasons, they may ask harder questions about stuff they are heavily involved in. This has come in surprisingly handy for me. Talk to other students about the prof's methods and expectations and what 'tells' to watch for - many profs give away a LOT during lectures and you can often anticipate certain questions or that certain subjects will be tested more heavily just based on how they approach something.

Don't study the material the day before (or of) a test. Take care of your brain instead, relax a bit, get enough sleep. You won't really learn anything you can usefully apply within that short of a time before a test. Sleep is your best friend when it comes to test prep.

Unless absolutely necessary, don't memorize. Understand methods, relationships, and mechanisms. For instance, I need to know the 20 important amino acids for cell. I've been using my organic chemistry knowledge to understand *why* they have the properties they do, not just memorizing lists of traits. The names do require memorization, though. No way around that.

Cross class! Orgo helps in cell biology, physics helps in chem and bio, bio helps (conceptually) in some aspects of physics and chem! Stats helps with genetics and research methods. A LOT of classes have material that complements or more fully explains material learned in other classes, but they aren't pre-/co-requisites. Try to course plan with this in mind.

Take Good Notes. I actually end up not talking to other students about this because some don't believe me, but I really don't read my books much. I skim them to find information in the readings that wasn't covered in class, and I'll take some notes on that, but besides that, I barely touch my books. My notes from class are just very thorough. I include not just the slide information, but diagrams, additional information from the lecture, mind maps, things like that. They are thorough and make up 95%-100% of my study material for most classes. For most of my classes (animal diversity is a noteable exception), reading the book is a waste of what little study time I have. It's there for doing questions if I need to clarify a concept, but I honestly don't have time to read it. The return on invested time is, for me, pathetically small so I don't bother.


Other Useful Methods:

- If memorization is absolutely necessary, flash cards and post-it notes around your house help expose you repeatedly. Quiz yourself.
- Learn the roots! Get familiar with Latin and Greek prefixes, suffixes, and frequently used root words that you encounter. You can often figure out a word based simply on its parts. You can find lists online. This is very useful in bio courses.
- Read actively. If you are tired and just seeing words, you aren't reading properly. Think about what you are reading (notes or book, see above about books) and tie the information to what you have already learned.
- Underline things mentioned more than once, highlight if mentioned repeatedly. Circle if clearly very important. If they said it will be tested, write 'Will be tested!' in the margin. When the prof tells you that, it is free points on a test. This also forces you to think about what you *wrote* not just what you are writing.
- Set study time. Keep it. It's a date with your future, remember that.
- Review the damn notes. Yes, I know, it sucks, you still have to do it. Make it a daily thing.
- Use additional resources if you run into issues. All profs can't teach all things in all ways. Someone else may have explained it in a way that you understand better. Google is your friend. Khan Academy too.
- If you don't know it and can't figure it out, get help ASAP. You will screw yourself over if you leave it until the week before a test to figure out a tough concept you've struggled with.

Taking good notes will make review and studying relatively easy. The more often you review through the semester, the less you need to do immediately before a test or exam.

All that said, this is what I do and it may or may not help others. Methods change by class and are applied or discarded as needed. Knowing my profs and briefly looking over course structure and information to be covered at the start of the semester really determines what I need to do and how I need to do it.

While I am rigidly disciplined, I am not rigid about everything. If I absolutely need a night off, I take it. Provided it doesn't mean an assignment will be late. Running yourself ragged doesn't do anyone any good! You need to take care of yourself or the marathon turns into a death march.

Don't be that crazy, exhausted, twitchy premed who is constantly on the edge of a nervous breakdown. This is a very long road and it does get harder, so you can't let yourself go nuts too early on.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Warm small people...

My daughter's sick. She is adorable when she is sick. She gets very cuddly and wants to just be around me. Unfortunately she has death breath and is a sweaty mess, and I hate that she's sick, but it's hard to take issue with the snuggles since she's getting to the point where she often doesn't want to be held.

On the up side of things, I am so flipping excited that we're going to get home within the next week. I managed to get a new (to us) sectional for $300. Ours was old, stained, and getting very uncomfortable to sit on. Since it has a bed in it, we're putting it into the playroom to make it into a guest room. The new one is from one of those 'lease to own' furniture places. It was mostly paid for and then was repo'd by the shop, apparently. There was not much left owing on it so we got it for a few hundred bucks. It'll be cleaned and delivered and set up. Woo!

I don't have a ton to do this week. Midterm in orgo on Friday, assignment due on Friday as well. With just four weeks left in the semester, I'm really looking forward to the four weeks off I'll have once I'm done.

This evening, I'm procrastinating a bit so I'm going to try to finish editing my study tips document and I'll post it, since I've had a lot of questions about how I study.

As an aside, the DVM applications at my school were due yesterday so all the pre-vets are alternating between very stressed and very relieved. I'm really pulling for a few of my friends who are applying. They're intelligent, driven, and professional. The competition is about as tough as it is at Dal Med, so it's quite the process. They won't hear anything about interviews until March and I know I'd be going nuts! At least with med you typically hear by January at the latest!