Monday, 30 December 2013

One week

Second semester starts in one week. To be honest, I haven't pre-studied at all. I did last year over the break, but decided to just take time off from academics this time around.

Really, I needed the break. After almost a year and a half of nonstop studying with only a break day or two here or there, some time off was necessary.

I've also been really sick the last week, so there's that. Wouldn't really be productive at all. We've actually all been doing really well this year with avoiding illness. Besides a few days of disquiet, just on the edge of a bug, we've not really come down with anything too bad. Compared to last year, this is awesome. I'm not surprised I got hit so hard this time, it always happens at least once a year.

The kids are getting a bit wound up because our routine is different, but I expect things will settle more next week when it's back to school for my son and I.

Have to start getting my books for the coming semester. One class doesn't have a book, one class is using an open-source book (free!), and I need to get three books, but one only costs a few dollars. I have an older edition of another. My books, all together, should come in under $200 for this semester meaning I'll be under $500 for the entire year. Hard to beat that.

Still debating whether I'll take summer courses or not. I could get the English requirements for MUN out of the way, and it may be a good idea to get that done over the summer. It will really depend if I can qualify for the financial aid to do it. Can't really lay out the ~$1100 it'll cost to take two courses right before I apply to med.

Also, I have to scrape together enough to challenge the calc II so that I can qualify to declare my double major. Pretty sure now I'm going to declare general biology (instead of life sciences) and physics. That leaves my backup plan - medical physics - open.

Lots of thinking tonight.

Time for popcorn I think.

Saturday, 28 December 2013


Well, sometime yesterday I passed 30,000 views of this blog. Being that I am almost exactly 600 days into writing this, that's an overall average of around 50 views a day, but it was a good eight months before I got more than a handful of visitors, so I'm actually around 80-100 views a day now. 

It's really funny to me that so many people are reading this. People are even looking it up on Google to find their way here, they aren't just clicking from the premed board or other blogs. I have regular readers across the globe. It feels so weird

I even saw someone at my school reading it! Bet he didnt know I was not even ten feet behind him. 

I'm glad to have people who are following this, people who maybe are doing the same thing. This is more or less my journal for all things school/goal related, it's not really intended to be anything else, but it's still nice. 

Maybe someone who will eventually be in my class reads this and will know a bit about me before we meet. Perhaps I wont be so absurdly anonymous when I start med school as I think I will be. I'm already connecting with other premed parents through this blog, and I think that's really the coolest thing. 

Thirty thousand views in, and it's helped me find out how not alone I am in this pursuit. That is the best part. 

Saturday, 21 December 2013

An amazing time

I think this is an amazing time to become a doctor.

For all the challenges that exist in medical systems, medicine itself is progressing at such a pace that I can't wit to be part of it.

Just think about it: Just over twenty years ago, HIV was a death sentence. Now it is a chronic illness when one has access to HAART. Two people have even been cured of it (two more were thought to have been but were found not to be.)

Many childhood cancers are curable, even the ones that aren't often have very effective treatments that can greatly extend life and life quality. I personally know three people in their thirties who had cancer as children. All three of them now even have kids.

We are on the verge of eradicating polio which just sixty years ago was responsible for untold suffering and is now limited to a few hundred cases a year.

3D printing offers untold possibilities for patients; from the affordable prosthetics to hopefully someday tissues or even organs on demand.

Babies that would have been considered hopeless just two decades ago are often surviving, and as the years pass our ability to save these tiniest lives and improve their prognoses grows.

Artificial organs are coming closer to being a viable reality for patients in desperate need. Stem cell seeding of animal organs that were stripped of their own cells is a promising avenue for this.

Not to mention the leaps and bounds in genetics, epigenetics, genomics, and proteomics that every year sees. Things that can give us a much deeper insight into our own uniqueness and pave the way for better drug development or more targeted cancer therapies (which are already being used!) The predictive methods developed by these fields can help us take preventative medicine to a whole new level.

To me, this is all utterly amazing. Some of it obviously also raises ethical issues - particularly with respect to genetics - but look at how far we have come in the last 10 years, in the last 100.

While I know I won't be on the forefront of medical research as a family doctor, these people will be my patients. I will see them grow and thrive and be helped by the work of my colleagues.

I can't wait to be part of this future.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Final marks for year two, semester one

I hope people don't take my posting my marks as a bragging thing. As I've said before, this blog is supposed to be an honest accounting of this process for me. The good and the bad. It is for me to look back on as I progress through this undertaking and see what I've done and where I started.

So, my first semester wrapped up as:
Cell biology: 91
Animal diversity: 90
Organic chemistry: 91
Modern physics: 92
History of biology: 84

For an average of 89.6%

Despite all my hand-wringing, I made it out of the physics exam without completely killing my mark.

Animal diversity was actually the one I was most worried about, and I just squeaked out a 90.

Then got completely messed up by history of biology. I've now completed fifteen courses, and that is the ONLY ONE under 90. And it isn't just a bit under 90, it's far enough below 90 that it converts as a 3.7 instead of a 3.9.

I know, I know, a 3.98 cGPA is hardly the end of the world, it's still really competitive, but dammit I have ONE red box on my marks spreadsheet and it makes me twitchy. It's also because it is *that* course. The elective I asked the prof to let me into because it looked fun and interesting. There were three second years in the course and all three of us ended up with marks far below what we anticipated after the exam based on how we judged our performance.

Had to happen eventually, but I really intend to absolutely rock next semester to make up for this one.

No excuses.

Storm days

Yet another snow day. That's two this month. Well, two for me. Everything shut down Sunday too but I had no commitments so we just spent the day hanging out.

The university is closed today and today also happens to be the final day for marks, so I'm not positive all of my marks will be up. Right now, I am just waiting on physics.

That physics exam did not go well. Most profs put a recommended time for the exam on the front. This exam said 2.5hrs. I thought that was the recommended time. Nope, 2 hours and 23 minutes in he told us we had seven minutes remaining. EVERY exam is scheduled for three hours. My exam schedule said three hours. He gave us no advance notice that this time would be cut.

I still had two very long, multi-part, ten point questions remaining, which I would have had plenty of time to do in 37 minutes. Not so much in 7 minutes. I just barreled through and wrote down as much as I could hoping for half points. I was tired and cranky and against my wishes got teary because I was freaking out. I couldn't think at all because I was panicking so I doubt I got much out of those questions.

Anyway, it was a mess and I was not happy with my performance. I went into that exam with over 95% in the course and I have no idea whether I will even break 90.

This semester has resulted in my average taking a beating. I got my first sub-90 mark in a course and I'm actually rather sick to my stomach over it and am giving myself a few days to cool off before I email the prof to discuss what I did so wrong as to earn an 84. I participated heavily (my friend and I were the two most involved people in the class! We both got 8/10 for participation, so lost 2% of our marks), our presentation was awesome, I got 90% on the midterm after correction. To have ended up with an 84% in the class I would have had to have gotten 75% on the exam.

I knew I'd get a mark below 90 eventually, but I was not expecting it from that class or that prof. Everyone I have talked to in that class scored far, far lower than they expected so I'm wondering if he may change things.

It's funny how angry I got at myself for not getting 90. We had a house fire that left us out of our house for two months and required a ton of work and meetings for me, I'm working this year which I was not last year, and my son's school stuff is taki a huge amount of my time. It would have been insane to expect my marks to stay where they were.

But still, my highest mark so far this semester is 91. That's not like me.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Nada, zip, zilch, nothing.

I didn't do anything productive today. Okay, I folded some laundry, made a big thing of spaghetti and did the dishes.

But that's it. My husband worked last night and today and is now asleep to rest up for his shift tonight. He doesn't work tomorrow during the day but he does overnight so he'll be unavailable most of tomorrow too.

It has always sucked when he worked overnights. While this does provide us a considerable relief from the staggering heating costs we suffer over the winter ($100-$200 per WEEK), it is still hard on him and on us. Whenever the kids are awake, he is sleeping. The exception is that he gets home in time to drive them to school/daycare before he goes to his other job so they see him for about a half hour in the morning.

Really, it's no worse than when he was out west. He's working two full time - technically part time on paper, but with full time hours - jobs instead of the one, and he makes much less than half what he did out there, but at least he is here. Every bit of struggle we've had has been worth it to have him home.

Our much reduced family income has resulted in me being eligible for some awards I was not last year. The one I received this year is a donor-funded scholarship based on community service and academic achievement. It is a small award from a monetary perspective, but I am still incredibly happy to have received it. It's enough to pay for my books next semester, and I think it is really rather awesome that the family of the donor (a physician) chose me. I sent them a somewhat lengthy thank you note.

This time off is rather lovely. I had a few meetings on Friday - one about my son's school issues, one a meeting of the executive for the mature students association - and my wonderful, wonderful boss didnt mind me taking the time off to attend them.

Next week I get to attend one of the medical meetings. I deal with preparing the cases for these meetings so I have learned a lot of the clients' stories and it will be interesting to see how the cases are discussed amongst the professionals I work with.

Friday, 13 December 2013


I'm sitting here with my stethoscope around my neck not because I'm trying to be something I'm not, but because it is very important to what I am.

My son is sick. He's had a fever a few days now and he's weak, pale, and sore. Probably self-limiting viral somethingorther, but this kid goes from sick to 'holy crap get to the hospital' fairly quickly. I'm listening to his chest at regular intervals to make sure his lungs don't get bad.

Learning to listen to my own diseased lungs is what made me know this was what I was going to do. I picked a red stethoscope because the first one I ever held was red. It's a little silly and sentimental, but it is special for me.

I spent so long learning to understand the different sounds of my own lungs, their different states and moods, that I have a decent working knowledge of how to tell when things are going downhill. Not physician level, but certainly more than the typical patient. I can tell 'healthy' from 'getting sick' from 'sick' lung sounds. That's good enough for monitoring my kid.

I also get to practice something else tonight. My son needs monitoring. I will stay up and check him through the night. My husband works tonight, tomorrow, and tomorrow night, so I'm setting myself up to not sleep for at least another 24 hours, but I can function just fine on that. It's practice for residency, not insomnia.

Sunday, 8 December 2013


Three finals down, two remain. Neither of the remaining ones will be particularly difficult, I expect. Physics and history of biology. Both are tomorrow.

The only course I'm not positive I'll have 90 in is animal diversity. The questions on the final are just so heavily weighted that half a point could be the difference between 89 and 90.

35 points, 35% of our mark. The midterm and quiz were the same way - one point = one percent, heavy on obscure details that were mentioned once and never touched on again.

Cell bio yesterday was rather grueling. My longest exam yet. 110 multiple choice questions, eight definitions/short answer, two long answer. Not terribly bad, but the MC took a while.

I also gave an answer on the long answer that was not from any course materials or the book, but is still right. Id read about it in one of the additional materials I learn from (my little pubmed addiction.) Since I don't know if she has others mark the exams, I asked her if it'd be marked wrong and she said no. So, yay!

As of Tuesday I go full time at work until January 3rd. The holidays mean I lose three days (no holiday stat pay - I get paid an additional 4.25% in lieu of it) but still, it'll be a nice boost as we enter the super expensive heating months.

On the note of holidays, I received a lovely card from Kasia (MDorBust blog linked to on the right.) As I am terrible about sending out cards myself, I have yet to make it to the post office with hers, but it'll be on its way shortly. :)

It's shaping up to be a lovely December. Good luck on exams to everyone writing!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Eighteen Months

I started this blog eighteen and a half months ago, on May 17th, 2012.

I realized the other day that I'm past the halfway point to acceptance out of my third year.

If I get in out of third year, I should find out almost three years to the day from when I started this blog. That is seventeen and a half months away.

We're already making plans based on the idea we may be out of here in a year and a half. We can't commit to anything that might take longer than that to wrap up here.

Today is very stormy. The university had to cancel exams - it's that bad. I went downtown to study with a friend and in a half hour it went from slushy but drivable to no visibility and dangerously slick roads. It took me an hour to get home from downtown with no traffic (usually 15-20 mins.) I went no faster than 30kmh and still managed to slide all the way through an intersection with winter tires and traction assist.

I remembered Ottawa on a similar day about seven years ago. I was heavily pregnant, about to start mat leave. It was stormy and the roads were insane. I had a car, but chose to take the bus that day. On bad roads, buses are safer and unlike the city here, Ottawa doesn't shut down for bad weather.

I doubt U of O has ever cancelled exams. In the three semesters I've been at my school, there have been around 5 or 6 snow days. There are safe ways to get places during storms in big cities, while there aren't here. Life can go on, it doesn't grind to a halt. For all people may complain of OCTranspo, I miss it sometimes.

But you know, I'm not sure that normal, everyday activities continuing despite terrible weather is a good thing.

These days where we're forced to slow down, to stay home, to listen to the wind howl from inside a cozy home, these are special. The only snow days I had as a kid were when I lived in northern-ish Ontario and then during the ice storm of '98 in Ottawa.

My kids will have memories of sipping hot chocolate by the fire while the snow darkens our windows at midday.

Even though we're very possibly only 18-19 months from going back to Ontario, home will still be here when we're ready.

Ad as much as I may be looking forward to temporarily having access to some features of a large city, I will miss these quiet days where our world ends at our windows and we must patiently wait for the storm to pass. Patience in the face of nature's awesomeness is a lesson I think I'll take with me, no matter where we end up.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Exam week

My first exam is on Thursday (animal diversity) and my last two are next Monday, the 9th.

Honestly, I'm not very concerned about all but one. The highest mark I need on an exam to get 90% in a course is in animal diversity and the exam, which is worth 35% of our mark, will only have 31 questions, four of them worth 2 points each, for a total of 35 marks on the exam. 

Every point on the exam is worth 1% of the mark. It was the same for the quiz and midterm (on which I scored 85% each due to the extremely narrow margin of error) as well. The lab final was longer than the course final will be. It's straight up memorization too so if you don't know a certain word, you lose 1% of your mark. It's a very frustrating marking scheme, but I intend to hit my goal. My 4.0 is a point of pride and this ONE course puts it in danger. That makes me very determined. 

Also, my prof for that course is the dad of one of my son's classmates so I have additional incentive to not want to embarrass myself in front of someone who I consider a peer. 

However, at least it will be my first exam. I have ochem on Friday, cell on Saturday, and then history of biology and physics on Monday. Quite an easy lab exam for me, honestly. The more condensed, the more efficient I am. I took the week off work so I can focus. 

I've been reviewing already for a few weeks, but the heavy studying will happen over the next couple days then I'll relax into exams. I took the week off work so that I have nothing else occupying me. 

Although we took a nice break today to go sledding, which is always a worthwhile distraction. We came home for hot chocolate and watched an episode of that show from the 90s I loved - Dinosaurs. My kids LOVE it. :)