Thursday, 27 February 2014

Five and a half months!

Until OMSAS opens for the 2014/15 cycle!

So I thought it'd be a good time to sum up my ECs. Yes, I'm already working on them because I want to make sure that I present myself in the best way possible.

I have 11 entries under 'Employment' and there's a total of about five years (to date) of health care experience. Three entries under volunteering (several are quite old.) Extracurricular activities is primarily my executive positions and creation of the society. Awards will have three to five, unless each year on the Dean's list counts as one entry or I end up with more awards.

The 'other' is where I will mention my kids and the fact that I'm my son's caretaker.

People say to include things like hobbies, but do I just list those things randomly under 'other?' 

I do calligraphy. I write (have a couple small published pieces. I'll include those.) I do a lot of crafting. I go back and forth on whether I will include this blog. It represents a significant amount of time investment and I have a small but regular (~100/day) readership.

All told, I should easily have 25-30 entries, depending what I include and how I split things up.   

Very little of it has been while I've been in university, though, which is really going to hurt me for Ottawa. 

Technically, though, I WAS a student at UOttawa from 2005-2007. I wasn't able to pay for school so I had to withdraw and go on 'indefinite leave.' For 24 months, I was not registered nor was I an active student, but I could have come back if my finances had sorted out. I wonder if I get to include things during that time. I was technically a student. I wonder if this is a case where going by the letter of the rules vs. the spirit of the rules may work in my favour.

Going to have to ask the admissions office about that. I expect the answer will be 'no' but it can't hurt to ask!

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Poor Alice...

My little car is a write-off. We're trying to figure out next steps. This isn't something we have any experience with so we're seeking assistance from people we know who have dealt with car stuff like this.

We'll have to get things sorted financially. Fortunately, we're expecting our tax refund in the next couple of weeks so we can probably pay out the remainder of the loan and then get a cheap car to get us through the next couple of years.

The last year and a half has been one thing after another. From cancer diagnoses (that were then said to be wrong but we now find out might actually have been right) to car accidents, housefires, financial distress, month-long gastro bugs, unemployment, serious medication reaction, hours being slashed at work, wrecking my knee. It's all just too much sometimes.

All told, it's really not that surprising that my grades have been harder to keep up lately.

My life sounds like that book A Series of Unfortunate Events and I'd really like it to start looking up soon. If I weren't living it, I'd think it was made up.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Things I'd rather not see happen, number one...

My husband is in contact with his former employer out west, because it may become necessary for him to go back out.

Our car, despite being only two years old, is 'underwater' due to depreciation. Meaning we owe more than it is worth. That's not unexpected, because of the huge depreciation in the first year and the fact that we put no downpayment. For us, this was acceptable because we drive our cars until they fall apart and we wanted to get many years out of this car. However, it poses a problem because if it is written off, we'll be paid the pre-crash market value of the vehicle. Which s a few thousand less than we owe.

That may not sound like such a big deal, but we either need two cars or have to move to town, which is not something we can do on short notice. So we'd either have to roll the remainder of the loan onto another loan (not ideal) or have my husband go back out West.

If he does that, it will probably have to be until I get into med. It was hard for him to find his jobs here and leaving them will make it all the harder to come back. His hours have been dropping at his jobs which is making it hard for both of us to put away the thought of this.

We're taking it day by day right now, seeing how things go. It's not decreasing my stress levels any, that's for sure. I don't want to have to go back to doing everything myself, especially since I've been struggling so much the last while with such exhaustion.

Oh well. Adjustor goes to see the car tomorrow and we'll see how it goes. 

Friday, 21 February 2014

Dammit, fat lady, SING

Know how I said yesterday that things have got to start looking up?

Apparently, life doesn't agree with me. 

Yes, that is my two year old car. Which I love. After my husband smashed into the back of a garbage truck this morning. He's fine. Clearly the car is not. 

Can I do this year over, please?

Thursday, 20 February 2014

That's done

Today was yet another snow day. My work opened late at 10:30. I am not getting as many hours this week as I'd hoped, between being sick and the storms. I also have time from last week to make up. My husband has missed several days of work this week. He was hurt at work on Tuesday and ended up in emerg to get his hand cleaned out, glued back together, and patched up. He couldn't work his evening shift that day because of his hand.

We've just had a rough month or so, to be honest.

Things have got to start looking up soon, though. Spring is just around the corner, my knee is really strengthening up, and I'm feeling confident about the rest of the semester. Just have to get through this rough bit and things will be better.

I'm very much looking forward to our tax refund next month, though. I'm looking forward to catching up and getting things straightened away as they should be.

On a *completely* unrelated note, one of my favourite books was made into a TV series a few years ago, but I haven't had the chance to see it. It's now on Netflix. Call the Midwife. I *highly* recommend it for anyone with an interest in obstetrics history, in postwar England, in the history of women. The book is amazing.

Despite my fascination with all things birth and obstetrical, I can say I have zeeeerooo interest in pursuing that part of medicine. I was one of those crazy, hysterical, overly emotional pregnant women, and I was not in the minority. I can think of few things less enjoyable than dealing with women like me all day, every day, for decades. :-/

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Yet again...

This is our seventh or eighth snow day this winter, I think. It's the fourth on a Wednesday, that much I know.

My work's storm line says it is due to open at noon, but I'm somewhat doubtful given that the traffic cam downtown (there's just one. Small city.) shows a complete ghost town in the few moments it is possible to see through the snow.

I had to leave work early yesterday since I came down with a very fast, very vicious stomach bug. I seriously thought for a while I might have appendicitis because I was in so much pain. It seems to have resolved by this morning, but yesterday evening was not pleasant.

This has been a weird couple of weeks for me health-wise. I had that infection which required antibiotics, then reacted to the antibiotics and had to go get a different prescription. I have missed three afternoons at work in a period of ten days which is very unlike me. My boss is lovely and is going to let me make up the time, though.

So far I have not gotten much reading done this reading week. I'm being lazy and I know it. It's unacceptable so I'm forcing myself to do it. I have two midterms (neuro and micro) next week so I need to make sure I'm going to do awesome.

Sunday, 16 February 2014


Finally, it seems my daughter has caught on and is potty trained. This took far longer than I liked as she is nearly 3.5, but given that my son wasn't potty trained until 4.5 (common with autistic children) I'm just happy to never have to change a four year old's diaper again.

I've been watching the interview weekend videos that the med schools are posting. I watch them each year and I am so excited about being the target audience for next year's videos.

The Ottawa med video made me miss the city terribly. I lived there for ten years and still have a lot of connections there. My husband grew up there. It would likely be the easiest city for us to adapt to as a family because we already know it so well. We know the busses and the roads, where government offices are and the neighbourhoods to live in. We have friends and family there.

That said, Ottawa is the school I have the lowest chances at. While I have the GPA, they only look at ECs done during undergrad and for me, that doesn't amount to much.  If I could just get an interview there, I know I can blow them away, but that will be the hardest step.

My friends back in Ottawa already have plans for me if I come down for an interview next year. I have a place to stay and access to a car, which is helpful.

This time next year, I could already have had an interview (Toronto's are early) and that is a little scary. I really don't have much time to get ready. Ten months.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Reading week!

My plans for this week: work.

My boss got the upper-boss' approval for me to work full time for this week, so I'll be doing that. It would have been nice to have a break, but working 37.5 this week won't be the end of the world. I have two midterms in the week after the break but only one assignment - and a group one at that - to do this week so I will have plenty of time to study.

Academically, my semester isn't going the best. I've been so tired that my brain hasn't been working very well and I did very poorly on two midterms (78, yes really, and 86) but neither will completely break my performance for the semester. I can come back from that. I guess the exhaustion helps in that I was too tired for it to bother me too much.

The course I'm doing the best in so far is neurobiology. 98% on my first test. The one mistake was a stupid, stupid mistake because I didn't read the question clearly. I hate those kinds of mistakes because they are completely avoidable.

My university announced a new automatic, merit-based scholarship program. If my average is 90-95, I will get $2000 next September. At or above 95 is $3000, but because of that bloody history of biology mark, I can't possibly get 95. I've been trying to meet with that prof to see my exam but he still hasn't responded to my email. I'm getting annoyed, honestly, and he's one of my favourite profs. I'm going to email him once more and if I haven't heard back in a week, I'll be going to the chair of the department.

Physics remains my favourite class. We'll be going with the medical physics course to the hospital to check out the equipment and I'm really excited. Yay field trip! And I get to go to the hospital for reasons that don't involve being unable to breathe.

I have, fortunately, been getting a bit more sleep lately but I am still beyond exhausted. I feel like I could curl up and sleep for a few weeks. I'm planning to meet with my family physician's locum (my doctor is working exclusively as a hospitalist until this summer) soon to try to get things sorted out. I'm eating well, getting lots of exercise, got my sleep sorted out, and am still exhausted beyond reason. The time has come to do something about it.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

That was fun

When I am enthusiastic about something, I have a terrible habit of talking. A lot.

This is something I had learned to reign in, but then I started university and I was surrounded by people who are also interested in everything and had lots of people to talk to about interesting things.

 My enthusiasm causes my mouth to run away with me. This is probably the one thing that is likely to cause me issues in interviews. I just like everything so why would I not want to talk about it?

We had the first meeting of the Students for Science-Based Medicine this morning and it was fun. Lots of input from people when I shut up about ideas and what they would like to do with the society. It wasn't all premeds either, which was great to see! All areas of health care (human and animal!) face the metastasis of bad science and it's necessary to make sure we develop the tools to fight it.

It's really amazing to look at these dedicated students who are all future health care providers, and know they have their heads screwed on straight. My school is small, but I'm of the opinion that we have a lot of great minds that, when given a platform, can make great changes in our community and our future professions.

The trick will be to keep the momentum up. I think it's doable!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Could be worse

I try to remain optimistic, my occasional indulgences of self-pity aside, because whining about things doesn't do much to change them.

Today, my hands feel like they have been dipped in boiling water. It sucks. But I can type, even though I can't control a pen well enough to write by hand, so I typed notes in class today. Not my preferred way of doing things, but it will do for now.

I have an assignment due on Friday that is supposed to be handwritten. Since I don't know if I will be able to write by then, I spoke to my prof about turning in a printed version. She offered an extension, but I said I didn't need it, I just wanted to be sure I could turn in a typed copy. No problem. She seemed surprised I refused the extension. Don't imagine that happens much.

My boss was so grateful I came in today and finished up some reports she really needs. I even stayed an hour and a half late since my lab had been cancelled and my husband picked up the kids. I got my work done, and presented nicely for the uber-boss, and she was very happy about it. My work isn't always terribly mentally challenging, though sometimes it is, but it is nice to do something well and have it appreciated. I think that's what makes my boss so great - she is very appreciative of the work we put in. She was horrified I came in sick (nothing contagious, but I felt like crap) on Monday and ordered me to leave and go to the clinic.

There are definite perks to working for a health professional. She takes health seriously. I want to be a boss like her when I have my own clinic.

Today was rough, though less so than the last couple of days, so that's sometime.

Two days until reading week. Doesn't seem too bad.

First meeting of the Students for Science-Based Medicine is tomorrow. My micro prof let me announce it at the start of class, so hopefully we'll have a good turnout.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Ah damn

I went swimming this morning. Afterwards took the second dose of the antibiotic I'm on at the moment.

Then by halfway through physiology  (an hour later) I couldn't write normally.

So I left class and went to the clinic.

Physician did a gross motor neuro exam. Then suggested I am having a panic attack.

One, I have had panic attacks before. I know how I experience them, and this is not it. I was emotional when I saw her, so I can see how she'd possibly draw that conclusion, but really, suddenly not having good control of your hands is kind of scary, don't you think? I'm also tired and yes, tend to get emotional more easily when my brain is all fuzzy and I am exhausted. Emotional is not panicking.

Two, it is really patronizing to be told that. The way she was speaking, she clearly assumes I'm the neurotic, constantly frazzled sort of student and I'm really not. I get stressed, absolutely, but not about school stuff. Also, not enough to trigger panic attacks. I have been on a medication for a year and a half that controls my anxiety incredibly well and have had no panic attacks since, despite the insane year I have had.

She left then came back at the end and said that neurological side effects are known to occur with this med, and had a prescription for a different antibiotic and told me to get checked out again if it gets worse.

Big surprise - it's the antibiotic.

I'm able to type fairly normally, though slowly, but can't write normally yet. Feels like my hands are on dial-up internet when I am trying to control fine motor stuff.

Monday, 10 February 2014

The Wall

I've hit my wall.

I am beyond exhausted, beyond sore, beyond mental and physical, bone deep, total and complete exhaustion.

I can barely sleep. I can barely think. I'm crashing hard. Quite honestly, I am more tired in every way than I can ever remember being.

Four more days until reading week. I'll be working, but if that's all, I can handle it.

I can make it to reading week. Four more days.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Worth it

It costs $13.25 to take my kids swimming. $20 for all four of us to go, even with me being free, but it's worth it.

Kids and I went today and because I was the only adult, I needed to take my daughter into the leisure pool (2-4' deep) with us so I could keep close to my son. She was terrified. She is not afraid of water, but she is afraid of water deeper than she is tall, which would make more sense if she hadn't spent her entire life on an island, going swimming regularly in the ocean.

I tried to pry her off of me in the shallow end and she started screaming "Help! HELP!" She was holding my neck so hard I now have a bruise. Once I managed to release her little iron grip from around my neck, I physically placed her feet on the bottom of the pool and she calmly stood up in the 2' of water we were in and proceeded to splash her very amused brother.

Then the water slide opened. My son was so excited to go down, my daughter a bit timid about it. So we walked up the stairs to the end of the line and waited. My son went first, then my daughter and I. She had to be held because she is so small.

We got to the bottom and my son was over by the stairs. He yelled "I ALMOST DIED!"

It took him a couple seconds to realize he could stand up in the water in the splash zone, and he was scared. Keep in mind, he can swim. He swore off going down again, but my daughter - who bad been terrified most of the time we were there - was begging to go again.

Kids are strange.

Friday, 7 February 2014

A toast, if you will, to new endeavours

Well, today I started the Students for Science-Based Medicine society at my school. I have to get the paperwork together for the SU to recognize it as an official society. But, well, I made the Facebook page, and that's probably more official than Student Union acknowledgement these days.

I even made us a banner. Now it's definitely official.
I have no intention of leading it. Frankly, I have too much else to do, but I'm planning to stay in the background and help with the organizing and getting it going in the right direction.

So far, 7 people have said they are definitely in. My micro prof even mentioned it (and permitted me to announce it) in lecture today, given that we were covering the history of microbiology which obviously includes vaccines. It was timely.

Right now, I'm putting together resources, suggested discussion topics, possible events, recommended reading, and so on. I'm thinking that next fall it would be awesome to invite Public Health to do a flu shot clinic at the university, with the StSBM putting up informational posters and doing some fundraising (the $10 is off-putting to a lot of people!) ahead of such a clinic.

My pre-vet friend is planning to create a similar society at the vet school once she gets in. :)

Reflexively rejecting sound science has become far, far too popular, even amongst those who really should know better. Way I see it, we must strive from the very start of our careers to be advocates for the safety of the public and our eventual patients, and that means keeping our feet in reality and our heads out of the clouds.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Motivation fading...

Right now, today, I do not feel like doing anything productive. I think I'm entitled to feel this way occasionally, considering how much I do get done.

That said, regardless of how I feel, I do have two assignments due Friday and a midterm tomorrow so I still have to buckle down and do it. Honestly, I think that this is the part of university that motherhood most prepared me for. I was a notorious procrastinator once upon a time. I am much better about it now, because when you have kids, unpleasant tasks need to get done no matter how you feel about them.

So far this semester I'm doing well. 100% on my micro lab quizzes, 15/16 on the early semester quiz, 98% on my first neuro midterm. Looks like I'll have 100% on my first genetics assignment.

Had my first physiology midterm today and it went well and there were only two questions I wasn't sure about and one was a bonus so I think I did well.

My little pity party from yesterday aside, I am doing well. I'm tired, but I'm functional. All things considered, that's an achievement.

Monday, 3 February 2014

I'm not always so peaceful about stress...

I've been doing a lot better in recent years with handling stress. I don't get anxious about tests, and I have a loooot of them, so that helps. So forgive me a minute, I am going to whine like I haven't in a long time. 

I'm tired. Haven't been able to sleep properly for months. I am utterly physically and mentally exhausted. I don't get vacation time, I get comp pay, when I get paid that is, so it's not like I can really afford to take time off except for absolute essentials.

I do enjoy my job. I have great coworkers and an amazing boss. But I also work a lot more than I probably should. It's out of necessity - we cut our income by more than half to have my husband come home - and it has me stretched thin. I don't mind working extra now and then, but it would be nice for it to not take two months to get paid for extra hours. 

I'm sick and tired of my husband's employers cutting his hours after promising a certain amount. We have kids to feed and a home to maintain, promises don't put oil in the tank. We just get our heads above water then someone goes and cuts us off at the knees. I am fed up with stressing about it and I'm fed up with doing things right only to have life shit on us. 

I work, I go to school, I take challenging courses, I am on the executive for one thing, starting another society, and I am raising a family all at the same time. I have a 3.99 GPA, 34 MCAT with 13 verbal, and I still probably won't even get an interview for med schools next year because they have tightened things up so much that you pretty much need multiple first or second author pubs, years of research, thousands of hours of volunteering (YOU try volunteering when you can't afford a babysitter to watch your kids so you can donate time you don't have!) and the time and resources to do very expensive, impressive things for your CV to get into a med school out of third year!

I am stressed and I am tired and I am sick and fucking tired of it never being enough. 

The last year has been utter hell.

I am going swimming tomorrow, and I am going to force my stupid, uncooperative, painful, frustrating knee into submission so that I can get moving because I'm tired of being tired!

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Making myself feel better

When the interview invites went out on Friday, a LOT of really amazing applicants, people with far better applications than I, were rejected from every school they applied to.

It was quite a surprise (I'm sure more so for them) and left me feeling really shaky about my chances, feelin g like it has gotten insanely competitive and I will stand no chance of getting in. So, as a number nerd like me tends to do, I went to look at the numbers and I was very surprised.

Med school acceptance rates haven't really changed in 40 years.

There are about four applicants (if you include foreign appicants) for every med school seat every year and that hasn't actually changed much since the 70s. Interestingly, there were around 7500 applicants every year (for ~1800 seats) every year since the mid-70s. That didnt change until the number of seats went up over the last few years. Around 1000 med school seats have been added in the last fifteen years or so. And, coincidentally, around 4,000 more people are applying every year, so the proportion has remained about the same. 

So, despite the fact that it seems to be getting viciously more competitive, you're actually facing the same number of people for each seat. Fewer, in fact, since international students are far *less* likely to get a seat now than even ten years ago but still make up around 10% of applicants. 

Strictly speaking, it's no more competitive now than it has been in a very long time.

It has always been about 1/4 chances overall. That's why you need to apply broadly. For every one successful applicant, three don't get in. You are far more likely to get in with a 3.8+ GPA and a solid MCAT than the people who apply to the few schools where they have a shot. There is a big reason why Mac and Queen's typically have the highest numbers of applicants in Ontario. McMaster requires only a 3.0GPA and a 6VR to apply. Queen's looks only at most recent two years and has no stated hard cutoffs. 

A significant number of applicants - I'd guess easily 1500-2000 of the 11,000 - apply with minimums. They face a far more difficult time getting in, though a small number will make it.

Realistically, I'm only competing against the 8,000 or so who have the sort of applicant profile I do (and I'm inclined to think that is a generous estimate. For all the talk of grade inflation, GPAs over 3.95 are still uncommon.) I'm not competing against the 1000 foreign applicants either, since very few will actually get in.

That leaves just under 3 people for each seat overall. Really, that is not so bad.

The Ontario schools are particularly competitive, and so it's really more like 1/6 chances there (just shy of 5800 applicants for 954 seats.) But when you consider how different the chances are between applicants, I do have a really good chance of getting in within a cycle or two.

I feel better now.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Happy health

My husband was home yesterday evening so I got the chance to go back to the pool.

I might be a bit addicted, though I feel terribly silly for not going before now. It is really, really nice to get to do something active that leaves me tired from the effort but feeling amazing instead of sore. Right now I can only do 3-4 lengths of the pool before the muscles in my right leg start freaking out and cramping up. I've not really been able to walk normally for a while so it's probably just a matter of getting the muscles reconditioned.

One of my old friends was horrified that I spent an evening exercising when I could have been studying. Honestly, I think I made the better decision. My brain has been fuzzy from stress the past few months - though I'm used to coping with it - and now feels clear. I briefly revisited some material from physiology that had confused me and boom, got it.

One of my classes doesn't have a midterm (or tests, for that matter. One project and biweekly assignments then an exam, that's all.) Another doesn't exactly have midterms, but has monthly tests and nothing else. It's giving me some latitude to space out my studying a bit more comfortably. I don't have to review every subject every night, which is allowing me to be a lot more flexible with my study time.

I have genetics and physiology midterms next week, and a very small quiz in micro. Plus an abstract, a summary, and a small assignment due between three classes. I should be able to finish the abstract and the assignment tonight. The summary is a group (ugh) thing that I'll probably just end up doing to get it out of the way.

The invite stats, if anyone else was following, were kind of brutal yesterday. It looks Queen's didn't even bother reading the applications and Western had jacked up their bio cutoff very high (12) which means tons of really good applicants got no interviews. My stats aren't competitive anymore. It really is insane.