Ugh, guys and gals, it's been a tri! I'm sitting here trying to
bang out a meaningful blog post for my loyal readers and... turns
out the only thing I can focus on is that I am surrounded by three
loads of unfolded laundry (clean at least, thank goodness) and
that's just the start of what's not getting done around here...
My mom would be mad -- sitting in my messy room, mustering
energy to do lots of things.
What week in the tri is it? I keep trying to write a comment
about it being "that week" of the tri, and to quote my fellow ND
student friend Wendy, "I just can't even." I keep telling myself
that taking boards in week 4 or 5 (or whenever that was) is why I'm
all out of sorts, but really, it's just that med school is med
school is med school, and there's just no changing that.
Classic medical student portrait -- sleepy and
In the summer I wrote about the unbeautiful part of being a
naturopathic medical student. That was the last time I had ice
cream for dinner and even though it's not exactly ice cream
weather, tonight's lookin' like its time for a repeat.
Enough complaining! What I HAVE managed to do lately is this: I
get out of bed every morning! I put on clothes, and I think I
always look presentable, if maybe, occasionally, a little weird.
Each morning I succeed in making myself coffee, and if I had a "To
Do List," I would almost always put a satisfying check next to
"make breakfast." But, it's a good day if I manage to actually eat
the breakfast without also doing two other things simultaneously;
I'm usually taking bites between packing a lunch and scrambling to
gather up all my things.
I can say with confidence that each weekday I make it to campus!
Yes! I am proud to say that I stay awake in class, and I almost
always know which room I'm supposed to be in, and when. Also, I
generally always know what's going on in lecture, although... I
have my days.
Today, when taking a blood pressure I struggled to multiply 17
by 4. It's OK, not all doctors can do math every single time,
Some days seem unbelievably long, and others I just wish, wish,
wish could extend by just an hour or two! If you had an extra hour
in the day, what would you do with it? I used to say, "Yoga!" Now,
I would sleep. I would definitely sleep. I used to think sleeping
was for the faint of heart. I'm not sure anyone could get through a
medical education without a strong heart, and so, my views have
Speaking of strong hearts, I am surrounded by them and
Hallelujah! If it weren't for my friend Blaine's reliable punchy
sarcasm, Wendy's big grin and occasional colorful language, Tina's
quick laugh, Mallory's eager smile, Abdulla's kind eyes, Lisa's
happy conversation, and Brad's constant confidence, I might have
imploded by now. And these are only the people I see the most
often! I have so many other fellow student friends who keep me
laughing, who commiserate with me, and who help me talk through my
thoughts everyday. Thank you all! You guys rock.
Sigh. Thank you for reading about my blunders and my teeny, tiny
daily successes. Now I think its time for that ice cream
I spend a lot of time looking at the sky. When I lived in the
West, I realized that a big sky makes me feel that anything is
possible and that I can never understand it all. I adore this
feeling. I desire to be outside of my comfort zone as often as
possible; so much so that at times I've had to give up and retreat
to calmer waters.
I spend a lot of time looking at the sky. Sunrise on my
morning commute last week.
On a long weekend during my first year at NUHS, before the
program had a chance to wear me thin, my partner and I set out on a
camping and fishing trip to Wisconsin's driftless region. We
meandered through farmland and found our camping spot as the clouds
were gathering, no big deal. We'd once tried to camp at Vedauwoo
near Laramie, Wyoming, in late October with a wicked, biting wind
that threatened both to snow and to overturn our tent. When we
realized they'd shut off the water and closed up all facilities for
the season, we gave up.
My partner Hanzi tying flies at our kitchen table over the
weekend, caused this story to surface.
On this particular trip in Wisconsin, we made dinner over our
camp stove as the rain picked up. We ate our rice and beans on the
tailgate to stay dry. As the downpour intensified, we climbed into
our tent earlier than expected and snuggled into the center, trying
not to touch the wet walls.
At 1 a.m., the 5th drop of water landed on my face and I
realized my sleeping bag was totally soaked; our tent was no longer
waterproof and the Midwestern thunderstorm was still raging. Soaked
and sleepy, we sloppily disassembled our tent and crammed all the
sopping wet sleeping stuff into the trunk and slunk out of the
campsite, our tails between our legs.
The fishing the next day was terrible. The streams ran high
with mud. You can see our soaking wet camping gear piled in
We drove a wide-open rural highway with lightning cracking all
around us in the longest, loudest and most spectacular streaks I've
ever seen. This was some thunderstorm! If you've never experienced
one, do come study naturopathic medicine at National. If you've not
chosen our school for the strong philosophy and awesome
collaborative learning environment, then do at least choose it for
After a drive through the downpour and lightning, we checked
into the only room left at the nearest hotel, a suite with a hot
tub in the corner and the fluffiest king size bed ever (save for
that one that enveloped me during that bout of food-poisoning I got
in Banff, Canada after eating scrambled eggs at the airport. Don't
ever eat scrambled eggs at the airport.)
When you're in medical school, you pretty much can't do these
adventurous, uncalculated things. They squash that tendency to toss
logical thinking to the wind (like setting up camp in the midst of
a deluge) in the process of teaching us to be responsible doctors.
I don't mean my professors tell me to stay out of the rain. I mean
that medical school in general takes you away from the fun stuff by
sucking you dry of energy and sitting you down for some serious
business. It's all worth it though, I promise.
I may not be able to adventure, but I guess my education does
cause me to constantly move beyond my comfort zone. Each new class
I take demands that I commit to memory information I've never known
before. When I see a sim patient, I have no idea what to expect and
have to dive in ready to grapple with whatever story they tell me.
This is undoubtedly like the real world of doctoring and so I rest
assured; I totally AM in the right place.... If doctoring is a
process of continually stepping out of your comfort zone while
seeking the patterns that help you find your way to healing a
patient, then I think I'm on to something.
Really though, I already knew I was in the right place before
writing this rambling essay on thunderstorms and airport eggs and
squished adventures. I came to naturopathic medicine because I
thrive on the different stuff. Our medicine is not well known but
it is intelligent. Our medicine is not entirely understood in
reductionist terms, but it works from a place of truth. Camping in
the rain is not a comfortable choice, but it does make for a good
Here I sit, on a plane bound for Chicago after a weekend on the
East Coast, listening to the air from the blower overhead and the
rushing outside the window as we taxi. The deicers blast the window
inches from my face with a heavy spattering sound. The engines roar
a little louder and I think of the rattle my cousin's smiling,
blonde 1-year-old used to fill my ears this morning.
At this past week's Nu Delta Sigma meeting, Nadene introduced us
to sound healing as presented in the book, "Tuning the Human
Biofield," by Eileen McKusick. I was the lucky recipient of a sound
experiment from my friend John, a brilliant healer and
doctor-in-the-making. You might call us crazy, but when was the
last time you checked in with the sounds in your life? It had been
a while for me.
The sim patient I saw this week in my Advanced Clinical Problem
Solving class complained of tinnitus, a rushing sound in his ears,
and was nearly deaf. This was the only abnormal finding on physical
exam as we searched for clues to the cause of his dizzy, vomiting
spells. When I made kale for dinner on Wednesday night, the leaves
squeaked when I stripped them off their stalks. The sound reminded
me of lemons and a crisp, cold, clear evening with a sky full of
stars, when the frozen snow sings underfoot.
So excited to be out skiing in celebration of one of my very
(She taught me to suck my thumb when I was 2.)
When I rode the chairlift at Cranmore Mountain in New Hampshire
with my childhood friends over the weekend, the chairs clunked as
only chairlift chairs do each time you reach a tower. I reveled in
the swish of skis and the crunch-pop of poles into snow, the whoosh
and shudder of skiers of various skill levels as they rocket
downhill beside you. There were also those split seconds of silence
when I caught a little air and my skis left the snow, allowing me
to hear only the wind in my ears.
Beautiful bluebird day in the White Mountains! There are my
friends, waving at me from the lift.
On Sunday morning, I listened to the coffee maker grumble and
splurt that divine bitter stuff into the pot. The bottle of
champagne made an adorable pop! And we toasted our friend, a
bride-to-be. We thanked her for bringing together such an
intelligent, fun, active and clever group of young women. Our
glasses clinked! I am back at school now, refreshed and
All the lovely, intelligent women in our PJs, toasting our
So now I sit here typing, my fingers trickling across the keys
making that distinct blipping sound with each letter. I spend so
much time using my eyes and my hands to observe and palpate in
medicine, but I haven't engaged nearly enough with my ears. The
more blood pressures I take and the more lungs I auscultate, the
more familiar those healthy sounds become. I listen to the normal
sounds in hopes that I'll recognize when they are different, when
the lungs pop or crackle or gurgle and tell me something about the
environment inside my patient.
Have you ever spent a holiday away from your family? My first
Christmas without family involved working from 7-4 and coming home
to a house full of stinky boys, recently back from skiing, cooking
a bacon-wrapped turkey and imbibing generously of Pabst and
homebrew. I cringed and thought, "This is NOT what Christmas is
supposed to be like..." and then I grabbed a cheap beer and made
the best of it.
In reflecting on holidays past without my close family around,
I've got to say that this Thanksgiving was one of the best of all
of those over the years. I may not have been home, I may have been
without my cousins and aunties and uncles, not cooking alongside my
parents and setting the table with my brother this year, but I most
definitely was with family of a different kind.
Only missing a few, my ND family on
Thanksgiving (Photo by JheriAnne)
If you read my blog with any regularity you know about the
remarkable group of fellow ND student friends that I hold so dear.
These friends are my family here in Illinois, heck, they'll be my
family even when I'm long gone from here! JheriAnne and her husband
Shane hosted one of the most relaxing, calm, warm and wonderful
Thanksgiving dinners I think I've ever enjoyed. Twelve of us
gathered with our dinner contributions and dug into JheriAnne's
first turkey (oh yum!). Afterwards, we lounged around watching
football, trading stories, laughing, playing cards, and pouring
each other another glass of wine.
I've been through a lot with these friends over the past two
years of medical school in a way that's brought me closer to them
than almost any other friends I've ever made. For one, we're all a
little counter-culture; people who study naturopathic medicine
generally march to a different drum, and we tend to live and/or
think outside the box. It's remarkable how people with such
different personalities and backgrounds can have a common pulse
that beats naturopathy through our veins,*and as a result, allows
us to find comfort in each other despite any number of
Future NDs and great friends
Anayibe & Mia on Thanksgiving (Photo by JheriAnne)
In addition, we've all grown close in friendship at the same
time as our brains have matured and we've grappled with new ideas,
our minds stretching to accommodate buckets of new information. As
I see it, we were poised for great assimilation of material and so
stored the information about each of these friends at the same rate
and intensity as we memorized every detail of glycolysis and human
anatomy. Let me be entirely cliché, and also so extremely full of
heart, when I say that I am so, so, so thankful for the friends
I've made in the naturopathic program here at NUHS. I hope you all
had a very happy Thanksgiving, too, and a wonderful holiday
* It sort of pains me to write
that something pulses through our veins and neglect to mention our
arteries, but for the sake of literary flair I have pushed aside my
anatomy and physiology and left it be.
Ah, sigh. This weekend I finally got away into the outside world
where the air is significantly different from here in Chicagoland.
I took in gulps of fresh air and smiled. I experienced my first
corn maze in the flat, flat Midwest and sat under a tree whose red
leaves came drifting down into my lap as I chewed my apple brat. I
ate a candy apple, but we didn't get to pick our own apples because
we were a little too late in the season for that.
These past two weeks, for some reason, I've found myself
answering questions about my life before medical school. People
have been asking about the places I've lived and the cultures
there. I'm quick to tell a story about places outside of the
Midwest, so this weekend's little adventures served as a good
tether to pull me back, and to examine my current place.
When I was studying non-fiction writing in undergrad, we often
examined the concept of Place and wrote on the topic: what does it
mean to be in a place, what makes a place yours, not yours,
different, the same, why sit and become enveloped in this place
now? It's a damn hard task, to sit patiently in place and observe
it for what it is. This is especially difficult when your world
moves so quickly and you are expected to work hard at attaining,
achieving, getting there, making progress towards becoming a
Despite the rapid clip at which I am working to become a doctor,
I try, try, try to slow down and observe this place, to take it in
and notice the unique things. This weekend helped me to settle and
gaze, to take in the flat farmland, to hug my boyfriend, to laugh
with new friends, and to read through old physiology notes in order
to refresh my memory and help me be more present in my current
When you talk about the Midwest with anyone, they inevitably say
something about how nice people are here. My initial experience
with this Midwestern friendliness involved some confusion, seeing
as I come from Boston, a place where nobody acknowledges anybody
unless they definitely want to talk. When I arrived in Chicago, a
stranger would smile and ask me, "How are you?" I inaccurately
perceived this as an open invitation for a full conversation. Over
the past two years of living here, I've learned that friendliness
does not necessarily equate to a desire to have a conversation,
they're just being kind, I guess. I'm still a little weirded out by
this; if you ask me how I'm doing, I still look at you sideways to
figure out if you actually want me to answer that question, or not.
On the other hand, my rather immediate assumption to jump into
conversation has served me well, and I've made friends with shop
clerks at nearly every place I buy goods and services.
Right now, the Midwest is my home, though perhaps not my truest
Place. Here in Chicago, I've had to stumble along trying to
navigate the culture, and I finally feel that maybe I'm able to
catch these Midwesterners in stride and keep up. I have learned so
much about life in the heart of classic America by living here. My
greatest adventures so far have been getting to know a place by
living in it, participating in the community, and feeling out the
social habits of the people there. From this perspective, it's no
wonder I feel so slammed with new information; it's not just the
study of medicine I've been trying to assimilate, but the
Midwestern way of life as well.
So being in medical school is more than just your peers, your
books, your lectures, and the other trappings of studying medicine.
Many of us move to a new place to start this journey into medicine,
and the culture of that new place also provides us with struggles
and triumphs. If we can find the time to sit with our new place, in
addition to our books, we'll learn more about the world, which will
certainly make us better doctors, right?
• Leaves, Flowers, Berries, and Bark
• Farmer's Market
• Should I Study Massage Therapy, Too?
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