Sunday, December 31, 2006


<>For those of you concerned for the welfare of my little brother’s Christmas present, you will be very pleased to know I found it! Yes, indeed, the DVD of Slither was oh so logically placed on my bookshelf, in amongst my Discworld collection. I must have put it there, but I really don’t remember doing it… Anyway, I discovered the errant present’s whereabouts on Wednesday morning, wrapped it there and then before it could manage to escape again, tied a big shiny bow round it and delivered it – by opening my bedroom door and lobbing the present across the hallway into my brother’s room to land on his bed. He was still in it. Thankfully, it being a very light present, no grievous bodily harm was caused to the recipient of said Christmas gift. But he made an awful fuss. My mother told both of us to ‘stop behaving like children!’. I hate the fact I can no longer say ‘but I am child’, as my little sister (aged 12) is wont to do.

Anyway, after all my fears of having a different Christmas, this year has turned out to be one of the most lovely Christmases I’ve ever had. Just goes to show, different is not necessarily bad.

Currently reading: I finally read The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. And I absolutely LOVED it. I read the whole book in the course of one evening, finishing at 2am. To me, that’s the mark of a truly good book – my willingness to forgo sleep to finish it!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

I've lost my brother's Christmas present. Its's Christmas eve.

O shit.

Friday, December 15, 2006

I passed!

Hell yes – I got a B! Score!

So I’m very pleased about that, nut not managing to switch the stress off. I am wound tight as a spring, and have been biting off heads and crying for no reason left right and centre. I did pack everything in my room for my Dad to take home (after picking up my bro from Stafford, he swung by Birmingham, mainly to collect my dirty washing…) as well as complete all my Christmas shopping (and wrap everything). This evening I sung carols with the Medics chamber choir at the local hospice, St Mary’s, and then went to the cinema with Mirabelle.

I am now exhausted and my head hurts, and I cannot write anymore. I will fill the details in tomorrow, promise.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Anxiety is my friend

Finshed! The OSCE (observed structured clinical exam) was this morning, and I was in absolute pieces. Thankfuy the first station was a viva on anxiety, and when he askedme the somatic symptoms of anxiety, I simply related my own at that moment… The others (there were 8 in total!) were: risk assessment/OD OSCE; dementia/delirium viva; explain Venlafaxine to a patient OSCE; alcohol withdrawal viva; eating disorder OSCE; lithium viva; and explaining schizophrenia to a patient’s mother.

I hope to God I passed because I do not think I could cope with that experience again. I don’t feel at all confident of passing. I didn’t feel so bad immediately after, but having been feeling progressively more and more negative about the whole thing since. The results are published tomorrow afternoon…

Anyway, after getting through that trauma, the rest of the day has been lovely. I met Jenna for lunch, and we had the longest gossipy lunch ever, then only managed a mere hour of shopping before needing to stop for coffee… Jen then wentback to hospital,as technically she wasn’t finished (unlike me!) and I attempted to do all myChirstmas shopping. I didn’t quite achieve this, but did get the most stupendous Secret Santa pressie ever. And now it’s time for Christmas dinner, cooked by the lovely Mirabelle, so I had better run!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


One down, one to go!

Lily and I (plus another friend of Lily’s) went to the Selly Sausage for lunch after the dreaded MCQ exam. We all had carrot and coriander soup, followed by thick fluffy American pancakes. I had mine with raspberries in the batter, plus maple syrup and icecream on top. Mmmmmmm. Unfortunately, without realising it, we managed to sit chatting in the café until 4pm…which pretty much snookered any OSCE revision this afternoon!

I went to an old school friend’s art show this evening, as part of the final year of her fine art degree. It was very good – interesting concept and gorgeous paintings. I am so jealous of her – I wish I had the time to hone my skills and indulge in that amount of creativity!

And finally, I had the most delicious bath before I got into bed. Hot, steamy, and bubbly, with spa lights in the tub and candles all round the bathroom. I steeped gently for half an hour, with a cup of tea and a good book. Totally blissful.

Currently wearing: a navy blue O’Neill beanie to keep my head warm in bed. It’s a very sexy look…

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Roll on Friday

Psychiatry has stolen my sanity. And I want it back. It wasn't much, it wasn't entirely reliable, but it was all my own.

Revision and Medbar

Today was a truly awful day of revision. I feel as though I have achieved nothing. How on earth am I going to get through these exams?!

Our second Medchoir concert went spiffingly well last night. It was a new venue for us, but we’ll definitely be going back! I absolutely nailed the Christmas song, finally getting the warmth and nostalgia to ring through every line. The trio I was in – an SSA version of Mozart’s Laudate Dominum was a little ropey - but not so the audience noticed… at least I hope they didn't! We all went to the pub after, to the Pear, as Friday nights are Medbar nights. Medbar occurs when the medics take over the upstairs of the Bristol Pear pub, on the main road through the student area of Birmingham. The Pear love medics, and we love the Pear. They subsidise our drinking, which works in their favour, because medics drink a LOT. At least they do in Britain – its part of the medical profession’s work hard, play even harder ethic. Putting that a little into context, the Pear make a special 'cocktail' at Medbar. It's called a Heidi. It consists of 2 shots of Archers, 2 of Smirnoff and 1 of Malibu all in a pint glass and topped up with orange or cranberry juice and lemonade. Delicious and fairly lethal. But considered normal drinking for a British medic... Anyway, most of the choir went last night, and the majority of those who went wore their fabulous choir t-shirts. Lily and I got a little (!) merry, then rolled home via a pizza place, which was fun. We get on soooo well! I like having new friends.

O and then the bloody builders next door work me at 9am this morning. 9am at the weekend. Argh.

Currently watching (and eating): Home Alone (and fresh-out-the-oven-still-warm mince pies mmmmm).

Friday, December 08, 2006

Finished! (well, almost)

I’m signed off from psychiatry! Hurrah! My consultant signed off my logbook and my ‘professional behaviours and attitudes’ form (an actual form to be ticked for attendance, behaviour and appropriate dress – no joke, that’s one of the boxes…). So I’m technically finished at clinical placement, yet still going in tomorrow. That screams commitment, don’t you think?!

Currently listening to: a personal playlist entitled ‘Christmas Favourites’. Its hitting the spot I tell you.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Medschool, Motherhood, Madness

Busy day today.

I went to outpatient clinic this morning, then out with the home treatment team in the afternoon (crisis management), then back to hospital to read up on patient notes, home to eat toast and get changed then a quick run to Medschool for my first carol service of the year. While sitting in said carol service, I realised that this was the fourth year running I had sat in the same seat, with the choir. And that next year will be my fifth and final year. I do not know where I will be the year after that…

Sylvia and I were chatting about life, direction, and motherhood earlier. We were both getting ridiculously broody over Sir Robert Winston’s A Child Against All Odds programme. We were discussing the relative pros and cons of when to have babies. I have always said I would like to have a baby before reaching 30. And that’s now only 8 years away. Argh!

Currently reading: An Unquiet Mind, by Kay Redfield Jamison. She is a doctor of psychiatry suffering from bipolar affective disorder. The issues surrounding her struggles were brought home to me by a patient I saw in clinic this morning. A patient who once again managed to confound all my expectations of psychiatry. She was young, fashionably dressed, pretty, spoke conherently, sensibly, emotionally – in fact seemed just like any of my friends. Except she was extremely psychotic. Everything she said was frighteningly delusional. The kind of delusion that almost makes sense, where you can see how it grew from a seed of truth…

Does psych scare me because it reminds me how fragile a grip we all have on reality? I am someone who defines my sense of self by my mind – my intelligence, humour, creativity and ‘quirkiness’. If I were to be hit with a mental disorder, how would I know were to come back to?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Too true sir

There is pleasure sure in being mad, which none but madmen know.

John Dryden, from 'The Spanish Friar'

Monday, December 04, 2006

Nice things happen for a change

Handing in my elective protocol as soon as I finish this! Hurrah hurrah!
And I also found out today that by taking part in a study during my anaesthetics block, I have won a prize draw for £75 of high street vouchers. How cool is that? Seems my helpless inability to say no when someone (anyone!) asks for a volunteer has finally paid off!
(It’s a study of the role of mannequin training when teaching undergrad students to place laryngeal mask airways, just in case anyone cares.)

Sunday, December 03, 2006


thanks to Steve at the Sneeze

Concerts and Candles

It was the first Medchoir Christmas concert last night. It was really good fun, and I think we sounded better than we have for a long time. Possibly ever. We raised over £100, which we’re splitting between the church we sung at and Oxfam – we’re going to pay for the training of a health care worker. My solo was ok – I’ve sung better, but equally I’ve sung worse. And I get another go at it next Friday.

(if anyone is in the Birmingham region on Friday night with nowt to do, come and listen to us bringing a little Christmas cheer to the Midlands!)

My Mum came to Birmingham yesterday, to take me and my brother to lunch then round the German market that’s in the town centre. John is at uni in Stafford, about 30 minutes train ride away, so it’s no problem for him to get to me. We had lunch at Wagamama, then had a lovely afternoon pottering in the market. It was so nice to see them both, but it did make me long for the Christmas holidays…

Anyway, I should probably go get some sleep as I am brewing a cold (yummy) and because I am stressing about psych exams next week. Stress is always so much better when you’ve had some sleep!

Currently smelling: the delicious cinnamon and mandarin candle my mum bought me yesterday (disappointingly from Muji not the German market…). Absolutely gorgeous! Although it did just set off my smoke alarm for no apparent reason – it didn’t all afternoon, then when I light it again before going to bed, it does. Odd. Especially when this is the same smoke alarm that did not raise a peep the time I burnt an actual hole in one of my wooden shelves… Long story that one, all you need know is that I was being particularly dense that day. Even for me.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Shoot me now

I wrote 800 words of my protocol for my elective this afternoon. It was a struggle. I came back to it this evening and my blasted laptop has no recollection of it. None what so ever. In my current fragile state, this reduced me to tears. I have to write the whole sodding thing again. The whole thing. I was sure I had saved it, but I probably did something totally idiotic and got rid of it.

Why am I such a fuck-up at the moment?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Orientated in time, place...person?

I am struggling with psychiatry. I would so far as to say I hate it.

I am not comfortable around the floridly psychotic (my own prejudices I know, but I seem to be lacking the effort to needed to get round them) and most of our in-patients have such incredibly sad life stories, that I can completely understand why they have a psychiatric disorder. But it is so hard to help them, because for most, the social situation causing/attributing to their disorder can’t be taken away by an SSRI. Or even clozapine. And I find that hard.

So it’s not you, psych, it’s me. I don’t fit, and I don’t want to fit. Psychiatry would destroy me, as I do not have the emotional or mental strength. In every specialty, I find the social factors of illness the hardest to deal with. I found elderly care very hard in that respect. I want to be a magical healer – people come into hospital, we make them ‘better’, then they go away and live a perfect live, happy and whole. But life isn’t like that. And I struggle with that.

I’ve noticed myself developing certain coping mechanisms. They are not pretty. Joking about madness, joking about sucide, joking about patient stories. Nor pretty, not fair. But necessary?

Is medicine turning me into an insensitive machine? Or are these mechanisms the only way to get through intact?

I am constantly trying to balance the two sides. The side that is the ‘doctor’ part – able to detach, black humoured, removed from patient sensibilities and feeling. My friends and family spot this side. Other med students see it as normal. And the other side of myself, the side that feels and empathises, that is floundering. Has been for a long time. It is still spotted though – in my block, I am quite well known as the ‘fluffy’ one. Because I like people, not just diagnoses.

So anyway, I am finding this block hard. Maybe I will find a good place to balance psych from, and I will be able to go back to my happy little place of pottering along. I don’t like being stretched, having to engage my brain into finding out what I am and why I am here.

If you want to read someone much more eloquent than me on the subject of what becoming a doctor means losing of yourself, go read Garbage’s blog. He’s just qualified as a doc and is threatening to delete the lot. So read it now, before it’s gone. I promise it will make you think...

Currently eating: those damn shrimp and banana sweeties again. Yup, that's how bad it is.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Good and Bad

I guess that the last few weeks have been hard. I am not enjoying psychiatry, and my fragile faith in medicine is suffering. And I am tired – we’re coming to the end of a double-block, I have a great deal of work, I have many concert and the like, and I have taken on much socialising. Yes, the last is entirely my own fault…

Good things are happening though. I have joined another choir – the medschool Chamber Choir, composed of members who are a little more serious about the singing malarkey. It looks as though it will be very good… Christmas and the holidays are very close. I have lots of lovely concerts and services to do, and I’ve cracked the Christmas Song (you know, Nat King Cole and ‘Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…’ - that’s the solo I’m singing in the Medchoir Concerts). My mum is coming up next Saturday to go round the German market in town, and take me to lunch (yay!).

But bad things too: Christmas is so close and there are so many things to do. Elective protocol must be handed in, pysch exams (MCQ and OSCE – eeek) to pass, poster project abstracts to be written. Plus present shopping to be done, programmes to be confirmed, written and printed. Rehearsals to organise and attend. And the huge black cloud in my skull dug out and put somewhere else.

Despite this, I had a great evening last night. We had housemeal (Morrocan stew thingy, fruit salad) with all housemates plus two ‘extras’ – Sally’s boyf Dave and Sylvia’s boyf Mark then off the pub. On our return from said public house, we got down to the serious business of the evening: painting the giant canvas sitting in our living room. It is now a fabulous abstract delight of tissue, paint and glitter in a delightful array of warm colours. (I tried again to put a piccie on here, we’ll see if it works!)

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Currently watching: well, not exactly currently, but I watched Little Women this evening with Mirabelle and Sally, and cried buckets. Love that film.

Friday, November 24, 2006

I'm still here

Just about anyway. Hanging on by my finger nails….

And no it wasn’t that the burnt on rice pudding sent me to my bed for 2 weeks. Honestly, Marysienka and Tallmedstudent, I have got a life. Sort of. Alright, so I ain’t one of the kool kids, but I’m doing my best!

Ok, I have five minutes, so here’s a wee update (and I promise that I will post something of worth at the weekend):

1. I am intensely busy right now – only had one evening in this week. And I’ve got so much work than I have lost sight of Christmas.

2. I hate psychiatry.

3. Speed dating is so much fun. All single people should go!

4. Daniel Craig is HOT. Go see the Bond movie - and take a bucket for your drool, ladies!

5. I haven’t been updating and I haven’t been reading/commenting. I was blog free for two whole weeks. It feels like so much longer! Not sure if that’s good or bad.

6. Um that’s it…it’s 1am and I have to get some sleep tonight! Got a psych ward round to sit through in the morning – I need to be well rested or I’ll nod off…

Monday, November 06, 2006

Kitchen Drama

I am so sad tonight.

I burnt my rice pudding.

You feel my pain, I know. I made the pudding, put it in the oven, settled in to watch the X Factor reruns (and the McBoring Brothers are still in. How? Who is actually voting for them?). And when I went to get it out, the skin was blackened and the whole kitchen stank of ‘burnt’. That horrible acrid smell that lingers and lingers… I carefully levered off the crisp skin and found a stuck and dry pudding underneath. The top and middle were edible, but the bottom and sides are going to need serious elbow grease tomorrow to scrape them off, after soaking overnight. Sigh. Anyway, I managed to rescue a bowlful, and it was ok, but not the creamy silky sticky delight I was hoping for.

In short, the whole episode damn near broke my heart.

Friday, November 03, 2006


We have power!

I feel like a whole person once again, reattached to my precious laptop. And so here is my update:

I can hardly believe it, but my 6 week block in anaesthetics, respiratory and intensive care mdeicine ends tomorrow. Where does time go? I’ve really enjoyed the practical aspects of anaesthetics and intensive care – cannulating, intubating, even bagging! I haven’t enjoyed dredging the dark depths of my mind to find (to attempt to find…) important bits of physiology and put them together to make sense of a patient’s situation and treatment. Hard, but intellectually challenging, and I love a challenge. However, I did not love today’s final tutorial, lasting 3 hours and 30 minutes. That’s 6 of us being grilled by a consultant anaesthetist on renal support, 2 ‘virtual’ cases and a formative MCQ. My brain was melting out of my ears by the time we finished!

I’ve also made a really good friend on this block, a girl named Lily. We get on like a house on fire, and she’s even joined the choir!

2. Halloween
I finished the costume. Wire frame, paper mache, primer, acrylics. It was so much fun and was definitely the most infamous costume in Birmingham. Everyone seemed to have heard about my pumpkin. And it was pretty damn cool, even if I say so myself! I took him (I named the pumpkin Algernon, Algy to his friends) to the Lickey Hills on Tuesday night, with the wilderness medicine society. They’re all terribly outdoorsy, and Lily had persuaded me to go. She was then a very rubbish no show (apparently, having your shoulder ligaments arthroscopically screwed back to your bones and a rotator cuff repair at the same time 10 days ago means you shouldn’t go out running around the woods in the dark. Whatever). I dragged my housemates Sylvia and Di out too, and we headed off, thinking it would be light hearted fun.

But when we stepped off the train, we were handed a map and a compass and told to set off… I don’t know how to use a compass…

I discovered that 1) paper mache pumpkins with lights inside make good torches to read maps by 2) my night vision is pretty good 3) my sense of direction is even better, as well as my memory for places I’ve been once before, about 2 months ago, in daylight.

In the end, I had a spiffing time, but it was a bit dodgy in places!

3. Speed dating…
No joke, me and a bunch of friends (including Lily and my housemate Di) are actually going speed dating next week. I think it’s going to be hilarious – probably in a really excruciating way, but never mind eh, will provide me with good fodder for diner party stories! Expect a full post on it after the event…

Currently listening to: The Gift of Music, by John Rutter. I love his version of ‘Be thou my vision’. It’s already one of my favourite hymns, and that arrangement is particularly lovely.

PS Does anyone have any good ideas for interesting conversation starters for speed dating? I have four minutes with each guy. Eeeeek!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Still cable-less. Sigh.

Still no power cable. I had no idea how attached I was to my laptop until the gods of electronics saw fit to take it away from me. But hopefully, as I sit in hospital typing this, a brand spanking new cable is sitting at home, delivered this morning by the postman. And I will be soon connected to the world once more, via the medium of the internet.
Tomorrow I am planning an evening in avec said latop (ah, my love, together again!) and an update post, that actually says something meaningful about what I am doing, not what I am feeling… That is, all about why I am stressed, not how stressed I am!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Power Problem

I have somehow broken my laptop's power cable, which accounts for the grievous lack of posting. When the new cable arrives on Wednesday, normal service shall resume. I have a post written on last Friday, that I will post, but at the moment it is trapped on said laptop.

Right now, I am sitting in the hospital undergrad common room, supposedly working on my respiratory case presentations for this afternoon. Better get on with it!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Story of Friday Night

Ah, Friday night.

My brother and cousin came up to Brum. Always an absolute riot, mainly because the three of us get on like a house on fire. Quite literally at times…

We went out for a curry (the boy needs his authentic Brummie curry), then to the pub and finally to Snobs, Birmingham’s most infamous alternative night club.

My housemate Mirabelle came too. And Tom. Ah yes, Tom.

Last night he came out to the club to be with me. There was no.other.reason. He doesn’t know Mirabelle or my brother and cousin, and none of his friends were going. While on the dance floor, there was very much close dancing, much drifting of hands to touch and hold close. He came back to our house after, for tea and biscuits and chat. We live a good twenty minutes walk from him, its not just popping next door.

As he left, we had a stilted awkward conversation. About how I would like us to be more then friends. And how he is still hung up on the Other Girl. I dislike this other girl intensely. They went out for 3 months during third year. She then ended it, because she is Muslim, and ‘can’t’ have a white boyfriend. Her family never knew of his existence. She sort of broke his heart a bit, and now is still stringing him along. Its not fair on either of them. Every time we talk about such things, he brings her up and says ‘I’m stopping it, because it’s pointless.’ They are not seeing each other, but still speaking, and he is still hoping. Personally I think it’s a waste of his time. If she won’t acknowledge him to her family, how can that be a real relationship? She is trying to have her cake and bloody eat it. He needs to walk away for his own good, and to an extent her own good.

Anyway, that’s how the damn thing now stands. I went out there and I told him how I feel, leaving myself without a leg to stand on. I didn’t make a fuss, I didn’t throw myself at him. But last night made me see how easily we could fit together.

Last night I was sad. Sad and lonely. Mirabelle hugged me, and listened to me, and was and is the best friend I have ever had. Again. What would I do without her?

Today I am still sad but also pissed off. I hate that he can lead me on. In a way, he is bringing just as bloody minded as the Other Girl. In the last few weeks I have seen a lot of him, and been texting and messengering. And then he comes out last night and bloody flirts. Flirts! And hugs and touches. And he is neither flirty nor touchy feely.

I hate that anyone can influence the way I feel so much, without knowing. Except that now he does. And I have this awful feeling it will taint our friendship in the future, and what is was in the past.

And most of all, above everything, I hate that I feel it is all my fault. It is my fault for not being enough.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Busy but losing myself

I’ve been so busy this week! This is my first and only night in, which was house meal, so’s been pretty unproductive. But good fun – house meal always takes at least two hours, because we always have two courses and lots and lots of talking. It’s great to have scheduled time together each week. Tonight Sally made a vegetable chilli-esque dish with mashed potato topping, sprinkled with cheese. My, it was goooooood. And the chocolate mousse pudding was amazing. Rich, velvety smooth, and very very chocolately.

On a more serious note, I’m still troubled by the future. I am still unsure whether this is the right thing for me. I oscillate between ‘I can’t’, ‘I won’t’ and ‘I will, goddammit’. Some of the time I feel this is the right thing for me, that medicine is my vocation, and it fits me, and I it. Sometimes I feel I will never be enough, and I think the fear is manifesting as I don’t want to continue in medicine. I don’t want to fail, and I am so scared of failing that I almost would rather leave. But the stubborn core of me says no, you can do this, and you will do this. I am trying to hear the core, and ignore the bleatings of the rest of my mind.

Although hearing about the MMC (modernising medical careers) plans from a BMA speaker this week was very distressing. It seems that training schemes in this country are in a crisis because the Government is pushing through a new system that is not ready and does not seem feasible. I feel I am being asked to give even more of myself to medicine than I could have ever envisaged before I began. When I decided I wanted to do medicine, I wanted to eventually become GP and work part-time, firstly so I could have children, but also so I could paint and sing. I have never wanted to be only a medic. Now I am frightened that the bit of me that is creative – that sings, paints and writes – is being lost.

Which is why I sat in front of Grey’s Anatomy tonight with a pad of paper and my colour pencils!

Currently listening to: Razorlight’s self titled second album. It’s rocky, tuneful, and great to dance along to while singing at the top of your voice.

PS I’ve updated the links - go check em out!

Sunday, October 15, 2006


The pumpkin is coming on a pace. I put a layer of paper mache on today. Not sure how many it will need, but I’m hoping this one will do, as I have a short attention span. That’s why I paint in acrylics – they dry in minutes, so you have to paint fast, but can make total revisions just as fast.

I have a frog painting (hopefully a series) in the pipeline at the moment. As well as something for my parents wedding anniversary. They’re currently being very understanding about me getting it done…

I’m feeling better today. Going to church this morning was rubbish to begin with. I felt ignored and alone, while sitting in the middle of the choir. I was wallowing and felt no-one has noticed my ‘agonies’. But at the end of the service, the Sunday school group showed us a church family tree they had made, by writing the names of people in the church on paper leaves and colouring them, then sticking them on a tree picture. And someone had put my name on. That made me feel remembered and loved, and made me realise I should buck my ideas up.

So I came home, had some lunch, went to the Bullring, tried to buy some shoes (didn’t have the right size grrrr) and bought some PVA glue. Which meant I could spend 2 happy hours tearing up newspaper and splashing glue around. Bliss.

Then I went for dinner at our local with Mirabelle. I haven’t laughed so much in a very long time.

Funny how the little things can lift your mood.

What am I doing here?

I’m in on a Saturday night. Mainly because I’d be rubbish company as I’m in a baaaaaad mood. Have been on and off for a while now. I’m so tired of feeling miserable.

I told Jenna that I wanted to give up medicine last night. She said ‘Not again.’

Maybe I’m in the wrong profession. Sometimes I love medicine. Sometimes I hate it.. Sometimes it feels like I am losing myself in it all. I think that I am mostly just scared right now.

On the upside, I have made a good start on my Halloween costume. I’m going as a pumpkin, complete with lights… I’ve now made the wire frame, still got to paper mache and paint.

Currently watching: rerun of X-factor results show, as I missed the first one to watch Cruel Intentions. (I wanted Ray or the McDonald brothers out. But they’re still in…and the Unconventionals are out. Sigh.)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


I got tagged by med neophyte, so I now present you with 20 random facts about myself:

1. I hate (to almost phobic proportions) furry plants, especially furry fruit. Peaches and kiwis are the main offenders, but anything with furry leaves also creeps me out.

2. I love big rings. My current favourite is a large oval of blue-green shell mounted onto a silver band.

3. I love the changing skies of England. You never quite know what the weather will do. However, rain seems to feature quite highly. I met some Americans once, who told me how much they admired the English who carrying on even when it was pouring with rain. I just laughed – how else would we get anything done in this country?

4. I was born in Sussex, and I will forever feel at home there, between the rolling hills of the North and South Downs.

5. I don’t have one favourite song ever, and am highly suspicious of those who have. Bit narrow minded really isn’t it?

6. Or am I just indecisive? Right now, if I had to pick only one song, it would probably be Muse’s Plug in Baby.

7. I play the piano, and enjoy playing classical and modern piano pieces. But mostly I love to accompany my own singing. That to me is the point of all those lessons and the hours of practice I did as a kid!

8. I failed the scales section of Grade 4 piano when I was about 13. I only passed that exam by 4 marks. I failed a piece (!) in Grade 5 piano a couple of years later. I only passed that exam by 3 marks. I stopped after that. The torture was too much. And I couldn’t be bothered to learn enough theory to pass Grade 5 theory, which you have to have to do Grades 6, 7 and 8.

9. I did get a distinction in Grade 1 piano when I was 10. That was an achievement.

10. Singing is my real passion though – I live to sing. I’m a bit of a music whore and will sing anything with a good tune! I’ve done classical, pop, musical, jazz, everything. If I could not sing, I would only be half a person.

11. My Dad once dated Anneka Rice (yes, her of Challenge Anneka fame). It didn’t last long: he started going out with my Mum when he was 18, and she was 15.

12. I could never be a politician. I just don’t have the conviction or the ability to lie (my guilty expression is a dead giveaway).

13. I am pretty liberal in my political outlook. I am a true believer in state maintained NHS and benefits and so on and so forth. I just wish our country could decide one way or the other. I mean, is it higher taxes and better public services? Or is it lower taxes and private all the way? At the moment I think we were doing neither scheme very effectively.

14. My little sister is 10 years younger than me. It’s a great gap. My brother is 7 years older than her, and it works really well. I’m just gutted by the fact than when she’s the age I am now, I’ll be….gulp…32...

15. I’m an Anglican Christian via upbringing and my own choice. I still go to church but am going through a stage where I am not sure about the existence of God. However, going to church on a Sunday morning clears my head and opens my mind to spiritual thoughts. It’s pretty easy for life to pass you by on a completely superficial level if you don’t ever stop to think about it.

16. I try and avoid dairy to reduce the amount of gunk clogging my sinuses. If I avoid cheese, yoghurt and milk I can indulge in chocolatey treats without too much of an effect. The phlegm ain’t so good for the singing!

17. My favourite film is the Sound of Music. I love the songs, I love Julie Andrews, I have a bit of a crush on the Captain…..

18. I have my Dean’s Chorister Award, which is now called a Bronze Award I think. It’s for church singing. You have to sing hymns, anthems, pass a bit on aural skills, answer some questions on the church year.

19. One of my pet hates is sniffing. This comes from my mother, who has been known to offer sniffing strangers tissues, for instance while standing in queues. Ooo, I also hate people who let drips dangle from their noses. Urgh. That is disgusting.

20. I love tea. My whole family are massive tea drinkers and so I think I inherited it.

My personal choice is weak, black Earl Grey.

And there you are, 20 highly useless and irrelevant facts about moi!

I tag…. Marysienka

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Why is it so hard to say to someone important 'I like you'?

I just go round and round in circles in my brain. Is knowing that he isn't remotely interested better than hoping but not knowing anything? And what happens if I screw up a good friendship? Its a newish one, but one I am loath to lose. But do I only care about the friendship because I want it to be more?

I don't know what to do, what to say, who to be...

Sunday, October 08, 2006

While watching Grey's Anatomy...

I’m writing this in the breaks in Grey’s Anatomy, so it might be a bit disjointed…! I do love GA. Yup, I know that’s totally uncool for a medical student, but I really do. Mainly for Dr Burke, but also for the soap opera drama-ness of their lives. Nothing that exciting ever happens to me. There’s also a less shagging in the on-call room. None for me in fact. And I’ve never met any doctors as hot Dr Burke…which may explain the lack of on-call room shagging…

You know, it really is unrealistic isn’t it. The specialist paediatric surgery from a district general cardiothoracic surgeon and all.

Ooo, made a cup of tea in that break. Earl Grey, black, in my favourite bone china mug with sunflowers on. Also got my half tub of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream out of the freezer. Ah, doesn’t get much better than this.

It’s been a beautiful day in Birmingham. Fresh and clean, with that hint of autumn – crisp air, leaves on the turn, conkers on the pavement… I went for a walk, after a mammoth clean up of the entire ground floor – kitchen, living room, piano room, my bedroom and my bathroom. I then took the empties wine and beer bottles (we’d accumulated two carrier bags full in the last two weeks…) to the bottle bank. It’s only five minutes up the road, but once I’d walked there and dumped the bottles (does anyone else lob them in the bins as hard as possible, trying to make the biggest and most satisfying smash?) I decided it was too beautiful to go home. So off I trotted round Selly Park, looking at some very lovely houses and some absolute monstrosities. I have sooo many ideas for when I build my own house. I am not sure exactly how I will accommodate them all…

Beautiful weather, especially now, as the nights draw in, always makes me so melancholy. I think it is the transient nature of the day, of time. I was having some very deep thoughts (well, deep for me, generally noted to be deep as a puddle) on the subject as I walked, but could come up with nothing more than it should be an encouragement to get out there and seize the day. Because you never know what tomorrow will bring.

And really, right now, that seems exactly what I should be doing.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I was in gynae theatre this morning, watching tension-free vaginal tapes for the control of stress incontinence being fitted under spinal anaesthesia. One patient was in for her fourth gynae op for incontinence, poor woman. When he was finished, the consultant began talking to the patient, telling her how it had gone. He seemed confident he had improved her situation. He leaned over the screen and said to her:

‘It was difficult, as you have been so messed about by other operations that your anatomy is completely different to normal. When you cough, I cannot predict what your vagina will do.’

Then he pointed across to me, perched on a stool next to the patient’s head and said:

‘That young woman, I could predict exactly what her vagina would do it she coughed.’

Cue strangulated noises from me and gales of laughter from the theatre staff…

Monday, October 02, 2006


I apologise for the long hiatus between entries. It was freshers last week, followed by the busiest weekend of my life.

I spent it at the Medschool – 3 hours on Friday night, 12 hours on Saturday and 9 hours on Sunday. It was all for a good cause though – a pre-hospital trauma course.

The course is the only undergrad pre-hospital trauma course in the country, and is run by the West Midlands Care Team. It was fantastic! A volunteer team of doctors, nurses, fireman, policeman and armed forces types came and gave lectures and taught practical skills in small sessions.

I learnt how to open and maintain an Airway, the importance of C-spine control, what Breathing problems can occur and how to deal with them, and how to manage external and internal haemorrhage to maintain maximal Circulation.

Easy as AcBC…

The course content and teaching was interesting, stimulating and very important. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. It’s just now I am so tired, and I haven’t done any of the things I normally do at the weekend, which all allow me to fully function during the week. I think I am going to be playing a lot of catch up!

However, I did find the whole thing quite upsetting. Some of the cases and photographs shown as the lectures were horrific. Very traumatic and very frightening. Frightening in terms of that could happen to me or my loved ones, but also because I am not sure I could cope with it from a professional standing. I felt nauseated and scared by the pools of blood and disfigurement, and my stress levels went through the roof just thinking about dealing with a trauma case.

I hope and pray that I will never need to use what I have learnt. I also hope and pray that if called upon I will remember what I have learnt, and be able to apply it to the best of my skills, and save someone’s life.

If one person on the course this weekend uses the skills we learnt to save just one life, then it is worth all 382 of us giving up our weekend.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Back to it, people!....please?

So, new block started today. And I am doing ARICM – a delightful and unpronounceable acronym which we call ‘arikim’. It involves:






(Ooo would you look at the text formatting on that. And please appreciate how hard it is to spell anaesthetics. This is one case where I like the American way of spelling – to be an anaesthesiologist would be damn cool.)

It may be new block today, but its also… drum roll please…..MISSION MONDAY!

(Go read Carmen’s blog, she is fabo! And even mentioned being enough the other day. Could I puffy heart her more?)

The mission for this Monday was to be sweetness and light and smile at everyone – especially people providing you with a service. Score! I knew I could do this one. I am ridiculously good at smiling at people, especially when finding directions or going to a new place. And what was I doing today? Off to a new hospital…

Yes, I did get lost when looking for the undergrad centre on campus. Yes, I did smile and ask nicely for directions, and everyone was so friendly and helpful. Being lost doesn’t seem half so bad when people are kind to you.

<>I do it automatically. If you ask nicely - ‘Would it be possible…?’ ‘I’m a little bit lost, do you think you could help? I’m looking for…’ people are much more willing to go out of their way to help you. And saying thank you doesn’t cost anything, and it makes someone feel valued. Which they most certainly were today!

When I worked in jobs providing a service (as a sales assistant in a gift shop at Wakehurst Place, a receptionist at the local physio department and a barmaid) I always gave the extra bit, you know, smiled more, did everything I could, tried to make the customer/client/drunkard feel listened to and appreciated. And I always felt so appreciated when people said thank you. It really made me smile.

Always seems as though it’s the people who ask in the nicest way who are most appreciative. Maybe because they don’t expect you to do everything, so they are genuinely pleased when you go the extra mile.

One of the loveliest pubs in Selly Oak, where I live in Birmingham, is nice because of the staff. Apart from one or two rather yummy student lads, ahem, they have one of the nicest bar maids ever. She’s always bubbly and smiling, and has a chat with you. Last time we got on to the relative calories in a gin and tonic or vodka soda lime (I’m a drinker of the latter, in case anyone wants to buy me a drink anytime…). That’s the kind of thing that makes the difference.

O, and my personal top tip for being the nicest shiniest version of you that you can? Smile when answering the telephone. Always works for me! I have a stupendously good telephone manner. In one of my hospital placements, I booked some teaching on the telephone with a doctor’s secretary, then rang up and booked room for it, while sitting with the rest of my group. They spent the rest of the day clamouring why couldn’t I be that nice to them!

Finally, I do one more thing to make myself feel I am not a bad person. If a homeless person offers me the Big Issue, I always say ‘No thank you’ if I am not buying one. Its common courtesy.

Currently reading: A Game of Thrones, Geoge RR Martin. I am finding this one hard work. I had heard good things about the Song of Ice and Fire series (of which this is the first book), but it is mostly political type drama, with lots of plotting, and murder, and devious twists. Not sure I will bother with the rest of the series, because I like good old adventure fantasy. Sword fights and wizards, dragons and dwarfs. O, and anything Discworld!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Holiday post with extra rant...

I love having a holiday. I’m at home and it is wonderful. Meals cooked, clothes washed, decisions made… I do kind of just switch off totally when I come home for the week. You know, hand over the reins to my parents and just sit quietly in the corner.

Or not so quietly, as I have a new guitar. A beauty too. My little brother chose it, as he is the fount of all (well, much) guitar knowledge. He would die without his. This is a replacement for a previous acoustic – a cheap starter instrument that died a slow death being abused by me and my bro. How sad. But me and the new one are fast making friends, and I promise not to drop it! I have been searching for simple tabs on the internet (did I tell you how much I love the internet?!) and found lots I like… The fingers of my left hand however do not. Anyone got a method for toughening the tips? Apart from practice, because I am already doing that, and it’s not the point of the question – I know practice will toughen them, but I want to cheat. I want it now. I am part of the instant gratification generation, you know, and we don’t know how to do hard work and patience.

Otherwise all is quiet on the Western front. Going t’pub with some old friends tomorrow – could be ok, could be bad. Unlikely to be good. Although the last few times I’ve seen them it hasn’t been as bad as expected. I’m seeing a very good and old friend on Friday – she’s at uni in Brum too, but at a different one to me (an ex-polytechnic, not a redbrick like mine teehee!) doing fine art. I may laugh at her, but a bit of me is jealous that she gets of paint and draw all day. But then I think about job security and satisfaction and doing some good in the world and I say to myself ‘But I want to be an artist!’.

We could get on to a whole thing here about doctors doing good in the world… butI haven’t the time, space or inclination to right now. Maybe one day…

Does anyone else have a little list of ‘Things I should blog about’? Mine are all deadly intelligent and would change the way you think about me. Honest to gods, they are all worthy, interesting and thought provoking topics. However, whenever I sit down to write, all this utter drivel comes out, and so the internet never gets to witness my genius.

Which may or may not be a good thing….

Talking of thought provoking, Med Neophyte’s latest post, on patient-student consent, was extremely so. Consenting patients for students to examine is always tough. I hate being introduced by a senior doctor as ‘training doctor’ or ‘young doctor’. Some of my peers also hate ‘student doctor’, but I think that is probably the most accurate way of explaining us to a lay person – ie a patient. I have been mistaken for a student nurse, pharmacist and physio when introduced that as a ‘medical student’.

But what can you do when a senior colleague – and its invariably the consultants who say it – introduces you to a patient as a young doctor? Technically it is lying, and lying to get consent makes a mockery of patient autonomy and any examination I do battery. I hate it – firstly, that I am made to feel like a liar by a doctor who is supposed to be supporting and encouraging my learning, and secondly that I do nothing about it. I stand by and let it happen. By my silence I comply, I say that it is ok to lie to patients.

But it is not ok. It is not ok to lie so that the patient is trickedinto thinking I am a qualified professional. I am so grateful to every patient who gives me the chance to speak to them, examine them and generally inconvenience them in the name of education. I should not undermine the trust they place in me. And I understand that patients may not wish to see a student, unlike some. Some of peers moan and complain when a patient refuses to see them or be examined by them. I respect that choice. If I was sick as a parrot (and patients in hospital are, as a rule, ill in some way…) I would not want to be prodded by a gang of teenagers, or tell my life story including the state of my bladder, bowels and sex life to a fair sized group of people. Lying to them to get consent is a gross misplacement of their considerable trust in us.

Medical students and doctors alike need to remember that being grateful goes both ways. Yes, patients should be (and most usually are, very) grateful that we are treating them, and remember that expertise needs to start somewhere, but we as doctors also need to remember that patients are people to, and be grateful to them for sharing their woes to further our education.

The best consent to see a student I know of is the form used by own GP practices. It states that we are students, and how many years we have been studying, plus (more importantly?) how many years to go until we qualify. It has separate sections for consent to take a history, and another to examine. It’s clear and concise and very difficult to administer in hospital.

And therein lies the problem. I don’t know how to make it better – for doctors, patients and students. For me. And so I will continue on, like many medical students, wincing every time a consultant calls them a ‘young doctor’, not knowing how to change the situation.

Goodness, rant over now. Phew. Congratulations if you managed to read this far!

<>(The post ended up so much bigger than I expected - I have been writing it on and off all afternoon. At least it wasn't all day, I guess...)

Currently listening to: The Amateur Transplants. Fan-bloody-tastic. Played some to my mum and she was in fits. Like me.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

See - they just don't like me

Photos that is. Or maybe the internet is just not ready for my ugly mug!

Anyway, here's another go...

Previous description:

'O, and for your delectation (as the other picture worked, thanks again to Marysienka!) here’s something cheerful: my cousin Helen, my brother John and me, at my parents wedding anniversary party. The funny thing is, John and I were sober (performance pressure…), and Helen was absolutely ratted. You’d think otherwise from the photo! God, I look so tired… I’m desperate for our week holiday – which starts on Monday! Yippee!'

Edit (10 minutes later):

Bloody hell, its still not bloody working. That's it. I am not trying again. Officially giving up.

I told you they didn't like me.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Palliative medicine is pretty amazing. I hesitate to say I enjoy it – perhaps it is better to say I find it medically, emotionally and spiritually challenging, yet fulfilling. It dabbles into all areas of medicine, yet gives there is time to talk to the patient; indeed, the psychosocial aspects that can only be assessed by discussion with the patient are a fundamental pillar of palliative care.

And I like that. I like the talking therapies. Although I am a hands-on person, I enjoy communication with patients, finding out about all aspects of their lives.

(Probably because I am essentially very nosy.)

This placement has been hard – not intellectually, but emotionally. I have met some incredibly sick people, and been privileged to sit in on some intense consultations. The hardest was a 21 year old girl dying of refractive Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Firstly, she looked dreadful, and was obviously very ill, which was distressing. But most distressing was her own complete denial of her mortality. And I can understand why. 21 year olds shouldn’t die. They should be looking forward to everything life brings. The world should be her oyster, but instead life is sliding out of her grip.

I feel tired and battered by this placement, but in a healthy, constructive way. I feel this is an area of medicine that could challenge me for the rest of my life.

But I am also feeling a little sorry for myself, as another year has passed and I don’t feel as though I have achieved anything. In my head, I know that this is not true, but in my heart I still feel I haven’t grown up yet.

I know, I know, 22 is hardly old, but I still feel like a naïve, shy teenager. Logically I know I have grown and changed so much in the last 3 years, especially this last year. But I still don’t feel as though I am enough.

And I know you’re thinking ‘Here she goes again, harping on about being enough’ but that is the title… When I started this blog, I picked that name out of the air. I felt it reflected my struggle to get through medicine. However, I have learnt, in the last 9 month of writing, that it reflects the fundamental core of me: I do not feel like enough in any area of my life. I don’t think I ever have. Maybe I never will do.

Currently listening to: my favourite mix of emotionally charged stuff, including Tracy Chapman (The Promise), Eva Cassidy (Kathy’s Song), Coldplay (The Scientist), REM (At my most beautiful), John Cale (Hallelujah)…

O, and for your delectation (as the other picture worked, thanks again to Marysienka!) here’s something cheerful: my cousin Helen, my brother John and me, at my parents wedding anniversary party. The funny thing is, John and I were sober (performance pressure…), and Helen was absolutely ratted. You’d think otherwise from the photo!

God, I look so tired… I’m desperate for our week holiday – which starts on Monday! Yippee!


fingers crossed you can see something... all thanks to Marysienka!

(it should be the Margot Fonteyn pencil drawing I did for Mirabelle)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Busy bee

Having a tres busy week:

- hospice placement
- winning the pub quiz
- cooking dinner tomorrow night (chicken and pea risotto, followed by panfried pineapple)
- becoming twenty two....

Promise to post something real soon!

Currently reading: An Anthropologist on Mars, by Oliver Sacks. Love love love.

ps. Still can't get the photo thing to work. Tips anyone?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Life can be magnificent and overwhelming – that is its whole tragedy. Without beauty, love or danger it would almost be easy to live.

Albert Camus

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


I just had a very long IM conversation with Jenna about being enough. And I got really upset. Crying at the keyboard and all. I need to think about what we discussed before I can write about it. But I will.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

25 Long Years

My parents celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary this weekend. The actual anniversary isn’t until 10th October, but they thought the first weekend in September would have better weather.

Well, you’d think so, wouldn’t you?

Personally, I think it was fate. The original event was rained out, and then it piddled down at the 25th wedding anniversary party.

It was supposed to be a beautiful garden party, but instead it was slightly damp inside party with guests nipping between the house and the marquee in the garden. But the food was fabulous (thanks to some great local caterers and my Mum’s ace puddings), the drink was freely flowing, and the guests were the loveliest people my rents know.

Some very dear family friends came to stay, bringing their youngest son, who was my little brother’s best friend from the age of 3 until they moved away when he was 10. I’ve seen them sporadically since, but I hadn’t seen him for about 4 years. He’s now 20, and so grown up. Still acts like another younger brother though! Funny how some things never change, however old you get.

My cousins Helen and Lisa were also there, from my Mum’s side of the family. We’re really close to them, and Helen, who’s 17, kept us royally entertained getting steadily more pissed as the night wore on… She’s planning her next visit to Birmingham to go out with me in her school half term holiday. Birmingham should start preparing!

Our other cousins, on Dad’s side, are mostly very pretentious, and I always think they consider themselves are better than us. They treat me as the geeky unfortunate younger cousin. And I always feel slightly inadequate next to them. I truly have no reason to be. They went to private school, and have been to uni, graduated and got engaged/married. Nothing special, but I always feel as though I am behind. I’m still a student, I’m not even in a long term relationship, I don’t have money or posh friends… But I am bright, over halfway to being a doctor, a talented singer and average pianist, and I am socially well-adjusted.

They just always make me feel like a deprived child they’re being nice to out of pity.

But it was a truly great party, and so nice to see so many family friends who I haven’t seen in ages. Everyone wanted to know how I was doing, and what I want to do when I’m finished, and wished me well for the future.

Currently watching: the rolling English countryside from the train window. Today has been the most beautiful afternoon – clear blue skies, with that slow slanted sunlight you only get in late summer. And now an almost full moon has risen in the evening sky, settled on a bed of soft lavender clouds. I could never leave my country: its changing skies and rolling hills are too close to the heart of me. But the feeling is a little bittersweet. The slanted light, the start of September, the evenings drawing in; Autumn is so close I can taste it.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Theme song to my life?

What was no 1 on the day you were born?

Click here to find out. Mine was Stevie Wonder’s ‘I just called to say I love you’ in the UK and Tina Turner’s ‘What’s love got to do with it’ in the US. Both classic toooones.

Apparently they are the theme songs to my life – diametrically opposed themes of how great love is for love’s sake and how love is unnecessary, lust is all you need. Hmmm. At least they’re both damn good sing-alongs.

(Interestingly enough, I checked the lyrics of what’s love got to do with it on the internet (love love love Google) and in the chorus the lyrics apparently are ‘what’s love but a sweet old fashioned notion’. I always thought it was ‘a second hand emotion’. I like mine better.)

Currently reading: Where Rainbows End – Cecelia Ahern. So far okay, but I have a feeling it will wander into vomit-inducing saccharine sweetness fairly soon.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


I went to the pub tonight, for a quiz. We didn't win, which was tragic really for a team of 8 medical students and a physio. Supposedly the brightest of the bright young things, the cream of the crop. Not so it would seem...

Tom was there tonight, he of my mysterious crush. Mysterious disappearing crush as it turns out. When you stand at the bar with a guy for twenty minutes giving advice on how he should sort out his love life, the friends thing has gone way too far, and having sex with this guy would be weird.

But I am ok with that. I am definitely not harbouring any residual lust, just the sad feeling that he wasn’t the right guy either. They never are. Life goes on though, and I can’t complain otherwise.

Ooo, my final housemate has moved in – Sylvia. She is kooky and chilled, and I am looking forward to getting to know her better in the next few weeks…

Currently listening to: Coldplay – The Scientist (from A Rush of Blood to the Head). One song lyric to sum up my whole life:

Nobody said it was easy,

No one ever said it would be this hard…

Mission Monday

I have been away for a while. I’ve been ill, and also lacking inspiration. Severely lacking, but now, thanks to Carmen, I’m back.

Each week she has Mission Monday. And this week the challenge is to write about school and a favourite or inspirational teacher.

I loved school. I was bright and enjoyed learning, but didn’t need to work hard to excel, so had plenty of time for socialising. I ought to have been a prime target for bullying – clever, liked to read, glasses, not pretty – but I always had good friends, who would stand by me. And I also had a big gob, and always gave as good as I got. So I became popular by default, like the honourary geek in the cool kids gang. I had a lot of friends and a lot of fun.

As far as teachers go, I was damn lucky. Over my early years I had some great teachers – Mrs Chester, Mrs Browne, Mrs Hlavaty. At A level, I took physics, chemistry and biology, and was taught by a fantastic group of young male teachers – Mr Wood and Mr Berry for physics, Mr Hutch and Mr Crees for chemistry and Mr Perry for biology. All in their twenties or early thirties, they treated us like adults, with lots of irreverent classroom banter, but put in 100% in everything; in the classroom, in organising trips, in getting us the best resources we could have. And in return, we gave back 100% - in our work, but also in irreverent banter!

One teacher in particular stands out though. His name was Mr Sloan, and he was my music teacher at secondary school. He probably wasn’t the best teacher in the classroom, but he taught me so much about enjoying music, and gave me so many opportunities to perform. Mr Sloan was fairly young – not that I thought so at the time! – and a very talented pianist. He gave me the confidence to sing my first solo piece in a school concert, and told me to go for it when I was offered a part in the chorus of Nabucco. Once the first hurdle was overcome, he went out of his way to provide me with the chance to sing, and was the best accompanist I have ever worked with – able to transpose anything to any key and follow you like a shadow. And he was just a lovely person – mad as a hatter, and bizarre, but sweet and kind. He left my school when I was in my final year, and I often wonder what happened to him. I don’t think I would be the person I am today without his encouragement. Being a solo performer, a singer, is such a key part of myself, and he gave that part of me the chance to grow. Before I was a musician – part of the orchestra or choir, but he showed me that I could be a singer, and a damn good one at that. He was also a good friend, and even had breakfast with my family on one memorable occasion!

Since starting at medical school I have met some inspirational teachers and some truly terrible teachers. But none have changed my perspective on myself and how I present myself to the world as much as he did. Maybe I would have found my way here anyway, and certainly others have taught me much about singing and performing. But I never had the chance to thank him for what he gave me. Maybe one day I’ll bump into him and be able to say it. I hope so.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Mmm Fireman Sam

I’ve discovered my housemate Sally has a weird fetish for cartoon characters. We played a silly game over house meal (we all take it in turns to cook for the others once a week) where you pick three men, and then of those three, pick one to marry, one to be friends with, and one to sleep with. It is amazingly good fun, and you get onto the weirdest discussions. Sally fixated on picking cartoon characters last night – Fireman Sam, Morph, Wallace, Bob the Builder, Postman Pat, the Lurpack Man. It was very very strange. We all unanimously agreed that there was something quite sexy about Fireman Sam (the uniform? the way he rescues damsels in distress? because he is the 'hero next door'?) but sleeping with Postman Pat would be sooooo wrong.

At least we’ve sorted Sally’s next birthday – a kissogram in a Fireman Sam outfit…

Currently watching: Hollyoaks. My new housemates have got me so sucked into it. Aargh! It's such a rubbish soap. But very easy on the eye...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

It goes on

In three words I can sum up everything I've learnt about life: It goes on.
Robert Frost

I am still enjoying haematology. It’s interesting – clinically and scientifically, the team of doctors I’m with are lovely, and there’s time to get to know the patients. But the most important thing I’m learning? The utter persistence of life, and the resilience of the human spirit.

At the multidisciplinary meeting this week, a patient’s karyotype (basically sorting the chromosomes into their pairs and seeing if they are all present and correct) was displayed on the main screen, to illustrate the presence of multiple chromosome disruption. It was amazing: he had deletions, repetitions, translocations, funny little stunted things that surely can’t be functioning. His karyotype was a complete and utter mess. I personally couldn’t understand how any of his cells were still alive. And yet this guy only has chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML). I say only, it’s no picnic of a diagnosis, but I was gobsmacked. Life is so extraordinarily good at surviving, at continuing in the face of apparent hopelessness.

Many haematology patients are dying. They have leukaemias that are refractory to treatment, or they relapse after treatment, or treatment for an earlier cancer gives them leukaemia. But they keep smiling. The patients I have met on this block have been some of the brightest and chattiest. It makes me want to drag those grumpy rude GP patients who only have a runny nose to clinic and show them: ‘There, you see – this person is DYING, and they are pleasant and friendly and enjoying life. You only have a frickin’ runny nose! Go away and STOP WASTING MY TIME.'

Not sure that’s ethically or professionally allowable.

That said, maybe having a life-limiting condition does actually make you a better person. When I was a wee thing, I sang in a church choir with a woman who was incredibly sour and miserable. She was rude and difficult, and I was terrified of her. But after receiving a diagnosis of terminal lung cancer she became a different woman. Pleasant, helpful, she even smiled. It's as if having a sell-by-date stamped on her made her see that there just isnt enough time to be rude. Life is so short; why waste it on being a horrible person? I think having a terminal illness makes you want to be the best version of yourself that you can, to lose all the anger and unhappiness, and see the best in life for the remaining time you have.

After all, who wants to be remembered for being a miserable bugger?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Saving Grace

So I read this earlier at one of my daily must-read blogs (I puffy-heart Carmen!). It seemed a good idea for a post, and since I certainly didn’t have a better idea, here’s a list, in no particular order, of 5 things I am grateful for right now:

1. My housemates. Living with three (soon to be four) very good but diverse friends makes me feel very grateful. I am grateful for their help and support, and that one of them is there for me whatever the situation – happy, sad, mad, drunk…

2. My family. They drive me mad, but I wouldn’t be without them. They are loud, off the wall, argumentative, bizarre, disgusting, loving, difficult, complicated, warm, generous, sharing. Pretty damn fabulous in fact.

3. My brain. Ok, so I’m not the cleverest person in the world, but without my intelligence I wouldn’t be here. I am grateful every day for being bright.

4. Chocolate. This can only be understood by people with ovaries (approximately half the population). Sometimes you just need it.

5. Music. I could not continue to live if music was taken from me. For me it is pleasure, pain, joy, religion, communication, an expression of my soul. Serious stuff. I would choose to hearing over any other sense.

Last night, I was in a black mood. Very black. And what saved me? A combination of the above of course.

My housemates, especially Mirabelle, who gave me a great big hug as soon as she saw my face. Then we all got in our pjs and watched Four Weddings and a Funeral (still a fantastic film 12 years on!) while applying henna all over each other. My family, who I phoned and just felt better for speaking to, because I could see that the world was still turning. The fact that I still have the presence of mind to be able to think these things through and see that I will make it, that I can survive. A good session of singing at the piano, which always turns me into a nicer person. It’s a metaphorical workout for my soul, leaving me all warm and stretched inside.

And finally, a tub of gooey melty Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream brought me back from the edge. Thanks Ben and Jerry!

Currently reading: Closer and Why God Won't Go Away. Yup, that’s celebrity trash magazine, plus a book on the biology of belief. Does it illustrate the healthy breadth of reading material of an enquiring mind, or that I’m a flighty gossip with aspirations above my station?!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

I like it

Haematology is pretty good you know. Nice straight forward basics, with gut wrenchingly complicated higher stuff. I attended a meeting of 3 Haematology firms this morning, a kind of patient review, and it pretty much all went over my head. But the ward round after was really good.

It’s the firm I’m attached to that’s made the difference. They are warm, friendly, good teachers, non-threatening and inclusive. The firm is headed by Prof Stone, with Dr Murphy, both consultants. Then there’s Nick, the SpR, with Kay, who’s a Reg, and Hannah the new house officer. She started last week, after graduating from Birmingham a few months ago.

<>The teaching I’m getting is great. I get asked stuff, but it a manner that I can have a go, and not be scared I’m going to get shot down (not like Dr Smooth– scroll to entry at the bottom!). And it’s really caught my interest. I am finding this firm fascinating. It just goes to show that medicine is all about the team. By yourself, medicine can be overwhelming. With a supportive team, it’s an exciting challenge.

Currently listening to: The Feeling - Twelve Stops and Home. I love the tracks ‘Sewn’ and ‘Fill My Little World’. Cute and happy.

PS Need a laugh? Watch this. Ah, the joys of having a slacker bro who has time to find these things on the internet

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Just a quickie

Sooooo Oncology proper starts tomorrow, following today’s riveting lectures at the Medschool. After getting my timetable, I am wetting myself over the fact I attached to Haematology, under a Professor. So I think I might need some serious cramming. Serious. I am also placed with the lad from my GP placement who annoys the hell out of me. Great, just the two of us for the next 6 weeks. We do have a day visit to a hospice, which I am oddly enough looking forward to. Lets hope I don’t go off palliative care, as so far this year I’m ticked every placement off on my list of careers I never want: elderly care, ophthalmology, neurology, endocrinology… At this rate I’m going to end up with nothing on the list of careers I would like. Rubbish.

I am currently stuck at Medschool, waiting for an elective evening to start. It looks as though it will be really interesting – it’s 5th years talking about their experiences just a few moths ago, and how they organised them. And that’s pretty important to us right now! The question everyone in our year asks is – where are you going on your elective? Everyone also has some sort of a reply; but no one I know has any firm plans as yet!