Friday, March 31, 2006

They LIED, dammit

The Medschool lied to me. They LIED.

The day of reckoning is THURSDAY.

That’s right folks; the OSCE is on Thursday, not Friday.

And it’s EIGHT STATIONS. We were told six. Yet again, they lied.

Ah, woe is me.

But there may be a way forward through the paralysing fear I am feeling right now. I felt like this when I had to take my anatomy viva last year and was absolutely all over the place. My feedback from the examiners was ‘don’t panic, you know your stuff’. I have never felt so nervous, so sick, so faint, so scared in all my life. I literally felt as though it were the end of the world, the be all and end all of everything.

Obviously it wasn’t. I mean, it was just a 10 minute anatomy viva.

And yet I am the kind of person who is chilled about singing in front of crowds. In front of my peers, always the most terrifying! I actually choose to do it. So I’m going to make OSCEs a performance. It can be just me acting out the part of ‘medical student’. Oh, sorry, that should be ‘medical student who knows something’.

I mean, that’s essentially all it is – medical students acting out the part of doctors. So I’ll put another layer on that. I’ll be me, acting being a med student acting being a doctor. Maybe one day I’ll progress to acting ‘perfect medical student’ or even ‘doctor’, but let’s not run before I can walk. Or stagger.

So I now have precisely 5 days to perfect my ‘medical student with moderate knowledge’ act. It’s going to be a tough call. I think maybe I should read some Stanislavsky. Or maybe just stick to Clinical Examination…

On another note about stress, on the way back from my paeds exam I was chatting to the one of the other girls in my GP group about exams, saying that no-one ever takes my exam worries seriously. They always say ‘but you’ll be fine, you’re always fine, you always do really well’. It used to be true. At GCSE and A-level, I was always fine, and mostly was better than fine. But it’s a whole different ball game now, and one day I might not have done enough to get through. I might not be enough to get through that exam. And no-one will believe me.

I’m sorry, I’m not so good at chirpy right now. I am struggling to get through the next two weeks. In two weeks time I will be packed and ready for home. That’s a very lovely thought. The thought that is keeping me going - home for a whole week with NOTHING to do. Joy. I cannot wait.

For the moment I am going survive with fresh air. We have spring and sunshine and jacket weather (finally!), so I am going to cycle the tow path tomorrow. In the first and second year walking the tow path kept me sane while revising. But this year I have a bike… how exciting! Birmingham has some wonderful canals, sparkling and with all-weather resurfaced tow paths. But some are still pretty nasty, and full of old shopping trolleys, and probably the odd body. Yuk. I’ll take it though, as a bit of R&R. It may not be perfect and it may not be home, but it’ll do for now.

(My paeds viva today was okay. Not brilliant, but not a failure. I think I’ll pass.)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Busy Busy Me

Hurrah! My Paeds poster is finished (the coloured mounts make it), and my portfolio too…just the viva to get through. I think this one will be ok. Normal babies are our general practice theme for this year, and I like babies. I was 10 years old when my baby sister was born, so I've experienced a tiny baby. Sadly, this project has made me so broody! I bought a mother and baby magazine today for the pictures, and I felt so silly with it in the newsagents. But I read it when I got home. I was supposed to just look at and cut out the pictures, but I got sucked in over a cup of tea. Tragic isn’t it? I mean, I spent precious time on reading about bad breast feeding experiences and grim birth stories.

Time is incredibly precious at the moment. Term is over in less than two weeks, and I have my first ever OSCE and my two major exams to do. Plus the fact that my Public Health project seems to be taking over…

(We’ve renamed it the pubic growth project. We don’t walk to talk about it, and we’re not going to do anything or show it to anyone until the last moment… Isn’t that what you’d do about a pubic growth?!)

The Medschool has also released our OSCE allocations. Mine is at a central Birmingham hospital so that’s a relief, not having to travel miles. It’s made it all awfully real though. I’ve been avoiding thinking about it really, blocking it out as if it weren’t happening. Now I know when and where it will be, it’s more concrete. I’m going to have to stop being such an ostrich and get on with the revision.

I am so worried/scared/pant-wettingly-terrified already, and it’s a week away. Only a week tomorrow! I think it’s time to start praying…

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Today, spring finally arrived in Birmingham, and with it came the daffodils. They are everywhere, golden and sunny and happy, nodding in the wind and lightening my heart.

I walked into the Medschool this afternoon, and felt just like Wordsworth:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Everywhere you look, they are there. In gardens, canal side, next to playing fields, on roundabouts – friendly, joyous daffodils. They make me smile and start getting ready for warmer weather!

Not that I need it in this house – we have no tumble dryer and as the British weather is being particularly bipolar at the moment, we’re drying everything inside on radiators. This is fine in the winter when it’s freezing, but now it’s getting warmer…

I think today’s weather excelled in it’s erratic-ness. Sunshine and blue skies to grey, overcast and raining in 5 minutes, no joke. I walked to the stationary shop at the corner of our road in blazing sunshine, bought some coloured paper, and had to run home through the rain. Crazy stuff!

The coloured paper is for my paediatric poster, for a viva on Friday. Yeah, it’s not finished yet, but I have spent all evening mounting the different sections on different coloured card. What a thrilling adventure my life is!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Mothering Sunday

This morning, the Brownie Guides brought along their pictures of ‘Super Mum’ to show everyone in church. They’d made them last week at their meeting, and had thought of all the things that make a good mum.

They’d mostly drawn mums with extra arms (some robotic…!) doing super cleaning, washing, ironing and cooking. I thought it was sad that these 8, 9 and 10 year olds thought of that first when they thought of their mums. They didn’t think of the love and support, they just considered the physical aspects of caring.

And then I thought about it more, and realised that at that age, if you have the unconditional love and support of your mother (as all children deserve), then you take it for granted. It has always been there and as far as you are concerned, that’s the way it should be. The things you notice are the physical, because they do change. But the love you mum gives you is always there. A lifelong constant.

I think you need to be a little older and wiser to understand how much your Mum – and your Dad – love you. To understand that not everyone is loved unconditionally, and that not everyone has a mother who can take care of them. And that’s when you realise what a sacrifice your parent have made and are making, everyday, and they’re doing it because they want to. Because they love you.

I may not love myself all the time, but my mum is always at the end of the phone line, to make me laugh, and tell me I’ll get through. She has always believed that I am enough. And whatever I choose to do, if I’m happy and satisfied then I am enough in her eyes. She knows when to be sympathetic and when to say ‘pull yourself together girl!’. She knows when to send me money, and when to send me a funny email.

So she’s rarely serious, and always tries to do too much and ends up stressed. She’s got a wild temper – one that blows up, but just as quickly blows over. She has occasional bad taste in clothes and music, but a great eye for decorating. She is a tough cookie, who doesn’t take any crap, but feels hurts deeply, and finds it hard to forget an insult. But she doesn’t hold grudges, because life is too short. She knows heartache, but has the best laugh. She thinks that fart jokes are the height of humour, and sings loudly to the radio. She’s obsessed with the Archers, and puts great emphasis on ‘class’. Not as in social class, but having a bit of class.

But with all her attributes and faults, throughout it all, she is the best mum I’ve ever had, or ever wanted. Thanks, Mutti!

PS Take a minute to spare a thought for all those whose mothers don’t or can’t love them, and for those without their mothers today, young and old. Send them a little bit of love with a prayer, or a wish, or whatever you believe in, because it won’t do any harm.

And who knows, maybe it will do some good…

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Too tired for any intelligent comments - but look how ordered my links are! i had a re-jig and added some more. Go on, try something new...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


While on hospital placement, we’re all put into ‘firms’. A hospital firm is composed of a Consultant (top brass doc), his Registrar (nearly top brass, dong lots of exams ready to be a consultant), at least one Senior House Officer, and at least one House Officer (baby docs, just out of Medschool). The firm then has various students attached depending on the time of year and the sort of firm they are. The firms I’m attached to have 3rd years because they’re general medicine types, plus a general surgery one. My consultants are Dr Smooth, general medicine/endocrinology (read ‘old diabetic patients’), Dr Dull, whose firm is conjoined to Dr Smooth’s, and Mr Dude, who’s an upper GI surgeon, specialising in gastric bands. The 3rd year students in my firm are me, Mike, Laura and Lynette. I didn’t know any of them before starting this placement, and as a firm basically were pushed together to do everything as a group.

And it’s worked wonderfully well. We have become great friends over the last 10 weeks, as most firms do. Some don’t, of course, because people sometimes just don’t get on, but I really like my firm.

We’re all very different… Mike is married with two kids, Laura likes hardcore clubbing and her boyfriend is incredibly clever – at Cambridge! – and Lynette is very sweet and a little naïve, and has an obsession with minis. The cars, that is.

But somehow it just works. We get on, despite wildly differing tastes in music (Lynette likes G4, Mike is into death metal, Laura and I fall in between, but still differently). And we have a laugh! There’s lots of piss taking and banter, and it makes the drudgery worth it.

That said, the last two days in hospital have been a good experience. We went on a very informal and very informative surgical ward round on Monday morning, and today saw 2 very interesting, helpful and nice patients, with some great teaching thrown in. It helps me to remember why I’m doing this.

This was going to be a post about religion, because we had a really interesting discussion about beliefs today. But it seems to have ended up being about us, my lovely firm. And that will have to do.

PS Yes, I am eating shrimp and banana sweeties.

Monday, March 20, 2006

I've been tagged!

So I got tagged by Marysienka

You must relate 6 weird things about yourself. After you have done this, you must name the 6 people you are going to tag and then go and tag them by leaving them a comment saying they have been tagged and to read your blog!

1) I have a deep hatred of furry fruit. Kiwis and peaches are the worse offenders – I can’t even touch those, let alone eat them. Raspberries are a little bit fuzzy, and I have to squish ‘em quick with my tongue when I eat them, so they aren’t too furry feeling in my mouth. Furry leaves on plants also have the same effect – like someone walking over my grave. Squicky!

2) I am obsessed with moisturisers. I am not going to age; I am going to stay eternally young with the liberal application of Olay Total Effects SPF 15. You will become wrinkled and saggy, but not me! Mwahahaha!

3) I burst into song about 20 times a day. Mostly because someone says something that reminds me of a song, and so I sing it. Logical, huh. And when I say sing, I mean SING. I’m trained, and I know how to wield a diaphragm. I project well. Everyone else just says I’m loud. Or shout 'shut up! for god's sake, shut up!'.

4) My current favourite food is shrimp and banana sweeties from Sainsburys. My, they are gooooood. The shrimps taste of pink, and the bananas of banana angel delight. So fake, so saccharine, so hitting the spot.

(Isn’t it tricky to type banana?)

5) I have a piano in my bedroom. It’s a crappy old thing that I’ve been dragging around for a few years, but I learnt to play on it (many) years ago and I love it. People are very surprised by it though. I mean, most students have guitars, but I have a huge unwieldy upright piano.

6) I’m terrified of volcanoes. I worry that one day I will be caught in a lava flow. That’s why I like England. We don’t have volcanoes. Scotland does, but that’s far enough away for me.

And that’s a selection of 6 weird things about me – there are many many many more…

Oh, and I’m a wee bit shy to go tag people with this one. I have a fear of rejection.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

having a bad day? go here and have a proper chuckle!

Inspiration... or lack of

So I promised a real post, something of substance. Unfortunately I am having an inspiration problem.

It’s affecting all areas of my life. Right now, I am desperate to paint, but I don’t know what to put on the paper. It’s been so long since I did paint, that I’ve forgotten where to start. I’ve got a few ideas, but nothing concrete. What I really need is a single starting point, and then be able to take it further, and explore it. However, what with the fact that I’m a medical student, not an art student, and this is the last week before the exams start, I don’t have the time to sit and spend hours just sketching and playing with pencils and paint and crayons.

We do have a 3 week ‘term’ after Easter that is devoted to a Special Study Module. It’s a report in an area of interest – one of those things we have to do to prove that we’re well-rounded learners. Last year, I did one in Biological Science, and chose comparative physiology. So I spent 2 months reading up on hibernation and artic ground squirrels, alongside learning about renal tubules and hormonal and neuronal control of the GIT. It was really enjoyable and interesting – did you know the artic ground squirrel can lower its core body temperature to -2.9ºC during hibernation? How amazing is that?

(Ok so not hugely relevant to becoming a doctor, but still pretty life enhancing).

This year I’ve got to do a Medicine in Society (Bollox) module. I’m looking forward to it. No, really. There are some great module choices. I like the look of Hypnosis, Addictive Behaviours and Homeopathy.

There’s one that’s really got my attention though – Creative Writing. On one hand, this is bollox modules at their most extreme – writing poetry on a medical course? On the other hand, this is a great opportunity for me to unleash some of my pent-up creativity. And hopefully learn something in the process. I think 3 weeks of writing short stories and poems and prose sounds wonderful. And hopefully something in the visual arts will come out of it as well. There are two options for a final report for this project – an essay on the current use of the fiction in medicine, or a log book. I am on the log-book side. I reckon that I could pop some sketches in there too. I just hope I get that module – we have to put forward our top 4 choices. I really want to do this one… It’s definitely my first choice.

I quite often get worried that I picked wrong. That maybe I shouldn’t have done the science thing. Maybe I should have done Art and English and Music at A-level, and picked a career in the Arts. Don’t know what though. Maybe something in teaching? Ha, I can just see that now, Miss Anna, Art teacher.

I’m pretty sure I did choose the right career though. I think the whole ‘maybe I should have done the Arts’ is a safety net, a get out clause. It means if I fail at this, I can just say, ‘Its ok, I wasn’t meant to do that anyway, I was meant to be in the Arts’. And right now, I’m very scared of failing. Medicine is daunting, and someone is always better/knows more/understands. I can’t believe that one day it’ll all be in my head. I am pretty sure that my head is not actually big enough. I’ve also had a couple of not good enough experiences this week. And it’s 2 weeks til the OSCE week. Argh!

Anyway, I ought to go and get on with some work – yeah, check me, blogging at a reasonable time, not the middle of the night – to reduce the failure risk. To increase my chances of being enough.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Subway City, Vodka, the Irish, Pizza and Cup of Tea

I just got back from a wicked night out!

I went to Subway City with my wonderful housemates, and got a wee bit pissed! (hehe I love vodka…) I say wee bit, what I actually mean is really very merry. There was much dancing to a fabbydoo mixture of indie/rock/punk and I had a loverly time. One housemate kept falling over, and is covered in black dirt form the dancefloor. She also nabbed someone’s green St Patrick’s Day wig (wooo for being a little bit Irish! My maternal grandfather to be precise).

We got pizza on the way home and my, it was good. Plus a cup of tea, and I am set up for a good nights sleep. Thank god I don’t have to be up in the morning!

I promise to do a proper blog entry this weekend, instead of random what I did today posts. Honest.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The work is winning...

Its 11pm and I’m still in the Medschool, working. That’s right, sitting in the computer cluster working. What is wrong with me?

Ok, so I’ve got some work to finish, that I could have done earlier, but it’s not desperate. I have actually got loads done sitting here. It’s quiet but not empty – there’s about 20 - 30 students in here, mostly quietly busy, but some are obviously conducting their social lives in the computer cluster. They’re the ones who really need to get a life…

Hurrah! My general practice portfolio has just finished printing. All 52 pages (4 chronic cases, 7 acutes, 4 presentations and 1 paediatric theme). Now it is time for home and bed!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Having it

You know some times you’ve just got it? Well, I tonight I have it.

I’ve just got back from the the pub, and all my friends said ‘Ooo, there’s something different about you’ or ‘You look lovely tonight’. Plus, every man I’ve met has flirted.

Sometimes, I really have got it.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Just added some links to the links list at the side. They're all (but one) blogs I like and have been reading for a while. It's not all my favs, and I'll be adding more very soon. But right now need some shut eye... (Elfwood is the anomaly, it's a fantasy art site. If you like that sorta stuff, go see, if not, don't. I'm not bovvered).

My head is spinning

Today has been an odd sort of day. My head started spinning during a trauma lecture this morning, and hasn’t really stopped since.

It’s probably not helped by the fact that I just watched the Human Canvas on Channel 4. It was fascinating and thought-provoking but didn’t help with my light headed-ness!

I think it’s because I’m not very good at watching trauma. Needles, fine. Knives, oh dear, not so hot.

This does worry me for the future…

PS what was I on yesterday? Slightly off the wall post… I nearly edited it today, then thought nah, let people have a laugh!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Only what we are

I love going home to Sussex. After a week of working and rushing about organising myself and others, home is safe and familiar. Plus, I get my clothes cleaned and my meals cooked for me. The other great thing is that my parents and my little sister are always the best themselves they can be. They want to talk to me, to share things with me, show me what’s changed in their life since I saw them last. It’s really lovely, and it makes me feel so loved.

It also makes me hate to come home to Birmingham. Coming back to uni – even I have the very best friends here, the closest friends I’ve ever had - it feels lonely. Very lonely.

But there are things that I hate about being in Sussex. The friends I have there are lovely people, but I am not connected to them anymore. I like them, and chat to them, but they don’t know the real me, the me I am in Birmingham. They still know the girl I used to be. Or at least the girl I was with them. Actually, Saturday night I felt more comfortable with them than I have in a long time. But they don’t know anything about me, nor I about them.

I don’t have as much freedom in Sussex either. Yes, I have my meals cooked and my clothes washed, but it means I’m not in control. And when I home for more than a weekend, I have to do chores – and I hate doing them for other people even more than doing for myself. The rigid timings of life also drive me nuts.

And there are things that I love about Birmingham. I feel I am beginning to find myself. I have the closest, most supportive, most emotionally involved set of friends that I’ve ever had. I have the most fun and the most freedom. I am independent and doing what I love, to achieve my greatest life goal. It can be the very place in the world – connected, buzzing, at the forefront.

Right now, I feel a bit in limbo.

I don’t fully belong anywhere. At home, I am comfortable and safe, but things change without me knowing about it. Rooms get decorated, furniture moved, pets arrive (and go…) all without me. In Birmingham, I have the best set of friends and an interesting and colourful life, but no family, no safety net. I call Sussex and Birmingham home indiscriminately, and sometimes within the same conversation, even the same sentence.

I think (I hope) that ‘home’ will be cemented when I settle down. I want to get married and have kids, and I feel sure that doing that will give me a true sense of home. After all, ‘home is where that heart is’ (come on, who could write about home without one cliché?) and where could your heart be more than with your children?

Or I could just be being daft and actually, I will always feel a little bit missing. I sometimes think that having a little bit missing, a corner not quite complete, is the human condition. It makes us who we are. I mean, if life were perfect what would be the point in continuing life? Surely life itself is the struggle to find perfection – hang on, no, scratch perfection, life is the struggle to find completeness. Some people do search for perfection, but I think the right thing to be looking for is contentment in completeness.

And completeness may mean different things to different people. You’ve got to find a level that fits you. For me, 'home' is the completeness I want. A warm place, filled with children and love, what would be my completeness. For others I imagine completeness may be something different – academic, material, creative, religious.

I think what I am trying to say is summed up neatly in this quote, by author Terry Goodkind:

<><>We all can be only what we are, nothing more, nothing less.

So keep going - keep aiming for your bit of completeness, and remember that you can only be what you are. Don't let yourself be less.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

umm, this is from Thursday

So this is the post that Blogger wouldn’t bloody let me post on Thursday. I don’t know what I’d done to upset it, but it was being damn awkward. Tonight I’ve a home and been out with old friends, but I’ll post some more on that tomorrow. For now, here’s a delayed post about singin…

It was the medic’s choir concert tonight. It was really good. Really good. So we didn’t sing every note perfectly, or keep perfectly together, but we did well. And you know what else, we had fun. We enjoyed ourselves.

A lot of people look at me funny when I tell them I’m in the choir. It’s not ‘cool’. In fact, they think you’re a bit strange. Why? Singing is so natural and so enjoyable – I challenge anyone to say they’ve never sung and enjoyed themselves. Most people sing when they’re happy – maybe not in front of people, but they still sing! Along to favourite tune on the radio, or at a really great gig, or while doing the hovering (cause no one can hear you!).

I’m just sensible to realise that I enjoy singing, and I enjoy singing with other people. Yeah, okay, so I’m not exactly talentless, but I’m not the best singer in the world. And some of the people in the choir really aint that great. We have all levels – from a girl who sings in national choirs, goes on singing weekends, and has lessons at the Conservatoire, to people who don’t read music and have to learn their line by heart. But I think that everyone is a valid and important member of the choir, no matter what their level. I do think that people need a certain amount of confidence, to just to hang it all and give it a go, even if they’re not the best. To have the confidence to thrown caution to the wind and go for it!

It’s also a social thing. Like tonight, when we went out for a meal after the concert – it was great fun, and I haven’t laughed like that for… well, weeks at least, if not months. It was a great ending to the night.

(We went to our second home – the Great Wall – a small and very friendly Chinese restaurant on the road between our usual venue and Selly Oak, where we all live. They know us well…to the point of remembering our favourites!)

And yes, I did rock tonight. I sang ‘Cry me a river’ and it was really good. From my point of view – and to be honest that’s what I care about! We’d borrowed a professional musician to help out on the tenor line (we lost our star tenor due to his commitment issues…) and he complimented me on my voice, saying that it’s really improved in the last 12 months. But mostly it’s that I felt satisfied that I had done my best, and that’s enough for me. Anything else is just the icing on the cake!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Everything's rubbish

Rubbish is my current favourite phrase to describe anything that is unsatisfactory in any way.

As in ‘I am feeling quite rubbish today’ when one is feeling unwell. Or ‘My dear, that is rubbish’ on hearing of a friend’s misfortune. ‘Rubbish weather we’re having’ when outside is grey and drizzly, somewhat like today. And one hundred and one other uses. Damn useful word in fact, is rubbish.

But most of all it sums up how I am currently felling about my self. Rubbish. I am feeling as though I am never quite good enough, in any sense. Never quite good enough at examining patients, at asking the right questions in the history, and saying the right thing in teaching, at putting it all together and understanding why. And I feel rubbish in other areas of my life – as a singer, a friend, a woman.

I had a great time on Saturday night, at Medball. Medball is a night of dinner, dancing and drunkenness, when 1800 future doctors gather in a very large venue (the ICC) and have a ball (wrote that before I realised what a rubbish pun it was. And once I did realise, of course it had to stay!).

The food was lovely, the music sporadically good, the company the absolute best, and I had a great time.

(Jenna, one of my best mates, got very drunk and needed help holding her dress up to tackle stairs, and to pull her knickers up after peeing…)

But I felt inadequate.

I felt rubbish.

And in some ways I think I always have done. I always think that someone else is better – maybe because they are. I know I have some good qualities, but I think I am too aware of my faults. I wouldn’t say I have low self-esteem – perhaps it is just that I don’t know myself yet. I don’t know who I am so I don’t know how to be that person.

Look at all the ridiculous psych-babble. I’m going to be getting all new-age on myself in a minute. I should stop analysing and just get on with it! That’s why I feel inadequate. Because I am always outside of myself, looking. Never just being in the moment. I need to stop being so pretentious and just get on with life.

I need to just be myself. After all, if I’m not myself, then how will I find out who myself is?

Argh. Do you ever feel your thoughts are going round and round in circles?


Friday, March 03, 2006

Go Go Go Joseph

I had a great evening today.

Before I came to Birmingham, I sang in a church choir. I did awards and medals and solos etc etc but what I really enjoyed was singing with the junior choir. I ran vocal warm ups before choir practice on a Friday night, which I loved because I love working with kids. I’d do breathing exercises, simple scales and exercises.

One of my mates, Felicity, plays the organ for the church we both go to in Birmingham. She was asked to help with the children’s choir by Jo, who runs the church music. So Felicity volunteered me to help. And of course, I leapt at the chance.

Tonight was our first go at it. And it was great! We did loads of exercises, sang a couple of silly songs, and then we learnt a piece from ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’, which they loved. Felicity and I are planning to produce it next year at the church. Which will be stressful, hardwork, challenging and just the most brilliant amazing funnest thing ever!

PS it’s Medball tomorrow night and I am sooooooo excited!