The musings of a final year medical student

Thursday, 29 January 2015

New Year, new you?

Alright, I know January is drawing to close, but I have been reflecting a lot this month and have now managed to find some resolutions!

To be honest, there's only one over-arching resolution I'm making: take better care of myself. I felt a real need to write about this following Hannah's most recent post on her blog. She emphasised how important it is to put yourself first in order to make yourself feel better, and I totally agree with everything she has mentioned in it. She also mentioned in the post previous to that a quote from Budda: Rule your mind or it will rule you.

In so many aspects of my day to day lifestyle I haven't been properly looking after myself, which I suppose is quite natural when you've just been chucked into a new environment such as university. But right now I've been feeling so worn down all the time. I kept blaming the work load, but the fact remains that there was and is a lot more I could do on my part to make life a lot easier.

For example, I'll take you through a 'bad' day and where I'm going wrong. I've had a long day at uni, forgot to do the pre-reading for anatomy or PSM, then gotten home and felt like shit. I'd go to the canteen and stuff my face so that all I could feel was fullness. And then the guilt sets in; I'll remember how stupid I was for forgetting the pre-reading again, how I have eaten too much and have no will power. Then, instead of prepping for the next day or completing any tasks for handing in, I'd slump in bed and watch telly until my eyes can't stay open. This only sets me up for more failure in the long run. The next day, I won't be sprightly and ready for uni, I'll feel like crap so will want to eat more crap, and because I haven't done my next lot of pre-reading or tasks, I'm even more unprepared and more guilt-ridden. (Is it sad that this just reminds me of a biological positive feedback system?! I've definitely been reading too much Tortora.)

Of course we all have days like this. Sometimes you need iPlayer and ice cream, but habitually it just ruins you. 

'Taking better care of myself' will involve:

I have a university gym membership, and I can count on one hand the number of times I went there last term. I'm not going to the gym to lose weight or change the way I look, I've finally come to terms with my appearance. I want to go because it's what my body needs. We're not built to be sedentary, and I don't want to be. I love running, the cross trainer (but not the plank or burpees!). When you are stressed or feel cooped up, taking time out of the day to exercise helps so much. Joining a sports team would also be great, giving me an excuse to be more sociable, plus I love playing in any team sport.

There's nothing wrong with the odd hash brown at brekkie, but mahoosive, stodgy dinners day in day out just make me feel like shit. I want to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and make an effort not to just grab the quick fix or the most carb-laden option, because the short term bliss just isn't worth it to me anymore. I always seem to be leaving the canteen with a food baby and sudden urge to nap. I feel like crap too often. 

University work
Get organised. I've come to realise that the only thing that genuinely stresses me out is knowing I have x amount of tasks yet to complete. I like getting things done promptly and always having a routine and a plan. I'm going to make sure that my weekdays are planned, so I've got the time to work but also the time to properly relax. I also need to start revision plans for my Summer exams, which cover the entire year's studies.

Saying 'yes' to the fun things and learning to say 'no' when it's too much
Even though I have an absolutely wonderful set of friends at uni, both in my halls and on my course, I too often turn down socials which is a real shame, particularly when this is the year when I'll have the most free time. At the same time, sometimes I feel I'm too eager at putting too many academic targets on myself. Today I chatted to my research project mates, and I suggested we postpone our deadline a week so we all have enough time. My professor has kindly allowed this, and I'm so glad that I spoke up and admitted to the group that I was struggling. Turns out we were all having a really hard time writing our systematic reviews, so it was worthwhile. 
In addition, since coming to uni, I really haven't made time for the things I used to love doing. Back home, I was in choirs, orchestras, was in at least one musical a year, read non-fiction and satirical fiction and played piano voraciously. None of those things I've done since I got to Liverpool, and I forgot how immensely happy those hobbies made me feel.

Continuing to write this blog and making sure I reflect on each week is really going to help me continue to improve things. So I hope that over time, I'll have a routine nailed down, and medicine will feel less like a roller coaster. 

A picture my mum took near our house


Sunday, 25 January 2015


This weekend has been great. Taking the time to get away from the stress from formatives (mocks) has made me feel so much better and less stressed. In addition, I've had the time to play piano which has made me so happy. I've been playing piano for about 10 years now and have attained ABRSM Grade 8 with Distinction. Piano is my all-time favourite hobby and is the only way I can really escape. 

Getting to see my friends from back home for a curry and pub catch up was wonderful, too. I feel really privileged to have such lovely friends. 

I'm definitely going to be playing more piano at uni from now on because it's done me so much good. This has reminded me that in order to read Medicine without going insane, hobbies are essential. This was a key point that William Osler mentioned in his book 'The student life: the philosophy of Sir William Osler'. It's a great book. Now I am definitely going to prioritise hobbies to relieve stress. 

The picture above is of one of my favourite pieces by Liszt and of my piano at home. I would highly recommend the piece, which you can listen to here. I always play this piece when I feel sad and need to escape. 

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Liebster Award! & Motivation...

Crazy enough as it is, I feel really chuffed to get another blog award in under a week. 
It's lovely to get little compliments like this, and encourages me to keep blogging. Not everyone is positive with my blog. When most of my friends find out I have a blog, they have a good laugh at the silly name and take the piss. Then, once they read it, I then get a Facebook message or text from them a week later, apologising and telling me I can "actually write". It's nice to get awards like this when others are less supportive of this blog, even though I really enjoy and care about the posts I write. This one, the Liebster Award, is similar to the One Lovely Blog Award, in that it is set up to promote smaller blogs. 

A big thanks goes out to Hannah from 'Pull Yourself Together' for nominating me. I've mentioned how much I like Hannah's blog before; if you're interested in mental health, what being a medical student is like, or fashion and beauty, you should definitely check it out. 

If you want to get involved with the Liebster Award, here are the rules:
- Thank and link the person who nominated you
- Answer the questions asked by the person who nominated you
- Nominate 11 other bloggers with fewer than 200 followers and link them
- Create 11 new questions for your nominees to answer
- Notify all nominees by social media/blog

Hannah has asked me the following questions:

1) Why did you set up your blog?
I've actually had 3 blogs in the past. The first one I made when I was about 14, and to be honest the only post I remember making was about how disappointed I was in myself for eating a Tesco dessert that was 366 calories. This was back when I had some eating issues, and I vividly remember being questioned in a geography lesson, not by a friend, as to why I was so neurotic about one bloody dessert. Anyway, my interest has always stemmed from wanting to share my experiences with other like-minded people that would want some insight. When I was applying to study Medicine, I wanted to know as much as possible of what it would really be like from the viewpoint of medical students in the UK, so I started following medic blogs. Now as a medic I feel like I want to have my say, and I only found one medic blog that started writing from year 1 of med school, so I thought it would be best to start one now. I am also having to undergo orthagnathic surgery to correct my overbite, and I wanted to document that whole process.
Before I wanted to be a doctor, my dream was journalism. I still like to think maybe one day I could contribute to the BMJ or similar alongside my clinical practice.

2) What is your favourite food?
That's a tricky question! If I could try to narrow it down, it would be under a pretty general term of just any Asian food. Sushi, Chinese, Thai, Lebanese, curries, I absolutely love them. I am definitely more of a savoury person than a sweet person. If I never had chocolate again I wouldn't miss it. 

3) What three items would you take with you to a desert island?
A LOT of SPF50 because I am very pale and burn easily, my Ray Bans and an endless supply of Asian cuisine to eat! 

4)Who was the last person you received a text from, and what did it say?
It was from my boyfriend apologising for our disagreement over what makes chilli spicy, very random! 

5) If you could change anything in the world, what could it be?
For everybody to be able to pursue their aspirations without social or financial constraints stopping them from doing it. I'm sure there are a lot of men and women who would make great doctors and would love to be at my medical school, but cannot because they are either oppressed and/or cannot afford it.

6) What is the best thing someone in your family has ever taught you?
When I was in a bad mood, my parents wouldn't retaliate to my rude behaviour and would just walk away from the situation. This made me realise that arguments are pointless, nothing is gained from holding onto anger and engaging in confrontation when they can be avoided or solved in other ways. I think this is really relevant to medicine, because sometimes you can do everything for a patient and somehow you still end up in the wrong and getting an earful. Yes, you are entitled to defend yourself, but sometimes it's just easier to say sorry even when you've done nothing wrong and focus more on neutralising the tension than continuing to fuel it. 

7) What's the most spontaneous thing you've ever done?
I wouldn't say I was particularly spontaneous, but in Summer 2014 I booked a last minute holiday with my friends to Barcelona after my operation was cancelled. It was an amazing week and I'll never forget it. Before that, I went on a French volunteering trip on my own and enjoyed speaking proper French so very much, which has now made me committed to one day being bilingual. 

8) Do you know all the words to any songs/movies/TV shows?
I can rap the whole of 'Fit but you know it' by The Streets and I can quote most of the 2005 film adaption of Pride and Prejudice. Quite a contrast there! I also know pretty much every line of Audrey Hepburn's film 'My Fair Lady' because I played her role, Eliza Doolittle, when I was at school. 

9) What are you most afraid of?
I would say I am a quite assured person in life and don't really fear anything except heights. I suppose the most valuable parts of my life are my friends, family and education, so a life without them would be very sad indeed.

10) What would your friends and family say is the most annoying thing about you?
Probably my laugh or the fact that I can just ramble on for ages! 

11) Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Hopefully in the last year of my medical degree in Liverpool! I will also be considering where I want to do my FY1/FY2 jobs, which is an exciting prospect as I could change cities - a fresh new start. 

I don't have 11 blogs to nominate, but I would like to nominate my friend Emily who has just started her own blog on beauty and lifestyle. 

Here are my 11 questions:
1) If you could only shop for clothes in one high street store for the rest of your life, what would it be?
2) What keeps you motivated?
3) What's your fondest childhood memory?
4) If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
5) Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
6) Which season is your favourite?
7) What adjective best describes you?
8) Tea or coffee first thing in the morning?
9) What's your top beauty tip?
10) What's your favourite song right now?
11) Favourite quote?

Moving on from the Liebster award, I've been thinking a lot about motivation. Unfortunately my migraines are still persistent which isn't helping me to prepare for my mock on Monday and my systematic review draft. 
I wonder what the secret to being motivated is? Is it just how much you want something? 

I've been trying to motivate myself a bit more, and so far what seems to be helping is knowing  that the privileged position I am in is so sought-after and wonderful that it would be selfish to not seize it with both hands.

I'm looking forward to a bit of relaxation this weekend, as I am coming home to have a curry for my friend's birthday and then the pub afterwards. Can't wait!


Monday, 19 January 2015

Medical interview advice


Friday, 16 January 2015

A pretty 'meh' week

First week back at uni has been okay.

I got back on Saturday 10th January with the hope of getting some work polished off early before most people got back on the Sunday. That didn't happen. It took ages to unpack and then once I did that I just wanted to chat to two mates from our flat that I'm very close to. Then on Sunday everyone else arrived and it was a lot of fun to have our tight knit friendship group back together again. Unfortunately, my term started on the 12th; the draining monotony of 9am starts 5 days a week had begun again. I wouldn't have minded this, however all my flat mates who aren't studying medicine either have no lectures throughout January or just one or two here or there. 

The week started off well with getting really good assessment in my Communication for Clinical Practice session, which I was really happy about. Discussing the best ways to communicate with a patient really interests me, as the social and practical side of medicine is what really drew me towards this vocation. I then had my anatomy session on Tuesday and that was fantastic, too. I enjoyed learning about how the heart changes through embryology to an adult heart, but learning the different latin names is less fun! I'll probably keep forgetting that the foramen ovale changes to then become the fossa ovalis. I was really happy to get 100% in the test at the end. Things were looking up for this week. 

Unfortunately, I then started to get these migraines. Normally I scoff at anyone who says they have a 'migraine' rather than just a bog-standard headache; I just assume they're trying to make their problem sound worse than it is so you feel bad for them. Headaches are routine and you don't necessarily sympathise that much, but an enigmatic migraine? That sounds worse, doesn't it. I've only just realised it probably is a migraine when one of my medic friends said my symptoms matched. I've been very stressed out with work, and then started getting splitting, throbbing headaches that wouldn't go away with Paracetamol or Ibuprofen. Then I started getting a lot of light sensitivity and couldn't look at laptop or TV screens and would just sit in my room with the lights off. After that I became nauseas and have been repeatedly sick whenever I try to eat. I feel sick all the time and have a dull stomach ache. I then went on the NHS website and looked for migraine, and the common symptoms  seemed to correlate. Joy of joys. Consequently, I've had three days off uni and feel really guilty about it, particularly when I have so much work to get done.

This weekend will be spent in the library catching up on missed lectures and completing my case-based studies. Annoyingly I have to complete a study on a part of our cardiovascular block that I won't be lectured on until the morning I am meant to present my study! 

Enough ranting. Hope you've had a good week. 
January is often the start of medical interviews, and to anyone who's got one, I wish you the best of luck!


Avec persistance, on y arrive 

A big thank you to Hannah from the blog 'Pull Yourself Together' for nominating me in the One Lovely Blog award. Hannah is a fellow medic at my university but is in her 3rd year here. Although her blog is mainly centred around mental health, she also has lovely outfit and lifestyle posts. I really enjoy reading Hannah's blog because she posts so frequently, her photos and outfits are beautiful and I like to read about the lives of other medics. Thank you again Hannah for your kindness! :) 

Unfortunately I'm not going to carry on the blog award challenge simply because I don't read enough blogs on a regular basis to nominate 15 bloggers. 


Tuesday, 13 January 2015

The bigger picture.

Been thinking a lot recently.

It's far too easy to get lost in your own little bubble. I've been crying on the odd occasion due to worrying about all the work I have to do, and doubting my own capabilities. Sometimes the smallest things can push down on you and grind away at any happiness or optimism you had. However, perspective is really important.

Someone who I really looked up to lost his mother to cancer very recently. I really admire him for all of his achievements, combined with his wonderful personality. Such a kind, caring person. Yet something so cruel and crushing as that happened to him.

When I was 17 I did some work experience at a French charity called Secours Catholique, in a branch in the Loire Valley. I was working in the aid centre, where anybody can come in requesting any kind of help and we try to provide that for them. One day, a Somalian illegal immigrant came in. He looked exhausted, he had a severe limp, his eyes incredibly blood shot. He came into my office, and my job was to translate from English into French if any non-speakers were to turn up. This Somalian man brought his friend who translated from Somalian into English, and then I translated that Chinese whisper into French for my colleague. I was asked to translate:
"This man got here a week ago from Somalia, he was a victim in a car bomb explosion back in Somalia and needs medical help. He could not receive treatment at the hospital here because he has no ID or credit cards."
As the consutation continued, I learnt this man had no money or shelter, and needed to ring up his wife to see how her and his three children are back in Somalia. The worker said we couldn't do anything to help him. The Somalian man's friend told me that he could get an ID from the Red Cross if he could get some photos taken, so he then asked for some Euros to get the photos taken. My colleague refused. Eventually I persuaded her to give the Somalian man €10. I found it so hard not to burst into tears as I was translating all of this, and then the horrible sinking feeling as my strict colleague said there was nothing we could do.

I have never been in a position as shocking as the Somalian man,  and hopefully never will. That story will always stay with me. Because as much I can complain about bills, student loans, university work, self pity -  compared to that poor man, I have everything. And he had none.

I want to make sure I seize every day. I want to thank every kind person I meet, anyone who helps me. I want to nourish the relationships I have with the people I love. My friends and family; the people who have given me all these opportunities and amazing euphoric highs.

If you love someone, remind them of that. Make those special people feel valued and appreciated. Because I feel damn lucky to have them, and for the wonderful life I have.

La joie de vie pour saisir bras-le-corps


Monday, 5 January 2015

Thought of the day

My friend Jenny gave me this art piece. Her dad unfortunately passed away around the time she gave me this. Very poignant. 


Sunday, 4 January 2015

Thought of the day


Feeling overwhelmed

Okay, so from the last post you can see that I've been away on holiday for a week. I had the most amazing time, but since I've gotten back, I now feel so incredibly overwhelmed. Not only by my medical studies but life in general.

For my Christmas break, I was given 3 weeks off. Due to the fact that I haven't been home for 13 weeks, I decided I wanted to prioritise having fun and maintaining my friendships over this time. However, I am now petrified because I have a massive load of work to do and I won't have time to start it until I am back at university. 

These are some of tasks I have yet to complete:

1st draft of my systematic review on pre-hospital antibiotics in meningitis
Complete all four of my case based learning tasks
Prepare for my January exam based on all content learnt so far

At the same time, I still haven't found a house yet. We are planning on living as a group of five, and now I am worried that because I chose not to live with medics I am putting myself at a real disadvantage.

Everybody says medical school is tough, but I feel like only now do I truly understand. I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but I just took it in my stride and had the confidence to believe I'd make it out at the end of the five years. 

Now I am desperately trying to find time to get everything done. I've never felt so out of my depth with my work. As I previously mentioned in a blogpost, it's not the comprehension of our course content that's hard, it's just finding time to get every project and task completed. 

Don't get me wrong, I don't regret this choice I've made. I know medicine is the vocation for me, but looking back I only wish I was more organised and tried to complete tasks as soon as they were set. 

I am honestly shitting myself. 

On a wider scale, it makes me sad that I've actually only managed to see my friends a few times. It feels incredibly frustrating to think that I'm not up to scratch with either my academic life or my social one. Life feels like it's passing faster than it ever has before. How the hell am I 19 now?! I want to appreciate each day but it just feels like a blink of an eye. It feels so unfair that love and friendships are such an important part of one's life and now by doing well academically and getting into medical school, they're being taken away from me.



Saturday, 3 January 2015

Skiing! Les Arcs December 2014

Here are some snaps of my wonderful family holiday to Les Arcs, France. Best holiday yet!

Le monde est un livre et ceux qui ne voyagent pas n'en lisent qu'une page  // The world is like a book: those who don't travel will only read a single page of it

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