Some Photo Favourites (from our island adventure)

Last week, we had a chance to go back to some of our favourite places in a city where we once lived.  

Thus brings me to a very photo-full post.

My highlight was going back to one of my favourite views in town.  I love getting to have a little “hike” in the middle (sort of) of town.  The history at that place is pretty neat too.  

We also went back to the most easterly point in Canada.  Because that is what one has to do when you are in that part of the world.  Even if it is so foggy you can barely see the water.  And you are one of 4 cars there because the only people there are either making out or have limited “tourist” time like us.

Oh yes, and we went to our favourite used bookstore where we spent just under an hour digging through the shelves for a couple new books.IMG_0387

Good trip.

The saddest airport

Today marks our last day visiting the city where I did med school and where we spent our first 3 years of marriage.  

It was a great trip.

I’m sad it is over.

I’m sure I will share more of the awesome stuff I learned and the places we visited.

But for now, I must share that the airport here is one of the most depressing airports I have ever been in.  It isn’t the ugliest, or the sketchiest, or the smallest or biggest or any of those.  I have been stuck here a few times but not as many as in other places.  But, to me it is always sad.  

Maybe it is because I arrived here too many times with nobody there to greet me (actually I did have friends pick me up sometimes, but often it seemed we were on our own).  Maybe it is because I was always dropping off people to leave .  Or sometimes I was leaving people.  

The airport is on two levels.  Arriving, you can see people awaiting those who they love.  It is great when you see your person from either end.  It stinks when you are on your own.

But worse is when you are leaving or having someone leave.  There is an escalator to the secure area.  So, it is like they leave slower.

I’m sad to leave today.  We had fun with great friends.  I nerded it out at a good conference.  But, now it is time to get back to real life.  And likely not see our lovely friends for at least a year or so.

This airport makes me sad.  Okay, it is probably the circumstance.  But, I blame the airport.

How Did That Happen: How I Got Through Med School Orientation

I realized today that it is about time for med school to be starting up again.  It blows my mind that about a 6 years ago, I hopped on a plane with 4 giant suitcases and my drugged mother (she was hopped up on cough syrup) to move to the town where I did med school.  Interestingly, I am leaving today for that same city to visit some friends and attend a conference.

I had been there twice before.  Once for my interview and once on a whirlwind room renting hunt.

To be honest, I was less scared of moving or even starting med school.  The thing that produced the most anxiety in me was orientation.

Yes, you got that right… Orientation.

I mean, yes, of course med school was terrifying and being told some of us WILL fail in orientation did not help.  Each first had its own level of terrifying… First lab, first exam, first standardized patient.  But orientation still wins in my books.

Thus for all of you shy, introverted (I say both because they are different) new to everything about a place people, here is my How Did That Happen? for the week.  How I Got Through Med School Orientation.stethoscopes1

I know some people love that kind of stuff.  Socials, dances, sporting events.  Not so much my scene.  I get that some people consider these sorts of events a highlight.  Or at least they don’t dread them. I dread them.  That’s just how I roll.

My med school took the whole orientation thing seriously.  I’m talking a full week of stuff.  And it was “mandatory.”

Seriously, mandatory “fun”?  Sounds like cadet camp all over again (seriously, they had these evenings where we were obligated to attend a “fun” activity like sports (ew) or the zoo (okay the first time, but it was a pretty lame zoo) or a movie (probably a bad one).  We called it mandatory fun night.  It was funny because it was by far not the most fun night of the week (dances or concert nights or parade nights won every time).

Events for this mandatory fun included whale watching (the best part by far).  An 80s mixer (ummm… I like the 80s, but when you stick them in a mixer, not so much).  Outdoor games complete with a slip n slide.  A pub crawl.  Various talks.  Photo scavenger hunt (epic, but not as fun when you don’t know where you are or who you’re with).  Dinner with some Med2s followed by a dance.

I was not pumped.  Except for the whale watching.

I knew one person I went to high school with.  Not well.

70% of people knew most everyone.  They all did undergrads together, they did their masters together, heck, they did all of their schooling together and they live down the road.

Just shoot me.

So, enough whining… I’m supposed to be talking about getting through it.

First of all, I tried to embrace the fact there were other people as lost as me.  I found them.  Found the first one lost in a hall as ridiculously early as I was.  I stuck with them.  She fell asleep on the bus on the way back from whale watching.  I fought the urge to run away.  As it turns out, we sat togther through most of our classes.   The randoms I stumbled upon ended up becomign some of my best friends through med  school.  So, find someone looking as lost and sad as you and say hi.

Realize that med school is like high school.  There are cool kids and cliques.  It did not take me long to conclude I was not cool, nor would I be part of the key cliques.  They were already formed before I even came in.  That’s okay.  I’ve never been one of the cool ones.

Show up for events.  Seriously.  They said it was mandatory, but not everyone came and this ticked some people off.  When you are as shy as I am this is nausea inducing, but it was also how I actually was forced to meet people.  Nothing says get to know people than getting thrown in a 2 door car with 4 other people you have never met to tear around the city taking pictures (especially when we ended up breaking into a more senior med student’s (who I also didn’t know)  house…).

Have fun.  I mean, if you have to be there and people worked hard to plan it, there probably is some fun in there.  Some of our stuff was really awesome.  Other stuff was awesome for people who weren’t me.   Just try to have fun.  Fake it until you make it.  I was pleasantly surprised.

Find out what is okay to skip and know that it is okay to take a breather.  Yes everyone will question your decision.  At least the people who noticed you exist.  But mental health for the win!

Participate.  If everyone is doing something to make themselves look stupid, you might as well do it too.  It might end up being fun, or at least make for a funny story.  My team in these messed up olympics they held won.  We got gift cards for coffee or booze.  It was thrilling.

There is free stuff at some of the events.  Free reflex hammers (which is like gold when you are just getting started and anything “medical” is the best thing ever), free bags, pens and best of all, free food!  Moving and doing a million more years of school is expensive.  Love the free stuff!

There really is useful information in there.  You won’t remember it all.  But they do tell you some important stuff.

If your school is anything like mine, the dean of something or other will get up and tell you scary stats about failures, people crying and people quitting.  This really does happen, but it will be okay.  It is an important reality check, but it does really sting.  Especially when odds are you were already nervous.

Tell yourself it will be fun and okay and all that good stuff.  It will be.  At least some of the time.

Remind yourself that despite the social anxiety and such, this really is one of the most relaxed times in med school.  Embrace that.  The real work is coming.

Remind yourself it is just a week (or less, if you’re lucky).

If you’re from away, it gives a chance to at least kind of figure out how to get to and from school, where some key stuff is and get settled before the real work starts (although the hours were so crazy, it was still tough to get any real unpacking done).

Things like orientations are just a bit awkward.  They end and eventually you know people well enough, you kind of wish you could have done that with the same people a year later.  Not all of that stuff, but some of it.

As much as I think I could have done without so much mandatory “fun,” I really do think orientations are important.  I still say they are overwhelming.  But once it was over with, I had other stuff to worry about, so no need to dwell.

What was your orientation like?  Do you love or hate them?  Do you have any tricks to get through orientations and mandatory “fun.”

Dance Party… Residents’ room edition.

Dr. Bond and I had a mini dance party in the residents’ room yesterday to this song.

Let’s face it.  It is an awesome song.  And dancing is great stress relief.

I am sure the social worker in the office next door thinks we are crazy.  That being said, I am pretty sure she already knows that by hearing some of our conversations across the office.

I have developed a new love for the website rdio.  Partly because the hospital hasn’t blocked it yet and partly because it lets me listen to various playlists and CDs without killing my phone or my pocketbook.

Yesterday was contouring to 50s and 60s music.  

A couple weeks ago, I was working on my research to Boomfalleralla by Afasi Filthy from The Fault In Our Stars soundtrack (ps the movie is almost as good as the book and the soundtrack is equally as good as the book.  I then went down a rabbit hole listening to more music from this Swedish group.  

Another day it was clinic prep to cover songs.

You get the picture.  I really like some background noise, especially when I am doing stuff requiring concentration.  Not everyone else does, but it works for me.  And it makes for some priceless “what are you listening to!?!?” moments, as well as the odd dance party.

Whatever gets the job done, I suppose.   

Top Ten Books People Have Been Telling Me I Must Read

When you read a lot, you begin to have many people telling you books that you must read. Actually, there are a lot of people in my life who have told me I must read certain books for any number of reasons. And then, there are all the book bloggers I follow and all the books they say people should read. So many books, so little time. The folks over at the Broke and Bookish are asking this week what the top ten books people have been telling you that you must read.

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  1. The Maze Runner by James Dashner. Because the movie is coming out. And because we have it on loan from the Child, so it is a must read while it is in our house.
  2. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Again, because the movie is coming out. But also because everyone that I have talked to or read who read the book loved it.
  3. The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien. I haven’t even watched a movie, but I know so many people who loved these books and keep telling me that I will too.
  4. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Powell. This was really popular last year, but it is still on my list and from time to time, I hear I should pick it up. One day I will… One day…
  5. Mere Christianity and A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis. I lump these together because we have both in an anthology I have been told I should read and have been “getting around to” for years. People tell me to read one because it is great Christian writing and the other because I work a lot with death.
  6. Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. I did med school. And I have internet. I’m not reading this flipping book. No matter what you, your blog, or friend may say. Also, if I were actually in charge my own fertility, I’d have birthed something by now.
  7. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. People assume that because I’m in medicine and I’m strangely okay with death, I would be interested in this book. Well, that is indeed true.
  8. Clinical Radiation Oncology by Leonard Gunderson. I know, I’m a big nerd. But, so are many other people in my life who have done the whole Rad Onc thing before me. They say this is a good textbook. Well, this good textbook is likely where much of this year’s textbook allowance is going.
  9. The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan. This series comes highly recommended to me by my 12 year old “nephew.” But, I have also read about it on a few blogs as well. I don’t know much about mythology, but they do sound interesting.
  10. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. This is one of those books all kinds of people that I have worked with over the years have read and recommended.   I can’t seem to bring myself to pick it up. Maybe one day I’ll change my mind.

What books have people declared “must reads” for you? And do you actually want to read these “must reads,” or could you stand to maybe skip a couple like me?

The Name’s The Thing

Yesterday’s Daily Post prompt was The Name’s The Thing asking for the story of an object with which we are on a first name basis.

It may be a day late, but I have a few objects with which I am on a first name basis.

To start off, I name my musical instruments.

This one time, at band camp, we were doing an instrument maintenance class and I was learning, disgustingly for the first time in almost 2 years how to properly clean my saxophone. Someone made a joke about not wanting fuzzy saxophones, which I declared mine was, as did another one of the alto sax players. This then turned into an inside joke between the alto saxophone players and tenor saxophone players that altoes smell like fuzzy saxophone.   And from that came the name of my saxophone, “Fuzzy Saxomaphone.” “Fuzzy” for short.

Little C&C meeting Fuzzy for the first time.  That was about 9 years ago (my, how time flies).

Little C&C meeting Fuzzy for the first time. That was about 9 years ago (my, how time flies).

Fuzzy and I have traveled to 4 different provinces. We have been together for 16 years. He has a few scratches and dents (so do I, really). We grew up together. I haven’t played him in a couple years, but we plan to reunite this year, as I really want to join a band and get doing music again.

My flute is named Frank. The story isn’t as good. It just made sense in my head.

We also name our cars. I blame my med school friend H, who insisted we name our car and we concluded that Jag is a sufficiently manly and awesome name for a car (so Patrick wouldn’t hate me for naming our car). We drove Jag for years and confused many people into thinking we drove a Jag only to discover our rusty, older Mazda3.

My first year of residency, Jag was becoming progressively more and more decrepid and we traded him in to get our current car, Chuck. He was named that with the help of our friend DB. He is named like the spy show Chuck. This contrary to my father’s belief he was named after Chuckie the horror movie puppet or some other people’s perception it is Chuck Norris we named our car after. Nope. A comedy spy show is where we got the name.

What inanimate objects have you named?

How Did That Happen?: How I Survive Breaking Bad News

It is due time for another How Did That Happen? post. This one is How I Survive Breaking Bad News. Not how to break bad news. That gets covered all over the place. I’m talking about the facing people later, living the rest of your life kind of survival.stethoscopes1

This one is a result of my week of breaking bad news. I know, I am an oncology resident. More days than not, I break bad news. I tell people about pathology reports they don’t want to hear about. I tell them they have cancer (not always for the first time, but sometimes for the first time they really process it). I tell them their cancer is back. That it isn’t curable. That they need treatments they didn’t want. That they are going to die… Soon.

Breaking bad news is tough. So tough it is its own section in many med school communication classes. So tough most people do a crappy job of it because they are scared.

I’m a weirdo. I don’t love breaking bad news, but I like to do it. Because I believe people have the right to know the truth. And to hear it in such a way it is understood and compassionate.

This week has been especially bad newsy. From clinic to call to pediatric brain tumor clinic, I have delivered or been in on delivering all kinds of crumminess. It wears on a person.

  • It is okay to cry. Seriously. Sometimes, stuff is really tough and you just have to let it out. I’m not saying sob on the shoulder of the person you are talking to, but it is okay to shed some tears then or later.
  • It is okay to be angry or disappointed or relieved. Emotions are good.
  • I’m going to sound cliché, but reflect on it. Sometimes, you say stuff that is stupid or comes off the wrong way and other times it goes well. Actually think back on it, even if it is tough and then learn from it and move on. I tend to really stew on things, so this is something I’m working on.
  • Find the rays of hope. This is also helpful when delivering and discussing the news, but I really mean it is important for me too.   Sometimes, I start to feel like I am the grim reaper or that life is a miserable existence. It is good to find the bright sides, like how fortunate I am, how that person will have a good outcome or good days or whatever. Just something positive.
  • Count your own blessings. If I get really discouraged, I find it helpful to think of how fortunate I am despite the bad in the world.
  • Talk about it. Confidentiality is important to maintain, but there is nothing wrong with discussing it with co-workers involved in the case, or even just your thoughts around it without disclosing details with a friend or family member.
  • Have an outlet. I sing and dance like a fool. Or exercise. Or write. Just something not work that helps get some of that badness out.
  • Do something happy. I like ice cream. Or spending time with friends. Or music. Or books.
  • Mix it up. This isn’t always an option. But, I love that my job involves lots of time on the computer doing technical stuff or research, not just difficult conversations. I also love that there are really good positive things mixed with the difficult in clinics.
  • My faith is super helpful to me at those times too.

What are your bad news survival tips?

“Anniversary” antics

So, I wrote a post about how awesome my husband is here.

He is still awesome.  

Our “anniversary”, got ever so slightly less awesome, though.  Although it is a good story.

So, as I said before, our real anniversary isn’t until Friday, but I’m on call this weekend and Patrick’s brother is visiting, so we figured it is just a day, so we’ll celebrate early.

We were leaving town to go out to grab coffee and then supper and (surprise!) Inn (that I have been wanting to check out since we first drove past it a couple years ago) for the night when we stopped for a car stopping in front of us (on what is a really busy main city street).  I watched the van behind us stop just in time.  I then heard a car run into said van and said van ran into us.

Happy Anniversary, you’ve just been rear-ended.  In fact, you are the front car of a three car pile up.

Nobody was hurt, thank goodness.   Chuck wasn’t hurt either.  He just had a couple scratches on his bumper that buffed right out.   The van and the car behind us on the other hand were pretty dented up, but still drivable.  So, we had to wait for the police and the “quick” reports that took almost an hour.  

How festive.

And only minutes from the nearest Starbucks.  I could have walked there, but instead I just stood there and played 2048 (awesome game, by the way) and listened to the one of the passengers from the van behind us and the guy driving the car who hit us all catch up because as it turns out, they were neighbours (we seriously learned all the neighbourhood gossip from the old dude who had a heart attack the other night to who is going to college where). 

So, eventually, we get sent on our way and grab coffee and go get supper.  

I promptly feel terribly sick after supper.  It shouldn’t be that surprising, I wasn’t feeling well the day before or even that day, but it hit me like a ton of bricks after I ate (timing is impeccable).  It was bad enough Patrick had to go buy me Gravol.  And he had gotten us a room with a jacuzzi as a part of some last minute special.  We spent much of the night with me curled up hyperventilating (sometimes a change in your PaCO2 will alter vomiting signal in your brain… I really hate throwing up) and watching the Muppets movie (thankfully, this is one of Patrick’s favourites).  

Happy Anniversary.

I eventually felt well enough that I though the worst had passed and decided we should try out that jacuzzi.  Because that was a selling point for Patrick.  And because we were there now.  And I already ruined most of the night.  I hate hot water.  Between that and being still sick, I almost passed out.

Happy Anniversary.

The place we stayed was actually really nice and had a pool (that we didn’t use) and a good restaurant (that I feel I didn’t get to thoroughly enjoy).  I would like to one day go back not sick and not sore from being run into an enjoy it.  And getting to chill with the spouse and watch Muppets was actually a good night minus the blinding nausea.

We spent Saturday going for a short drive, then napping and reading until Child and D came over for games.  It was a much better day, even if I still wasn’t feeling great.   I read 2 books and we tried out our new Wii game.

If I believed in karma, I would say it was karma for winning rock paper scissors to get our own cabin when we were away last weekend (because we were one of two couples not doing anything special just the two of us this summer) and then going “away” for our anniversary after all (at least that is what my guilty conscience says).

Patrick joked that for 5 years, we just really wanted to give the “for better, for worse” and “in sickness and in health” thing a good run for its money.

Either way, it makes for a good and memorable story.

“BIFFs’ Weekend”

Last weekend, we had yet another awesome weekend.

We went away to a place near Kouchibouguac National Park with two of my best friends and their husbands (Child&D and L&C).  We decided last year to make it an annual tradition to go on a “BIFFs’ trip” (BIFFs is a word we made out of the abbreviation best friends forever back when we were in very early undergrad… We don’t really use it anymore, but it works in the context of naming the trip).  A trip where V&D, L&C and Child&D and Patrick and I could go away just (kind of) like old times no matter where we were in this world.  

Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out that all of us could go.  I was very disappointed.  Such is life.  But, we went to the park from our separate corners of country and met for a weekend adventure.  It was all the more exciting for me because it was most of their first times there and it was where I spent a large chunk of my childhood summers.

Although it was my second weekend full of people, it was worthwhile.  We saw lots of beautiful scenery (and Child too tons of pictures).   I took people on random back road adventures.  I got to eat scallops at this place we always stopped at when I was a kid.  We took L and Child for their first trips on kayaks.  We saw giant man-eating (okay, not really man-eating that we know of) jellyfish and caught all kinds of marine life at the beach.  We ate a ton of food.  Played some games, including one of my favourites, Bang where the other outlaws and I won, read books and laughed a bunch. IMG_0202 IMG_0214IMG_0197IMG_0219

A highlight of the trip was the fact that the house next door seemed to be particularly sketchy and had a lot of animals.   We think that a very feral looking cat who hung around while we cooked and barbecued was part of that household.  When we went out for a bonfire that evening, we acquired a very adorable kitten, who crawled into all of our laps and ate our hot dogs (she stole them from beside someone while she snubbed him).  Patrick had to try really hard to get her to go back to what we thought was her home, only to have her show up crying at our cabin door.  She wasn’t the only one, as it turned out, cats started appearing everywhere once night fell.  IMG_0230 IMG_0224 IMG_0226

I’m lucky to have friends who have been around since I was an awkward teenager (or even tween… ugh), or who I have stuck with since they were awkward teenagers.  I know not everyone is so fortunate.  Yes, that proves to be challenging because people do grow up, get married and change, but they are the closest things I have to siblings, so I’m stuck with them for life.  Even if it is sometimes insanely difficult for some and suspiciously easy for others.

A terribly embarrassing "selfie" from Christmas vacation 2007.  Back when the Child was still literally a Child.

A terribly unflattering photo from Christmas vacation 2006(?).  Back when the Child was still literally a Child.

So, I have someone who gets up early, drinks coffee by the pound and discusses things like books, life and music.  I have someone else who hugs me more than anyone else I know (less my mother and my husband) and somehow understands my crazy and knows what I actually am feeling even when I don’t.  I have someone who will always laugh hard and long at stories with me (even if they shouldn’t be that funny).  The cool part is that although everyone is unique, they all crossover too.  

Pretty cool, huh?