Simple things that keep me smiling

Sometimes little strange things make me happy.

Those sorts of things that make me fairly certain most other people would not be equally thrilled about.

For example, Patrick bought me an anniversary present and gave it to me in a Disney Princess bag. There was more awesomeness inside… A punch card for 10 free lattes/mochas/cappuccinos at Java Moose a local and delicious coffee chain and a brand new Bible. I was super excited about the coffee. Really, most people would be. But, I was thrilled about the Bible. I have been using the same teen edition NLT that I bought when I was 18 with L (she still has the same one as well). Although I know it doesn’t matter what type of Bible one has, it does matter that I still have been laughing at the “Here’s What I Did” sections with kids who are 14 talking about peer pressure and the “Hot Topics” being relevant, but voiced to people who are in high school… Not the real world and married. And I was too cheap to get a new one. But Patrick isn’t. It is pretty and grown up and has not one, but TWO study guides in it. That totally caters to the geek in me. So, I have been thrilled about it… To the point of needing to take a picture of it and telling people here.

If you need more proof… I ordered textbooks in Radiation Oncology from Amazon last week. Almost my full book allowance worth of texbooks. One came earlier this week and I was pretty pumped. But, then Mom texted saying that the rest appeared to have arrived. So, the next chance we had, Patrick and I went on a field trip to see my parents… And get my textbooks. The box weighs as much as an infant, but it is so lovely to have fresh books. Especially big books too. I do like big books.

I get so excited about a good song on the radio or surprise McDonalds, you would think I got concert tickets or a gourmet meal.

My idea of an awesome night out can be as simple as a drive through the country listening to music on the iPod and getting ice cream. Patrick jokes that I am a cheap date in that sense.

A new stationary item is enough to make me smile for ages. Same with a new musical item.

One of the highlights of my being home in September is that the Missions Conference my church does will be happening while I am home. There aren’t a heap of speakers. It isn’t a big deal even in the local community. But, for whatever reason, I have loved it since I started going to church there. And I haven’t been to this in four years. So, I am ecstatic to be able to go, even if it is mostly the same people that are there every time.

Sometimes a simple movie scene, like the Bennie and the Jets scene in 27 Dresses (actually, this was a whole post) and there is this scene in the new The Odd Life of Timothy Green movie will keep me smiling and laughing to myself intermittently for days… It involves singing Low Rider… Need I say more?

I guess it is good to be easily amused. And I know these things aren’t that strange. There are others out there just like me. Maybe not the full combo, but some similarities.

Addendum… We went to the beach this afternoon. And I remembered waves make me ridiculously, frolick and squeal with delight kind of happy. Also, Patrick and our friend D get that kind of joy from building forts in the sand.

The Match

Brrrrrrrrr (*Drum roll sounds*)

Yesterday was Match Day.

It was the longest morning of my life… At least one of them.

We distracted ourselves with Modern Family, HIMYM and yes, Full House re-runs.  As time drew closer, we watched some videos of the Muppets, namely Beaker, the Yip-Yip Aliens and the Swedish Chef.  The last moment before opening my account was spent teaching Patrick about tympani solos, yes, tympanis.

Anyway, at precisely 1:31 local time (foolish living on the east coast and blame the 1 minute on the whole tympani thing), I logged in to my CaRMS account.  And it worked!  First try!  Not like in my dream.

The screen flashed up in front of me reading D___ University / Radiation Oncology.


First choice program in my first choice location!  We are going to be so much closer to home and friends and at a program I loved!

After much excitement here in the M household, I set out to take a picture of the screen with my phone (because the concept of an actual screen shot was beyond me at that point).  I failed the first three times because I was shaking that much.  I sent the picture off to my three best friends at home (though one of them is currently spending March Break in Cuba… Lucky lady).  I called my parents.  Who were thrilled.  I emailed family, my small group, my other mothers.  I posted my Facebook status.

It was huge.  What a relief.

Patrick likes to point out to me that all of this worry has not made me taller, nor wiser.  But, what can I say.

I then sat back and waited for texts from school friends and Facebook statuses.  I have a few other people from my class going to the same city for their residencies.  Some of my closest friends are going to stay here, go to Thunder Bay and Ottawa.  A lot of them are going to Ottawa.  Which is great.

Unfortunately, not everyone got his or her first choice place.  It is disappointing.  Not everyone got his or her first choice program.  It is also disappointing.  Being there for those friends is so important at this time.  You feel bad for being so happy.  But fortunately, the people who were disappointed, at least from my immediate group are still doing things they love, just maybe not in the place they hoped for.

A few people in my class did not match.  This is more difficult to swallow.  Some applied to limited places, others did not.  The good part is, there is a second round.  The sad part is that there are not as many options.   It is so hard to see this happen to our friends and colleagues.  Again, when the mood is predominately excited.  But we encourage and console.

We pin our names and locations up on a giant map of Canada in the student lounge and eat cookies.  We go out for fancy supper at The Keg.  We go downtown to a bar for drinks and celebrations.  There is much hugging and screaming.  Despite my happiness for matching, the hugging and screaming makes me want to gouge my eyes out.  Yay for everyone, but we made an early-ish escape to home to celebrate on our own.

Nonetheless it is great.  And exciting.  And relieving.

I am going to be a Radiation Oncologist.  And live on the mainland.  Closer to many people I care about.  But farther from others.  We will miss it here for certain, but it is early to think of that.  I still have a month of rotations, then Back to Basics, the LMCC and grad to concern myself with yet.

God is so good!  He has put us where He needs us to be and it is right where we want to be.  We trust the details will fall into place as we seek out housing and all of that good stuff.

In summary, I matched, I am going to be a Radiation Oncologist when I grow up and God is good!

Seven Layers of Forget the Match Bars and other distractions

My affirmed goal of the day today was to do anything but worry about the Match.  Thus far, I have been quite successful.  I took personal days for the next three days to save an extra back and forth trip to town, so I am home and left to my own devices.

Step one… I cleaned.  The entire house.  Floors,  surfaces etc.  The office that has been under construction since the fall (see here and here) is finally done being repaired, so it was time to reorganize the heaps of stuff that had collected inside and outside of the room during the construction.  I only required about four shots of ventolin.  And I found a ton of cool and useful stuff… And a lot of junk that could be thrown out.  Sweet.

I stress clean.  The more stressed I am, the more I want cleaned.  And thus, I end up doing it.  The good part is that the house could use a good cleaning.  The bad part is I can be a bit wreckless with the asthma.  I learned to stress clean from my mother, who “cleans when her nerves are bothering her.”  There are many worse things we can do when we are stressed, I suppose.

The cleaning has taken up a good chunk of my day, given I slept in and such.

Patrick and I also needlessly bought books on… Well, we did need to get the Out of the Saltshaker book for our small group (the next study of choice)…. But, the favorite gimmick of Amazon… Free shipping sucked us in.  That and our love of books.  In order to get free shipping, we need to spend $25.  The book was only $12… So, we each got to pick a book to order, as well.  He chose a Clive Cussler book, I chose a Jodi Picoult.  I am pretty sure that the genius who came up with the free shipping concept thought of suckers like us.  Free shipping… Or pay $6 and spend less… But if you get another book and pay nothing for shipping it is a bargain.  They totally make a fortune off of fools like us.

I have now decided to bake and cook.  Two of my favorite things.  I even took a special trip to the grocery store before Patrick went to work.  There, I bought the required ingredients, including parchment paper.  Now, parchment paper and I have a history.  You see, my Mom loves the stuff.  And I do too.  The thing is, when I was in about second year of my undergrad, I was baking Christmas cookies and using parchment paper, as my Mom prefers.  But, halfway through the bake time, the paper started to smoke and burn.  Smoke alarms, me flapping… All that good stuff.  So, I switched the paper and tried again… Same thing.  Turns out, after this happens about three times, my Dad asks what the heck I am doing.  Well, here’s the thing… We were apparently out of parchment paper, so I was using waxed paper.  And nearly burnt the house down for Christmas… Three times.  So, I checked ten times that I legitimately purchased parchment paper.

First up, I made what are called in the recipe in the church cook book “Seven Layer Magic Hello Dolly Bars.”  I have renamed them “Seven Layers of Forget the Match Bars” and revised the recipe to my taste preferences.  I am making pepper-crusted salmon, garlic and butter rice and green beans.  So, I am rather excited!

So, without further ado, the recipe for “Seven Layers of Forget the Match.”   And no nutrition information… Because if you knew, you would develop instant acute coronary syndrome.

  • 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
  • 1 ½ cups of oreo cookie crumbs (original recipe calls for graham cracker crumbs)
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup peanut butter chips (original recipe calls for butterscotch chips)
  • ¾ cups grated coconut
  • 1 cup almond slivers (original recipe also suggests walnuts or pecans)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a 9×13 pan with parchment paper.
  3. Melt butter and mix with oreo cookie crumbs.  Press crumb mixture into bottom of pan. 
  4. Cover crumb base with condensed milk, then sprinkle the other ingredients over top of the condensed milk.

  5. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  Cool on a wire rack, then remove parchment paper and cut into squares.

  6. Eat all of your worries away.

I plan to bring some to small group tonight (hooray for another distraction) where we will be wrapping up our Not a Fan study.  Baking is fun, eating is more fun, but eating all of these could render me violently ill…

Do you bake (or eat) to distress?  What kinds of things do you make?


Lotion for the dry patches

Ever hit a dry patch?

I sure have.  And not just on my winter wind exposed skin.

Sometimes, a book you are reading, perhaps one that is acclaimed or one that just plain looked interesting, becomes really, REALLY, dull.  And you wouldn’t care if you kept reading that section because it is just that awful.  Or you just can’t focus.

Maybe it will get better.  Maybe you know it will get better.  But, sometimes you don’t.  There seems no light at the end of the dullness.

Okay, here is an example…  I once tried to read War and Peace, and I got through the first two or three sections okay, but then I hit another “war” chunk.  And the plot seemed to slow.  Actually, in my head it disappeared.  Was there still stuff happening?  Oh, yes.  But did I care?  Not especially.  I kept trying, but not very hard.  Then, the end of summer came, I started Nuc Med and I returned the book to the library.  I don’t know what I missed out on.  But at the time, I figured it couldn’t have been much.  From reading about the book, I know this is untrue, but at the time… Oh, goodness did I ever think it was a waste of time.

A better example might be when I read Oliver Twist.  It seemed good initially, but I lost it in the middle.  Between the older English style and the plot line, I thought I had lost all interest.  I put the book down for months.  When I picked it back up, though I discovered it wasn’t so bad.  It was actually quite enjoyable.  I don’t know why I put it down in the first place, in retrospect.  The area of boredom seems quite short.

This brings me to my current dry patch.  And it is a good one.

I am doing a read the Bible in chronological order plan (compliments of YouVersion).  Anyway, it is cool to read things as they happened-ish and such.  However, I am in the midst of the Israelites and the Tabernacle building and law giving.  To be honest, although the laws are sometimes entertaining to me (come on, all of the skin disease stuff is actually clever with respect to infection control), there are only so many times I want to know how many of them there were or how big things were measured and such.  Last year, I read through the Bible in the order it is published, so you got intermittent breathers, but now, it is kind of clumped.  And I kind of want to gouge my eyes out.

Don’t take that the wrong way.  I get that it is all in there for a reason.  And there are many lessons to be learned about the adventures of the Israelites.  And it most definitely shows the value placed on detail by God.   That and that turning our backs on God is never a good idea.

The good part is that I know better stuff (well, stuff that doesn’t lull me into snooze mode) is coming and the really awesome stuff is still to come too.  That helps with getting through the not so cool stuff.  Plus, I know God can teach me through the no so interesting to me things, because they are interesting to Him.

It is frustrating though… To lose motivation and to feel like going through the motions just for the sake of doing it and getting through.  I have to keep refocusing.  Reminding myself of the purpose in the writings and my purpose in reading it.  Praying for God’s direction and for Him to speak to me through what is written.

Other awesome part is that I know soon the course of things switches up a little and there will be more stories and tangible (to me) lessons.  It will be easier to swallow, but no more or less important.

Dry patches don’t just happen in books.  They happen in life too.  We just can’t put life down and start a new one.  We don’t always know how things turn out to get through the next twenty pages.  Look at the Israelites; they wandered the desert for 40 years.  That is quite a dry patch (har har har).   But, there were awesome things to come.

All that to say, while I wait for the computer to tell me what to do with my life for the next 5 years, I need to trust that I will come out of it.  That this is just a dry patch.  And that I need to enjoy what is happening while I go through it.  Figure out its significance; find the entertainment value or just plain plug away at it.  And I think I am doing that.  Most of the time.  Fairly well.

All I need is some lotion.  Which is coming at this time in the form of looking forward to scripture to come (for the Bible dry patch) and in the form of good books, music, company and lots of prayer.  It takes time, but God resolves things in His own time.  And most books get better with time too.

Here is a beautiful song that reminds me to be patient and wait for God’s timing.  It makes me cry from time to time.  It is on my learn to play on guitar list.

How do you take care of dry patches in your reading, quiet time or life?  Any miracle “lotions” you have come up with?

Dreaming of the Match

I hate nightmares.

Mainly ones that involve scary things like serial killers and such.

But, ones related to school/work have a different element of fear induction.  Because they are often just a touch more realistic.

Last night, I had a Match day nightmare.

In just over three days, I will know where I will be living and working for the next five years.  It will be Match day.   It is both thrilling and terrifying, but definitely nightmare inducing.

I dreamt that I was still stuck out here on call on Match day. Not sure how I managed to get sucked into 5 days of call (especially when I took leave for Monday and Tuesday), but anyway, I had to drive back to town to get my match results and celebrate with my class.  I was running late and somehow forgot to check the computer for my match results.  But I didn’t notice until I was in the student lounge with everyone celebrating.  Everyone was asking where I matched.  And I didn’t know.  So, a girl offered me her computer (her giant, old school PC apparently), which was old and slow and kept signing me into her CaRMS account, not mine.  So frustrating.  And my phone wouldn’t work.  And people were starting to say I didn’t match.  Then we checked what apparently was the “master list” and I wasn’t on it.

Then my alarm went off.

Thank goodness.

I haven’t been overly nervous for Match Day (overly being the operative word).  But that dream really threw me for a loop.

I do tend to dream about things that are a focus for me and not necessarily a big worry, just a focus.  When I have school dreams, they are generally about the material I study, not failing the exam.  So a dream about not matching is kind of odd, and yet not so much.

I remember, in Hematology, I dreamt our class was required to give one another chemotherapy as a part of the curriculum.  So we could know what it was like.  We had to rock paper scissors to see which half would receive treatment on the first day.  Weird, I know.

During my Internal Medicine rotations, I once dreamt Patrick was having a heart attack and that I HAD to get him 325mg ASA to chew or he would die (this is something you give, but it being missed would not kill a person).

During Pediatrics, I dreamt I gave birth to premature (wait for it…) puppies via C-section (I have a desperate desire to NEVER have a C-section).  And everyone thought they were beautiful and doing well.  Except I knew there was something wrong with them… They were, well, puppies.  After delivering said puppies, I shared a room with a little girl in DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis) who kept throwing up everywhere.  I couldn’t find my puppies and nobody would visit me because of the barfing child.

You get the picture.  I have weird dreams about work.  And not the kind that are terrifying in an outward sense, but just bizarre.  So, the Match day combined the bizarre and what, for me is almost my worst nightmare, though I never actually not matched.  I just couldn’t find out where or if I had.

The good thing is that I am on call all weekend.  And Patrick is visiting.  Thus, I will have plenty to distract me from my Match related angst and thoughts.  I just have to refocus and potentially have weird medicine related dreams… Or normal ones.  Normal is preferred.

The other good thing is that very soon this part will all be over with and I can start planning for the next chunk of our lives.  I trust that God will provide and match us to the place He has prepared for us.

Have you had any ridiculous or scary dreams about work or school?  What about bad dream remedies?

Interviews en revue

I promise that this will hopefully be the last post about CaRMS interviews for a really long time.  I have been thinking about my recent experiences and how they all play together.  And I had an interview nightmare last night.  You think those would be done by now.

Last night was by far the most fun I have had on the CaRMS tour (minus when I actually got home).  We went to the social, at which most of the staff and residents came.  It was very East Coast.  We ate at a pub, you know, fish and chips, lobster rolls, burgers.  It was very relaxed and fun.  After that, a core group of us went to this fabulous Halifax spot called My Father’s Moustache where we basically sat around and had drinks whilst discussing our adventures in interviewing, sports, TV and life, as well as where we all actually want to match.  All the while watching the Habs game where Gomez FINALLY got a goal after a 365 day dry spell.

It is funny, but I am really going to miss those people.  At least the cool part is that we will all be colleagues in the future and we will see each other at conferences and all that fun stuff.  I was right when I said earlier on in the tour that we will likely get along because of the whole premorbid personality for the specialty.  We are all a bit different, but we just seemed to work well together.  It felt normal to be hanging out like that and we have only known one another for a few weeks.

So, all that to say… Here is my version of the tour in revue.

Prettiest Hospital:  It’s a tie between the Juravinski in Hamilton and CancerCare Manitoba.

Ugliest Hospital:  McGill University Hospital.

Best interview day meal in Hospital: London… Pasta of all kinds.  Ottawa came in a close second with Greek food.

Best interview day meal outside of Hospital: Well, Calgary wins this by default, but it was ridiculously good.

Best social:  This is a tough call, I liked a few for differing reasons.  If I had to go with food alone, I would pick either the Thai place in Ottawa or Italian in Edmonton.  They were all good.

Longest and most expensive cab ride: Edmonton and Toronto tied.  Halifax would have won, but we all knew better and took a shuttle.

Most fun in a city non-interview related:  Ottawa… You just can’t beat the All-Stars.

Best museum-like place (because Patrick claims this was more of a museum/sushi tour for me): Vancouver Aquarium, hands down.

Best sushi: Halifax.  This is not a reflection of overall sushi quality in any one city.  Everyone says Vancouver has the best sushi.  Its just the sushi I had there was sub-par.  The sushi in Halifax, however was the best in my tour.

Best other food place: Pakistani/Indian restaurant in Kingston.  Any place where you have the choice of mild, medium, Canadian hot or Pakistani hot has to be a winner.

Best hotel:  Atlantica in Halifax.

Scariest interview: Vancouver.  Giant man-eating panel and the first interview… Eep.

Most relaxed interview: Hamilton.  Only a couple scripted questions and more conversation about hockey than anything else.

Most shocking question for me:  Why didn’t you do your Masters?

Most shocking question for others: Getting grilled about doing their USMLEs.

Strangest question for me (not scripted):  Name your favorite hockey team and where and what you did when Sidney Crosby scored the “golden goal” in the Vancouver Olympics.

Strangest question for others (not scripted): What do you think about fighting in hockey?

Strangest question (scripted): First place- Rorschach Ink Blot.  Second place- Name a fictional character that would make a good radiation oncologist.  Third place- What is your favorite word?

Most challenging question of a technical/knowledge variety:  Define statistical significance.

Most awkward moment: Walking into the Vancouver interview room and seeing the giant panel at the giant table and feeling terrified.  Then someone saying, “yes, it is rather intimidating.”  Then, realizing that I actually did have a “deer caught in head lights look.”  Second place is when I got asked if I could speak French and answered yes, then was told that I should have answered in French, so I did and the person asking told me never mind.

Stupidest thing I said in an interview:  “We really just want to get out of Newfoundland.  Its nice and all, but anywhere on the mainland is better than there for us.”  Interviewer: “I’m from Newfoundland.  And are you saying that we are just anywhere?”  Annnd commence digging self out of hole.

Craziest thing I saw:  In the Toronto airport… There was this woman who sat across from me waiting for my flight to Kingston and she seemed to be talking to herself.  Then out popped a small dog from her bag.  She was talking about herself in the third person saying things like, “Get out and walk around for a bit, it is going to be a long flight and Mommy doesn’t want you to get blood clots in your legs.”  She then proceeded to take out what she called the dog’s suitcase… A large purse… And got some kibble telling the dog, “You need to eat something, Mommy really thinks you need some food.”  She gave the dog a drink from a water bottle she just drank from.  She also offered the dog a clementine saying, “Do you want an orange?” When the dog sniffed it and carried on sniffing the floor… Like a dog should, she concluded, “I guess you don’t want an orange, so Mommy will have it, but you still need to eat.”  This was unreal.  I tried so hard not to laugh out loud.  And failed a bit.  I know people love their dogs.  But really?  This was ridiculous.  Especially when I was so sleep deprived.

Coolest God moment:  If I am just going for the most random God moment, then hearing “Your Love” in the elevator on he way to the BC interview.  For an overall God is awesome moment, it was knowing that I had friends and family praying for me over this entire journey and truly felt a peace that I think only God (and excessive repetition) can bring during the interview process.

And… That’s a wrap.  I am headed home-home for a few days with family and friends and our church’s famed winter carnival.  Something that I have missed so much since I have been away… Potlucks, bad variety shows and my church family.  What a way to relax and rejuvenate post-interviews.

Stick a fork in me, I’m done!

Well, it’s a wrap!

Yes, at long last, my CaRMS interview tour has come to a close.  Actually, there is a social tonight, but nonetheless the interview, which is the most important part, is done.

12 interviews

11 cities

6 provinces (plus the pending visit home-home and then back home makes it 8)

It legitimately felt as crazy as it seems to look on paper.  And now it is done.

Today’s interview is at a program where I have done electives and where I knew I would know the majority of people on the interviewing panel.  Such a comfort.  And yet, I think because I knew so many of them, I was more nervous because the last thing one wants to do is look like a tool in interviews, especially in front of people you know and respect.

I wasn’t scheduled to interview until 3:30, but we were all invited to attend Oncology Grand Rounds and get lunch there, so I went in for 12:30… Free food and education, what a bargain.  The topic was breast reconstruction post-lumpectomy and mastectomy.  It was fascinating.  I know, you may not agree.  But, I didn’t know there were so many options available and the thought process behind when and how to do the reconstruction.

Most of the people interviewed in the morning.  Only three of us were scheduled for the afternoon.  There were 5, but two cancelled.  So, thankfully, the interviewers agreed to move our times up, so we wouldn’t be stuck loitering in the department for hours and also so they could finish early… Win-win.

We went on a tour of the department.  They are currently expanding and getting some new machines in the next few months but construction was not yet complete for us to see it.  Nothing else has changed since my time there.  It is an older facility… No real natural light in the rad onc department.  Clinics are decent, but somewhat crowded.  The resident room is nice… Everyone has their own desk and computer and there are two windows (epic!!).  They have 10 rad onc dedicated inpatient beds… And new floors (yes, he pointed out the new flooring).  The floor is shared with gyne onc and palliative medicine.  It felt pleasant.

It was so nice to be back at interviews with the people I have gotten to know.  Chatting before the interview.  Sharing plans for the afternoon.  Planning for the post-social fun to come.

The interview itself was great.  The panel was big.  Not UBC big, but the next largest for sure.  Semi-overwhelming.  At least I knew 5/6 of them and knew of the other person.  It makes things a lot easier.  But nonetheless, the first chunk of the interview I spent glancing around as if I had a nervous tick in an attempt to make eye contact with everyone.  So weird.  It got more relaxed and I felt very comfortable.  It was definitely more of a get to know you type interview with only a couple standardized questions and then others about me as a person and about my CV.

Most unusual question: This is a two part question… What is your favorite hockey team (this was prefaced with the fact that this answer could make or break my residency career)?  Part two was where were you and how did you react to Sidney Crosby’s OT goal in the Vancouver Olympics.  I answered honestly and told them the Montreal Canadiens to which I got two high fives and two loud groans saying they will beat that out of me later.  They then asked if I was brainwashed as a child.  I said yes.  As for the Olympics question, we watched the game on Patrick’s laptop with his parents and we were somewhat time delayed, so I had received a text alluding to the fact we had won before the goal happened.  So I cheered and followed it up with a “I knew it!”  They thought that was pretty funny.

Question that took me most by surprise: Obviously the above questions won this as well.  If I had to pick another question unique to this, it would be the why are you interested in teaching question, which was followed up with a how would you feel about doing something like a medical education elective or masters in medical education.  All of which are appealing to me.

I rewarded myself on the walk back to the hotel with a tiramisu cake pop and a latte.  I also took a stroll through the medical school campus and took a few pictures.

Welcome to Dalhousie.

The Cancer Centre building.

The new research building, mainly for cancer research.

Clinical research building.

The medical school.

This building was in the medical/dentistry area... I don't know what it is but it is cool.

Back to the East Coast

I am back in the East Coast.  And it feels so lovely and homey and East Coasty.  I don’t know why, but it just seems to be much more settling to be in an area that is more familiar.  And in a time zone that is closer to what I would consider my baseline.

One of my measures of closeness to home is the degree of chattiness of cab drivers.  I realize this is a flawed measure and that it is more of a reflection of the friendliness of the individual or the city, not the geographic region.  Nonetheless, I noted as I traveled across Canada, I went from silent rides to awkward small talk to full fledged conversation (exception Toronto and Montreal… likely the big city feel, I don’t know).  Today I took a cab to my interview and learned where the driver was from, where he had visited recently and the full weather forecast.  So nice.

Today, my interview was not until 4pm, so I had a ton of time to kill.  I slept until I couldn’t sleep anymore and then hit the road.  I explored the neighborhood, which I was somewhat familiar with, as I had stayed here previously and then went to the Natural History museum.  The museum was pretty cool and even had monkeys.  Plus, it was a bargain… Never hurts.

View from the hotel.

Skating rink around a track and what looks to be some sort of armoury.

The Halifax Infirmary.... One of the many Halifax hospitals.

There are not one, not two, but three snakes intertwined in there.

Gus. The museum's 70+ year old turtle.

Monkey in the rainforest exhibit.

Another rainforest exhibit monkey.

Fungus, anyone?


The "smallest" bone in a whale... The ear bones.

Today, my interview was in Internal Medicine.  Not my usual.  I like internal medicine.  I could be happy doing it.  Very happy.  I felt very different in this interview.  It was less predictable.   Not that there were weird questions, but that I haven’t done an internal med interview.  And because all of my prepped answers are not geared towards internal medicine.  I answered honestly and was being genuine, but it still felt fake, probably because I am just not as drawn to the program or as in that mind set at this time.  It was also strange because I didn’t have my new friends.  You see, it is pretty much consistently the same people doing the rad onc interviews.  I had never seen these people before and the atmosphere was not as informal/chatty as ours is while waiting for interviews.  Definitely because nobody knew each other.  First meeting for all of us (because there are so many rad onc applicants.

An example of a Rorschach style of inkblot. Image from

Most unusual question:  This was in the resident section of the interview… It started with the fact that we all have to make quick decisions when things go downhill on the wards… Then they asked us to pick a number between 1 and 4.  I picked 3 (one of my favorite numbers).  They showed me a Rorschach Ink Blot.  I said it looked like a pumpkin head.  Apparently I am one of 3 of the 130 people interviewed that said that.  Interesting.  If I had been more clever and quick on my feet, I would have said a Rorschach Ink Blot.  Missed opportunity.

Question that took me most by surprise: Do you have any concerns about going to the Saint John program?  My initial thought was no… I want to live in Saint John.  What they were going for was that it is a newer, smaller satellite program.  So, I talked about how there are problems with every program and that I don’t have any major concerns, as I know it is based off of the same structure used in Halifax.  I also have to add that they also asked me if I speak French, but did not require me to speak it at that instant.

Overall, the interview was okay.  I don’t feel like I aced it.  I don’t feel like I looked like a total fool.  I didn’t go to the tour or lunch, nor am I going to the social.  The times didn’t work for me, especially given the interview time.

On the way back to my hotel, I stopped for sushi at one of the places we didn’t manage to try whilst on elective here (a few of us turned it into a sushi tour).  I also went to Pete’s Frootique.  Yes, Pete, from the ATV evening news (maritmers will get this).  The original-ish Frootique.  I got a smoothie and marveled at the selection.   I also got a few pictures of Citadel Hill… I may try to go up tomorrow if I have the time in the morning.

The buildings on Citadel Hill.

Citadel Hill.

Interview in Habsland

My language insecurity persisted today.  50% of the candidates are legitimately Quebec French, so of course I felt like my French was a little substandard.  The good part is that I can at least carry on some semblance of a conversation and for that I am truly grateful.   It even came up in 2/3 interview stations, despite the school being Anglophone, as the patient population is in its majority bilingual, but a portion is unilingual French.

On pulling up to the hospital I noted one major factor… One, it was huge and two it was not pretty.  This hospital is what East Coast hospitals are like… Older ones.  Very different than those out west and even in Ontario.  I learned that the health care funding in Quebec is not as good as in some other provinces and that there are problems with aging facilities.  I also learned that the Jewish Hospital is significantly more aesthetically pleasing and that they are currently building a new hospital that is the typical classy modern slated to open in 2014… So, if I were to go there, I would benefit from said hospital.

The hospital has an interesting build to it.  I entered on the 6th floor.  The radiation oncology department is on the 5th and built into the side of the hill and under the parking lot.  Good use of natural rock for shielding.  Unfortunately, not good for natural light.  There is one skylight at the front of the department and apparently, this needs to be removed and a crane drops in the new linear accelerators, as the doors and elevators are not wide enough to accommodate.  That I would want to see.

The department itself is well equipped and at the forefront of research in several aspects.  All of the cool toys are there or coming, including an MRI simulator, tomotherapy and a ton of brachytherapy.

I was really impressed with the friendliness of the residents and how well they all get along.  It says a lot about the program.  The two chief residents were ridiculously enthusiastic about selling the program to us.  One of them said, and I quote, “This program is legend… Wait for it… Dary!”  The same one also informed the women in the group that Quebec has the best maternity leave plan in Canada for residents and thus the female residents “pop out babies like machines.”  Made my day.

The interview had a similar feel to many of the others.  Three panels of two for twenty minutes each.  The questions were generally straightforward.  No big technical curveballs, but lots of very standardized questions that repeated somewhat between stations.  The first station I went to was especially chatty and I had to be extracted from the room by my next interviewer.  Too funny.

Most unusual question:  What is your favorite word?  After much deliberation, I answered fabulous… It sounds dramatic and it is a fun word that can be used in a number of situations to describe great things.  Also, that is what I thought very sarcastically when the question was asked.  In retrospect, there are other significantly more awesome words like cacophony and scintigraphy.

Question that took me most by surprise:  This one is a toss-up.  One interviewer asked me why did I choose Radiation Oncology when I have such a strong Palliative Medicine background.  I was expecting the imaging one, but not that.  The same guy asked me why I didn’t do further education?  I was kind of confused, I mean, I am in med school for goodness sakes.  But, he is an MD-PhD, so I get it.  He wanted to know why if I had a high GPA and do well academically I chose to go to med school and not do a Masters and such.  The answer is easy… I got in to med school.  Why prolong things?  I can do a Masters in residency if I so desire.  I would consider it if it doesn’t interfere too much with life and school and my finish date.

By the time all of that was over, we had lunch… Baguette sandwiches… So good.  I was disappointed that I didn’t get to have a Montreal bagel, though.  I may try to find some in the airport.  I was sharing a cab with someone and didn’t even get a chance to take pictures of the hospital, though I did get a few pictures of McGill at night (on my way home from the social).   I did, however, find a Montreal Canadiens parapanalia store and got Patrick a surprise.  Pretty neat what one can find in an airport.

Welcome to McGill!

Pillars at McGill entrance.


Main McGill campus area with delightful lighting.

Chiac, questionable bilingualism and a musical interlude

Day one in Montreal.  I left St. John’s after only being there for approximately 30 hours… I have worked longer call shifts… Just saying.  At least I got home and did laundry and saw Patrick and most of my non-school friends.  Plus I got to go to church.  It was quite lovely.  And exhausting!

This will be a short one as I have to get sleep pre-interview.  It had no general theme or flow, as I just wanted to recap a few thoughts before I forgot again.  I had an hour an a half nap this afternoon because I was so tired I felt ill.  Pretty impressive for someone who generally doesn’t nap.

Since arriving in Montreal, I have realized that my French is very rusty.  I am self-conscious of my French, given that despite my Francophone roots, I have a very English accent, as my primary language is English.  I took the equivalent of university French in High School and did very well.  Problem is that since high school, beyond the odd conversation with family and a french patient, I don’t use my French, and when I do it is definitely maritime slang French, aka chiac.  So, I realized that simple things like ordering from restaurants or hanging out with bilingual residents draws attention to my underused French and unusual dialect of choice.

I want to improve on this.  I’d like to take a course in medical French and maybe get speaking it more, so that I wouldn’t feel so self-conscious and nervous about using what French I have.

I drove past the Bell Center today… It was epic.  Too bad I didn’t have my trusty camera available.  One day I will go in and see the Montreal Canadiens play… One day… And hopefully they will win.

Supper was great… We went to a trendy restaurant with delicious food.  The majority of residents came out… Always impressive.  There are 8 of us interviewing tomorrow.  Problem was that this restaurant is loud… It has music that, throughout the course of the night grew progressively louder… And louder.  You couldn’t carry on conversations beyond the person beside you.  Made me want to scream and flap, though, I refrained and just looked semi-distressed.

Lastly on an awesome music note, OK Go has a new video out on YouTube that is quite awesome with regards to the use of random things for music, including a car!   I love their style in general and the use of instruments and original sound.  We don’t always get a lot of this these days with our modern sound mixers and electronics.  

They also have a fabulous music video… And my favourite all time song of theirs that involves a marching band.  Given I played and taught a marching band for a ton of years, this is near and dear to my heart (feel free to judge).