Showing posts with label kyla. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kyla. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Little Encouragement

I often feel like the odd man out. Here, I'm the wanna-be doctor mom. At school, I'm the 27 year old sophomore who has been married for almost ten years and has two kids. At the kids' events, I'm the young mom, 27 with a 9 and 6 year old (I'm often mistaken for the big sister). In parenting circles, I'm the mom with a medically-needy kid...nobody else is dealing with tube feeds, a half dozen specialists, bi-weekly therapies, and med schedules. With friends, I'm usually the odd one out on all accounts...our friends are just starting to get married for the most part, they are childless, and they are out of school. Sometimes I feel like I've done everything in reverse. I graduated at 16, got married at 17, had my first child at 18...I didn't figure out who I was or what I wanted to do until much, much later in life, and of course even that isn't typical or easy. When you stick out all the time, it is easy to feel like you aren't doing anything right. It is tough to be a premed student/mother of both a typical and atypical kid/wife/volunteer/friend/human and there is a lot of juggling involved. At times I wonder if I'm crazy to even be attempting this, but then a well-timed bit of encouragement helps restore my faith in this endeavor and my ability to see it through.

Math isn't my subject. It never has been. In grade school, math was the only subject I was allowed to make B's in. I chose my major based on the fact I only have to go up to Cal I...not Cal III like some other science majors. However, I made a 110 on the first exam in PreCal this semester AND my professor sought me out during class to try to poach me for the math department! She told me about a math major premed she knew who went on to do very well and now works in medical modeling. She said, "Not everyone is so gifted in math, you know!" I never thought I'd hear something like that!

I'm taking Cancer Biology this semester. It is a special topic class, which means it is a higher level course and it isn't always on the schedule. The hard pre-reqs are Bio I and II and Chem I and II, but on the first day, the professor said, "If you haven't taken Biochem and Genetics, you should definitely think about dropping." I haven't had either, but I stuck it out. We had our first exam a few weeks ago, a comprehensive midterm. I made 303 neon notecards for it and studied a lot. The night before the exam, we had tickets to the Rodeo. The kids really wanted to go and I didn't want to disappoint them, but I knew the exam was going to be tough. I studied very hard that week and opted to go to the Rodeo with the family the night before the exam. After we got home, I hit the books again and everyone else went to bed. The next day in class, I was the first one done with the exam (which was mostly short answer and essay, no multiple choice). I re-read my exam a few times and submitted it. I hate being the first one done...did I do really well or really poorly? Ack! The following class period, the professor handed back exams. She pulled me aside and said, "You're the one who finished in 45 minutes, right? And you got an A?! That is the best use of time I have ever seen!" Then she said, "Aren't you the one who emailed me about your daughter having pneumonia a couple of weeks back?" I nodded and she went on to say, "And you're doing all of this with kids at home? I'm so impressed at how well you are balancing everything!" That kind of recognition felt really amazing, especially because prepping for that exam and spending time with the family had been a bit of a balancing act.

I went out to dinner with my best friend (who is also my sister-in-law) last week, and she said, "I always use you as an example all of the time when I'm talking to people." I looked at her quizzically and ask, "What kind of example?" She said, "When I'm talking to people and they say they can't do something for any they are unexpectedly pregnant and can't finish school or whatever. I tell them about you and how you didn't to things in the 'right' or 'normal' way, but that you are premed now and doing really well with everything." That might be the highest praise, because it came from someone who knows me almost as well as I know myself.

It is amazing the effect a few encouraging words can have on your outlook and commitment. I hope that at whatever stage of this game you are at, you have people cheering you on and helping you see how well you are doing in the various aspects of your life. If there is one thing I've learned, it is that this kind of life is a circus and all the MiMs I know are extremely gifted jugglers. We all deserve a round of applause every now and then.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Slowing Down

The kids and I both started our winter breaks around the same time. The first week was full of Christmas prep and holiday fun, but by the Wednesday of the second week I was starting to get that all too familiar urge to climb the walls. It wasn't the kids, they rarely bicker or fight or complain and we were having fun together. It was me...doing nothing. I don't know how to do nothing anymore! Between studying and going to school, volunteering at the hospital and the kids' school, keeping up with the kids' activities and KayTar's medical and therapy appointments, I'm constantly on the go. I realized that I had forgotten how to slow down and simply enjoy a little downtime. So instead of making a New Year's resolution, I made a winter break resolution. After the kids went back to school, I would spend the last two weeks of my break doing nothing. I wouldn't volunteer. I wouldn't prep for my classes. I wouldn't review old material. I decided I would read some books, have lunch dates with friends or my husband, spend some time on my sofa. I would teach myself to enjoy my break, force myself to recharge my batteries while I had the chance.

How did it turn out? Beautifully. It was a bit difficult at first, but I eventually got the hang of it. I had a couple of lunch dates with Josh. I went out with my best friend once or twice. I saw a movie with a friend. But mostly I stayed home, enjoyed the quiet and took the opportunity to read. I read 10 books in two weeks, the most I've read in years. I really enjoyed myself. At the end of break, Josh and I went out of town together, just for a night. He likes to hunt and it was the end of dove season, so we got a hotel room near his lease. I enjoyed the silence of the hotel while he hunted a couple of times, I slept in, we spent some quality time together, went out for dinner and lunch, and got together with some friends who live in the area. It was perfect end to my relaxation challenge. The next time you get a chance for a little downtime, I highly recommend forcing yourself to slow down long enough to enjoy it!

Friday, December 17, 2010

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

For me to write a post about this particular topic, that is. This is my second week of finals and in keeping with tradition, it has been a little more interesting than usual in our household. Monday night, the boys were at scouts and I had recently tucked KayTar into bed and subsequently settled in to study organic chemistry when I heard a very familiar sound...The Prelude to Vomit in F major. I sprinted to the kitchen for a bowl and then up the stairs, but I was seconds too late. She had already thrown up. I held out the bowl and caught the rest and when I looked down I was shocked to see a couple of teaspoons worth of bright red blood mixed in with her bedtime feed. Once we got everything cleaned up, I emailed our pediatrician and asked her opinion and gave her our best guess as to what happened (nosebleed that was draining posteriorly into her stomach) and she agree we could watch her for a while, but if it happened again, we'd need to go to the EC. Watchful waiting is always a little unnerving, but it is taken to another level when you know you have a final the next morning! I emailed my professor so she would be aware of the situation, in case that is how the evening played out. Thankfully, it all worked out okay, she didn't vomit again and I made it to my final, but I did have to flake on an important organic chemistry study session to be close by in case we had to run to the hospital. It doesn't always work out so nicely, though, in my Spring term, KayTar had emergency surgery during finals week. Our house was burglarized last Tuesday, the day before my music final. Finals week paints a cosmic bulls-eye on our household, but we have survived it yet again.

Before I decided to go back to school full force, pursuing a career in medicine, I talked to several physician/mothers that I respect a great deal. Balance was always a central theme in these discussions. What I learned in talking to them is that it is definitely possible to be both a good physician and a good mother, balance is possible, but it is not always an easy thing to find that balance and balance rarely means the same thing to two people. It is more complicated than usual for our family, because KayTar has special medical needs and my husband works full time and is a full time student, too. For us, these things have been key.

1. Determine YOUR priorities, re-evaluate as necessary.
My highest priorities this semester included: Never miss organic chemistry. Go to all of KayTar's medical appointments/hospital visits. Be present and active in the kids' school life. Spend time in clinic. We had several rough spots in the semester, but I never missed organic or one of KayTar's appointments, and I made sure to volunteer in the kids' library as often as possible. I also spent several days shadowing. Your priorities are probably totally different than mine, but just recognizing what they are makes it easier to stick to it.

2. Compromise where you can.
I did stick to all of my priority items, but I had to compromise in other areas to do so. I missed history and music on more than one occasion to go to one of KayTar's appointments. I missed several of my son's baseball games because I was in the hospital with KayTar.We skipped KayTar's dance class at least once, because I needed to study. Last night when I was working through 228 pages of organic chemistry and KayTar kept bouncing back into my bedroom like a ping pong ball, I finally scooped her into my lap and said, "I know you reeeeeally want to play with me right now, but I'm studying for my very last test right now and it is very important. After tomorrow, I'm all your for a month!" She understood and went on her way. You can't always do it all, but you can make time for a little bit of everything.

3. Our family is a TEAM.
The only way any of this works is that we are all committed to it. Laundry is usually falls under my purview and dishes belong to Josh, but if I'm drowning in orgo, he'll put on a couple of loads for me....if he's writing papers and the sink is overflowing, I'll load the dishwasher for him. I usually pick up the kids, but if I'm in clinic, Josh handles pick-up. Josh cooks dinner, but if he's busy cramming for an exam, I'll cook get some take out for us. If one of us needs a hand, the other always helps out. Extended family is part of the team, too, and without their support (especially my mom watching the kids when they get sick and have to miss school), we couldn't make this work.

4. Take time for yourself/family/friends.
I've found that I get a lot more accomplished if I take periodic breaks and do something relaxing, than if I try to power through and do more, ignoring myself altogether. If I'm having an especially intense study session, I'll give myself 30 minutes of free time as a reward every time I finish a section. The kids understand that mom and dad have homework just like they do and for the most part, they let us work and study when we need to. When I'm drowning in coursework and need a break, I'll ask BubTar to play Wii with me or I go have a tea party with KayTar. Sometimes a little time together is all we need. We don't have a lot of time for dates or social events with friends, but when the stars align, we jump at the chance! Everything seems easier after a great date night or evening spent with good friends.

I'm sure there are other important factors, but for us, these are the biggies. As an undergrad, I know that this is probably the easiest my life will ever be...medical school, residency, and practice will take more time and effort than school currently does. Sometimes I think I must be clinically insane to be pursuing this, but I love medicine and I'm committed to making this work. I hope that as time passes and we enter into the next stages of this process, we will continue to find a way to make it all work.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


I started blogging in August of 2006, shortly after KayTar's medical and developmental issues became obvious. My life had just been turned upside down, I had no idea what was going on with my child, I had to quit my job to manage her very busy 5 therapies per week/8 specialists to juggle/endless testing/care schedule, and I felt isolated and a little like I had lost myself. I am a very private person, emotionally-speaking, my best friend is kind of enough to look away if God-forbid I ever start to tear up, because I absolutely hate being outwardly vulnerable like that. Because of my private nature, I never felt comfortable expressing my sadness or anxiety about having a medically-needy child to the people in my every day life, but I needed to process it and and release it somehow, and so I turned to blogging. I know, a blog is PUBLIC, how does that jive with my private nature? I never intended to have actual readers, I just wanted to write through my struggles in an effort to turn the amorphous feelings coursing through my veins into something concrete that I could set aside without having to explain myself or my feelings to anyone. I didn't want to write a post and have my mother call me five minutes later to discuss my precious feeeeelings. I didn't want to hear all of those supposedly comforting platitudes that often come across more like a slap in the face than actual comfort. I just wanted to have my own space to process the new (and sometimes scary or stressful) developments in my life. Thus, The Journey was born. I wrote my first post, "The Waiting Continues..." on August 24, 2006. The name of the post makes me chuckle now, I was so naive and hopeful back then. I thought we had been waiting so long for answers...but here we are 4 years later and we don't have many more concrete answers than we did back then, but life is so much easier anyway.

After publishing that first post, I got three comments...from STRANGERS; warm, compassionate, kind strangers. The simple act of writing the post had made me feel so much better, but the responses were icing on the cake. You know how the story goes from there, I visited their blogs, we made a connection...I visited new blogs, those bloggers visited mine...and I found myself in the midst of a beautiful, supportive community. I didn't feel isolated anymore, I was a part of something. I met people that I never would have had the privilege of meeting in my daily life, people scattered across the nation and world. Some of them had similar lives to mine, some were very different. When it came time for KayTar to get her g-button, it was a few of my blogging friends with personal experiences in this area who talked me through it, three long distances phone calls made all the difference in the world in those moments. When KayTar was inpatient last week for the worst test in the history of tests, the controlled fast, many of these same people were virtually cheering us on. Blogging has never simply been words on a page for me; it has provided support, information, and understanding when it was hard to come by in every day interactions.

Blogging has also afforded me interesting opportunities. When my daughter lost health insurance and could not be accepted into a new program because of her pre-existing conditions, I blogged about it. It was picked up by Johnathan Cohn, who was working on a piece for SELF Magazine. They also flew KayTar and I (and my mother) up to NYC for a photo shoot. I never thought I'd pick up the phone and have a magazine editor ask me when they could fly me out to New York! It was pretty amazing, and without blogging, I never would have been a part of something like that. I've done a lot of advocacy work for children's health insurance reform in my state and at the national level, and my blog has aided in that as well. 

What started as a secret blog has remained a secret blog. My husband knows that I blog, but he never reads it. I told him that he can read it, but I never want to know if he has and we certainly cannot discuss it face to face. My parents don't know, my best friends don't know, my classmates don't know. That is how I want it for now. Proportionally speaking, my blog is still mostly about KayTar, but I recently changed the name to Life with the 'Tars because I feel like that dark, stressful portion of our journey is over and the blog is lighter now and more accurately represents what our lives are really like. A good portion of it is about me now, not as a scared, uncertain mother, but about my own journey as I my pursue a career in medicine. I also like to dabble in photography and I find it is a wonderful way to share that, as well. Sometimes I think about telling people about my blog, but I'm not ready to sacrifice that privacy yet. I find it hilarious when I am telling people stories about the kids (especially KayTar, who is incredibly hilarious) and someone will say, "Oh Kyla! You HAVE to start a blog!" I just laugh and nod. Maybe one day I'll tell them, but I'm not ready yet. I don't blog as frequently as I once did and I don't always have the time to comment on all the blogs that I read, but I an definitely not ready to step away from it yet. I don't need it like I did when I first started blogging, but I enjoy it and setting aside that time to write, purely for enjoyment, is important to me.

I was thrilled when KC invited me to start writing here, because once again I've found myself a little on the outs with my real-life community. People look at me like I'm speaking a foreign language when I start talking about medical training and everything that goes along with it, just like they did when I would start in with therapy regimens and IEPs and ARDs and MRIs and LPs...but here at MiM, discussing those aspects of my life feels perfectly normal.  I think that is the true beauty of blogging, it makes it possible to find or build a community in way that can't always be easily accomplished in your day-to-day life. There are no support groups, or book clubs, or Sunday school classes, or any other sort of easily accessible form of community for mothers of perpetually undiagnosed medically-needed children who are also insane enough to decide to go back to school for a career in medicine...but out here in cyberspace, I've been able to piece that together for myself and it is wonderful.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Day in the Life: Pediatrician Edition.

I spent the day yesterday shadowing our fabulous pediatrician. Beforehand, I worried that it might be a little awkward, following someone around all day without contributing anything, but it turned out to be a really enjoyable experience! I'm looking forward to doing it again next month.

We saw a lot of kids, of who were there for well-checks, URIs, EIs, rechecks, and one patient who came in for a rule-out of a fairly rare who loved the doctor, hated the doctor, and were ambivalent about the doctor...and they were all adorable. I got a lot of smiles from all of those cuties. It was a busy day, though not unpleasantly so. It was a nice pace. We spent roughly 10 minutes (my guesstimation, I didn't pay attention to the actual time) with each patient which seemed the perfect amount of time, and from 9:30am until about 1:30pm there were not any lulls. Then we went to lunch, visited a baby in the NICU at the hospital, and came back to clinic and saw a few more patients before I morphed back into a parent when BubTar arrived for his 3pm appointment.

Things I learned, in no particular order:

1. I am not used to wearing heels all day. Ha! Obviously, I was on my feet all day and we did a lot of walking and took the stairs quite a bit. It didn't bother me a bit until I was OFF of my feet for a while...then, OUCH. Gotta work on that. ;)

2. Primary-care pediatrics is a lot of repetition. We saw many kiddos that were there for the same well-check, and so you basically repeat the same thing over and over. It isn't a BAD thing, just something that hadn't really occurred to me previously.

3. 4 months old infants are particularly adorable patients.

4. I need to learn more Spanish and get brave enough to utilize what I already know.

5. I can see myself being happy with this sort of career.

6. (which is not specifically related to yesterday) I can survive a week with roughly 3 hours of frequently interrupted a sleep per night, two sick kids, feeling mildly under the weather myself, while keeping up with my coursework and responsibilities, and still manage to enjoy myself.

Cross-posted at The Journey.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Start of Something New

In a less than a week, I will be a full time university student for the first time ever. I'm 27, I've been married for over 9 years, and I have an 8 year old son and 5 year old daughter, but somehow this milestone still feels enormous.

My husband and I are both transferring to the university after many years of on and off attendance at our local community college, interrupted by marriage and child birth and sudden medical issues with our youngest child. He is a criminal justice major and I am biological and physical sciences major, working steadily to complete my premed requirements. Last semester he and I alternated nights in evening classes during the week, and on Saturday I spent the day in Biology II. Add in his full time job and my volunteering at the hospital, and we were like two ships that passed occasionally to hand off the children and their information and we generally managed collapsed into the same bed at night, except when KayTar (my youngest) was sick and demanded his place in the bed.

This semester is promising. He is able to complete the remainder of his degree online, and I am finally able to take day classes. We may have some semblance of a normal family life for a few months! KayTar will be starting Kindergarten, which means both of our kids will be in school for full days. KayTar has a slew of special medical needs (that are mostly well-controlled at this point) and gets sick frequently, but my mother has agreed to keep her when she is home sick from school. She knows how to tube feed her, check her urine for ketones, test her glucose levels, and administer her medications. She knows her favorite books and television shows. She is one of KayTar's favorite people and I know they will be fine. And yet? I'm nervous and I feel a little bit guilty. I've been KayTar's primary care giver, in sickness and in health, ever since we realized things were not quite right with her. Stepping away from that, even in a small way, is going to be a bit of an emotional adjustment for me. KayTar is already excited about spending her sick days with my mother!

Our schedule is still a little bit wild; shared drop off and pick up from the kids' school, driving to and from downtown to get to my school, volunteering at the Children's Hospital, volunteering at the local free clinic, volunteering at the kids' school, shadowing physicians, baseball and cub scouts for BubTar, dance and twice weekly therapies for KayTar, along with interspersed appointments with her various doctors...hopefully we don't have any ER visits or urgent surgeries this semester like we did last semester! It is going to take a lot of teamwork to make this work, but I think it will be worth it. Wish us luck!