Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Last Christmas?

My dad couldn't catch his breath, slumped over the walker that my mother was using instead... he had to sit, hold his head; smiling at my son and I, trying to hide the fear.

I hate this.

I hate watching this man whom I've adored my entire life slip away in front of me.  I hate watching him suffer and shake.  I hate watching him lose his balance and if I were not there to steady him, he would have fallen.  I hate that he is ... dying.  I hate it.

Christmas.  The season of peace and hope... and yet in my own world, with my dad, there is none.  He is struggling.  For life.  To be 50 again and able to meander to Florida and put his feet in the Gulf. I don't know that he is able to fly... and surely, he can't be in a car for the drive.

Trying to find a reason to celebrate today and instead finding solace in the MCAT prep until I see him again this afternoon... where I steady myself for what could be, the last Christmas.

Saturday, December 20, 2014


First time I heard this song, I was driving to work and almost pulled over... eyes watered up, tears streaming down my face, chest heaving in pain ...

Then I came home and pulled up the video.  More tears, bigger throat lump.

My dad.

I talk about him often on here.  As his health withers and his mental ability to remember or think slips, I'm so thankful that he IS my dad.

Growing up my mother was a tyrant.  She still is.  I moved 1500 miles away to get away from her and her alone.

The beatings I took on a daily basis with ping pong paddles, spatulas, metal serrated spoons coupled with harsh words that I was worthless, spoiled, nasty...

I was 5 and it did not stop until I was 17.

But my dad, who was gone Monday through Friday, always came home and obviously, was oblivious to what she did to me.  He still is.

In his own way, he made me unbreakable.  He cheered my successes, took me to ice cream when I was grounded (every week, replete with being beaten), he stood up for me when my life was a shambles.  I was 5... and he never stopped.

He still hasn't stopped.  As I watch his life slip away, I can only look up and say a quiet thank you to whatever power is above for having him in my life.

And today as I wonder if I can actually be ready for the MCAT on the 15th, I quietly hear my dad saying, "GO PJ, you can do this!!!"

Yes, Dad, I will keep trying.

Thursday, December 4, 2014


We fly in Tuesday night and leave late Christmas day.

Two days in Minnesota.

Last year, we spent 10 days there in early to mid-December as we waited for my dad to pass.  It was gut wrenching to be sure for the first few days... cardiac ICU at Mayo, however, apparently was going to give me the best present ever...

My dad lived.

And still does.

We are not telling him.  Please don't tell him either :D

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Small things, really.


Support... gentle nudging.

Because sometimes, I just don't know ;)

Small things.  Emails from professors who know the stories - all of them - and encourage you.

But I do know.  I just have to keep putting one foot, one pencil, one mark on the page and continue plugging along.

T - 6

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Yes, This Is A Difficult Journey

And yes, it is very unlikely I will ever see an invitation to join a matriculating class.

At 50, I'm running - or have run - out of time.

My energy is the same as my younger brethren, my mental agility just as solid but the calendar says I should be planning to use my AARP membership now instead of laughing in its face and moving to studying.

I AM studying.  Just covered the kidney with all it's osmolarity (gen chem) and ions with acids and bases (gen chem) and mechanisms (ochem), membrane transport (physiology) and hormones (biochem and physics).  As questions spun through the live on-line session of Kaplan, I answered 10 of 12 questions right...

One, I disagree on the answer choice because direct means A --> B, B --- > C, not A ---B and C... anyway, I digress.

10/12 is 83% which is not good enough for med school... and that was on a comfy laptop, at home, in the comfort of my sweats and diet coke.

83% will not get me into med school coupled with my age... I know that.

But I am not giving up, though that would make my life easier.

Tomorrow I plug back into physics and draw biology.  Th it will be gen chem - though I think I'm doing alright there - mastery of the equations ... and then AAMC full lengths from 12/15 to test day.

Never thought this would be easy and I'm not complaining.  I chose to step my toe back into the pond fully aware the odds are heavily stacked against me.

I was telling my dad last night as we discussed events occurring around the country.

Life is not fair.  Bad things happen to good people.  Good people doing the right thing get trampled.

I'm one of those people.  Every time the ... I got stomped.  But in getting stomped I had a choice:

I could be a thug


I could be the one who continued to fight for what was right and take the high road.

I will never be a thug.  Ever... even if life is not fair.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Back To Physux, Eh - Physics

After a rapid pace aka "drinking from fire hose" sessions of Kaplan, I am back to ground zero.

Work is easing up; lest you forgot, or are new, I work about 45 hours a week integrating a $300M company into a larger behemoth.

We are almost done.  Come Jan 1, 2015, it will be done; all systems live, the acquisition company's systems sunset, people trained, and ... well, that'll be that.

I've barely kept my head above water with Kaplan.  Thankfully, gen chem, ochem, and biology come easily for me.

Physics, on the other hand, a class I've never taken (or rather completed; I dropped midway through my 1st semester of it in 2010 despite having an A-), is kicking my butt.

My plan?  Because surely, postponing the MCAT (again) and hence never taking it, is not my game.

Square one:


I wrote down all the formulas on a sheet of paper.  In addition, put down their respective units.

Then, I started going through problems in the Kaplan books and a few in Exam Krackers.

With each equation, I wrote what it would tell me and how I could use it.  To finish that off, I put down if a variable was missing, what equation would help me get to the right answer.

Then I took out another sheet, and wrote them from memory.  What do I have, what do I miss.  Then, I simply asked myself, if I were going to do x-y-z, what would I need... similar to questions I've been asked by EK...

In doing so, I can remember how I was shown to solve physics problems.

At work, I have peers who ask me to write something on my white board and then explain it to them. They then proceed to pepper me with questions.

It's a team getting me to Jan 15, 2015.

It's a team of Kaplan, work, my son, my friends and me working toward one goal:

Do or do not, there is no try.  And surely, physics will not get the better of me... back at it!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Age Bias Is Everywhere

On forums - non trad and traditional; in physician settings, homes, hospitals and everywhere.

Grow thick skin, learn to laugh and smile while inwardly you're crying.

It will serve you well :)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

MCAT Study Prep - Kaplan Way

In all seriousness about the looming exam, I made a schedule today.  Had a mini-freak out when I realized I'm about T-9 weeks to exam which means, frankly, I'm T-8.5 weeks away from learning any new data points, tips or tricks.

I missed a biology class last night due to work.  Kaplan is good at giving a rescheduled time to make the class up which is awesome, but I had to fit it in between molecular genetics, circuits, the kidney, thermodynamics, and the other base MCAT courses in my full Kaplan class (online, if you're wondering).

So, when my head spins and my mind goes blank, I get back to the basics... draw a calendar and plot the days out.

When will I study, when will I have class and when do I work (actually, I do that one first).

Below is what my life looks like.  Come December it will be almost entirely 100% full length exams and review for what I get wrong.

In January, it will simply be full length exams and increasing the pace.

Two years ago, I gave up the dream after a dratted "B" in medicinal biochem.

T - 8.5

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Back To Square One

Received from my p-orb yesterday and I'm not sure how she knew I was struggling, or what incentivized her to write me but out of the blue, my p-orb sent this:

"And thought you could use a reminder...
The Tip Top 10 (of many) Reasons Why J should go to med school
(Disclaimer: these are all subject to Olivia's personal opinion, and while they do reflect the facts, they are not directly from the source)
10. Because money is just linen and cotton
9.  Because you would totally rock the lab coat
8. Because you survived O-Chem
7. Because you are excellent at managing people, hence the MD and not a different path in the field
6. Because you have a phenomenal support system
5. Because you love, love, love helping people, and what better way to do so
4. Because life after med school will provide you with stability
3. Because you are an intelligent woman who has more drive than your typical med student
2. Because you've sacrificed so much and have come so far
1. Because the little girl inside you who has dreamed of this their entire life wants to"

And this seems appropriate ... oldie but goodie:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Gen Chem - Circa 2009

I learned a lot, or rather, got retaught a lot.  And did well, I might add.

Sitting through Kaplan tonight was akin to ... well, it was bad and I'm glad I had the gen chem back then... so long ago (5 years - holy shit).

See, I can remember all the periodic trends (on MCAT) and the definitions of all the theories (on MCAT), how to apply them (on MCAT), relationships between P T V, (on MCAT) most of the formulas (on MCAT), and VSEPR (on MCAT)...

Instructor called it V-PRES  not VES pur like the rest of us...  he also confused inverse and indirect; flipped an answer from right to wrong, drew the wrong Lewis dot structures, and got charge wrong.

Seriously.  5 years and I could teach that buttttttt

There was a passage regarding ions.  So I don't get myself in trouble with Kaplan I won't repeat their passage (as that's proprietary information) but I will give you a similar example.

Of the four following molecules which one has the best conductivity:

[Mn(NH3)5 Cl]SO4

I said the one with sodium (that metal thing, you know, far left side of periodic table, conductive, malleable, creates a really good solution with conducts electricity???).

It has 4 ions, where as the others only 2 (derp).  The charge is irrelevant in this example because shortly after seeing more ions, the charge doesn't matter... if same number of ions then I'd look at what was involved and still come up with Na...

Kaplan didn't need to teach me that.  Instructor's response?

"I didn't want to call you out on that but what if the Na were Na 2 instead of 3?"

Well, duh.  The Na 3 would still win because of greater number of ions.

He then said, "well, if you want a guaranteed increase in score you must do it our way..."

Guaranteed score increase?  I don't care about that, I care about my one shot at the MCAT on 1/15.  That's it.

The kicker?

"If you want to bring in outside knowledge to class, that's fine just know that's not the Kaplan way."

ORLY??? you mean the $15,000 I spent to get the 3.9 in land granting university classes was not supposed to be used on the MCAT?


oh boy.

Thank God I had gen chem taught by someone who could teach (and not get confused with inverse and indirect) ... despite that he was creepy, he could teach.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Confidentiality In Health Professions

Recently, as in last week, my now 22 almost 23 year old son went out to a local lake to do what 22 year old something do (jump off old tire swings, jump off cliffs into ocean waters, etc).

He'd been gone all day so I presumed he was having a blast and thankfully, he did.

A few days later we were sitting at dinner and he had a puzzled, troubled look on his face when I asked him about the friends (one of which is his boss).

He said that the fiancee of the boss's brother mentioned to the entire group after he'd left that she'd diagnosed him with scoliosis and he was not sure he should be mad.

I sat on my hands, chewed the inside of my cheek and just listened.

My son felt like he'd been ridiculed again, singled out, victimized.  She'd waited apparently until he got into his car to leave before telling the group.

"Am I right to be mad?" he asked.

"How'd you find out?" I questioned.

"My boss pulled me aside at work and mentioned it to me, asked if it bothered me."

Well, hell might have no fury like a woman scorned but victimize MY son?

"Who is she and what school does she go to?" I demanded.  "You should be pissed."

See, where I sit she broke MANY simple rules of health care professionals (if not more):

1)  A student of any kind (LPN, RN, NP, PA, DO, MD) should NOT diagnose anyone.  You're a student, not a licensed health practitioner.  Don't let your ego get in the way of your path.

2)  In no place is it appropriate to disclose another person's PERSONAL health to another person without their written consent, or the consent of their parent if they are minor.  It's that little law that went into affect, ooooh, about 20 years ago called HIPAA (not like the rhino friend, Hippo).

3)  It is never appropriate, ever, to disclose that kind of health information to an employer unless expressly requested or demanded for some reason (maybe health screening) but if that were the case, the employee would have signed a consent (there's that consent thingy again).

He asked what he should do and how he should handle it.  We talked it through, he was going to blame a "really good doctor friend of his" that had come "unglued when hearing what she'd done" and tell the boss he was concerned that the fiancee didn't know what she'd done was so wrong and that he didn't want her to screw up her career at some point by gossiping about someone's health.

I was angry.  I AM angry and sat on it for a few days.  Today, I called the school.

The director wanted to know which student, I declined saying I did not want to out her or victimize my son further which would happen given the relationship between his boss, and the nursing STUDENT.

What I preferred (demanded) is that the school use this as a teaching exercise and reinforce privacy of patients (and in this case, non patients).

There IS a higher platform for health professionals to maintain.

We talked further, he really wanted the student's name, I said no.  It would create issues for him at work, make things awkward and I would not do that to my son.

To me, the situation that happened with my son is no different than if 30 students are on spring break, two get too drunk and wipe out on the sloppy slide at Cancun's Tropical Hat Oasis and crack a head open whereupon the CT scan it is found that one of them has a hemorrhage.  To me, the health care students at that point have an obligation to keep their mouths shut.  Even if licensed, they have an obligation to protect the privacy of the people involved.

Students and licensed practitioners have an obligation in all facets of life to protect people's privacy.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Khan Academy

Oooh boy, while I have the biochem down pretty well, biology is seemingly going to be good, chemistry (both gen and orgo) will be fine (review required), physics is going to kick my ass.

See, back in 2010 when I was actually taking physics, I was getting a dreaded "B" so, I withdrew.  Panic had set in during one of the worst years of my life and panic won.

Physics.  I loved the class, the professor was awesome, but panic.

And now here I sit, Kaplan books in front of me, getting questions on basic principles wrong and the savior?

Khan Academy!

Whoo hoo - had it recommended to me while taking the other pre-reqs but it didn't help much because the expectation of my professors was far beyond what was available back then.

Today, however, it's saving my butt.

A sample:

    Acceleration: Calculating the acceleration of a Porsche

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Continuing The Marathon

Back at it.  Mole Genetics, including viral replication, got me fired up.

Videos like this just push me forward!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Kaplan Diagnostic

Kicked my butt.  Seriously felt like I knew nothing.

T - 3.5 months... and not sure I can do well at this point.

Crap.  :(

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Molecular Genetics

DNA Polymerase - got it!
DNA Ligase - got it too!!
Primer - yep
Okazaki fragments - yep
5' to 3' reverse - yep!


Yes, that too!

Somewhere, I had to find some confidence, a little wind in my sails.  Confidence came in a molecular genetics on-line class (live!!) with Kaplan and thanks to the best biochem teacher ever - Dr. S at the U of MN - I answered every question right...

Even the tricky one where 5' goes to 3' and the fragments on trailing strands.

Oh yea!  :)  (No doubt physics will kick my ass but for one day, I felt like I could handle this again!!)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Not Gone. Not Dead. Really!

Picture says it all.  I am registered for January 15, 2015 MCAT and for on-site Kaplan review.

At 50, I will do everything I can to get admitted to an allopathic medical school (MD) and never look back.

Stay tuned for the rest of this very, very long ride :)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Trekking in Nepal

I find it interesting when people leave your life, they leave footprints on the internet which Google Analytics is very good at capturing.

FYI - I loved Nepal too.  I loved the food, people, trekking, and scenery.

What I didn't miss were my golf clubs.  Do I ever get them back?  Or are they a treasured memento of what you lost?

You know who you are :)