Monday, May 25, 2015

Premed Perspective: The Application Wait

Yes I’m using the Royal ‘We’.
That’s the mentality that helps you to keep throughout this whole medical school application process.

 After applications were turned in, a little message popped up.
‘Congratulations! Your applications have been submitted. Now comes the hardest part. Waiting.’
We could hear replies up until 5-6 weeks out.

The first response was a quick and definite ‘no’ at the end of week 1 into The Wait.
It’s okay, because it was our last choice with a  VERY small class number.

The second we heard back from about 2 weeks into The Wait.
It was an offer for an interview!
There was a lot of celebrating in the isle of a Target when DH called me from work to tell me.
Commence trip planning for said interview.
Praise the Lord for hotel rates given specifically for those coming to interview, otherwise we would have been out quite a bit of money… Not that it would have kept us from the interview itself.

Things went really great at the interview.
DH always comes off as personable, responsible and professional, so we never worried about the interview itself.
He came out feeling solid and confident in the impression that he made on everyone he met.

The wait continued for a reply from the school.
After 2 weeks we received a letter stating that DH was placed on the Alternate list for this upcoming class.
He could be accepted up until 2 weeks before orientation.
Is that different from a waitlist?
Is he ranked in this ‘Alternate list’?
When would movement start?
Was it common for a lot of movement from this ‘Alternate list’?
We have been trying to get information about it, but as you can imagine it is a little hard to get a hold of anyone, considering they are dealing with dozens to hundreds of people in the exact situation, asking the exact same questions.
That means that until we are told otherwise, we are still in this eternal wait.

The middle of week 3 of The Wait we heard back from THE school.
Our number 1 pick was a ‘No, thank you’.
That was a bad call to get at work.
With half of Our applications being turned down it was time for a little pep talk.
This was not the end of the world.
Maybe it just was not meant to be.
Maybe the Lord has other plans for us.

With half of the applications being negative, at this point it was time to talk about the possibility that this may not be THE year.
If We don’t get into a school this year, We need to try to find out the reasons for being turned down.
I encouraged DH to possibly call and get a little more information about why he was turned down. If it’s something we can do in the possible extra year, then we need to get that in the works and on the books. Being proactive about things is the key to getting things done.
Some people may feel that being persistent after being turned down is a bit pushy… I see it as being assertive, yes, but more determined than anything else.

Once he emailed, he got a fairly generic response back.
‘Continue shadowing, take classes to raise your GPA, consider retaking your MCAT to boost your score’… Those kinds of things.
So that got us a ton of great information.

Our 4th school never replied to the initial application.
We called and called to see if there was an error, or if something was missing, but never got a response.

We believe, can pretty much bet, that DH’s timing may have hindered his applications this year.
Because of how late his MACT re-take was in the year, it put him submitting his full applications right at the deadlines.
This choice may have cost him his entrance into medical school this year.
It’s the nature of the beast and your impression on a school starts from that very first application.
You have to assume that every little bit of information about the applicant is taken from the beginning, every action is calculated and taken into consideration.

We have decided to learn from this and have turned around and submitted everything again so that he makes the early application timeline for the next cycle of applications.
Yes, that does mean investing more money into this process.
Yes, we still have a chance that DH will be notified of acceptance this cycle.
We are just covering our all of our bases.
If it happens that DH’s name comes up and we get the acceptance letter, we will rescind our applications for next cycle and start our journey.
Multiple application cycles are not abnormal, so our story isn't unique.

The joys of putting your life in the hands of others...
There is nothing that you can do in the meantime.
No amount of stressing or worrying will change your circumstances.
So, we are continuing to just live our lives.
Enjoying the spring weather and continuing to pray for good news.

How are Your applications going?
How many are prepping their families for the next application cycle?
Do you want to share helpful hints that you have for getting through this stage?

Friday, May 22, 2015

I Call Shotgun

Medical school is like a road trip. You know the destination. You know what mile markers you will pass along the way. You know what you would like to achieve. You also know that road trips have lots of unknowns. The same thing that makes the trip exciting also makes it very scary. It’s stressful knowing there is potential for break downs or getting lost along the way. It’s stressful knowing that you could start your road trip and realize you may want to turn back. Even with all of these knowns and unknowns of road trips, we still get in the car, fill up, check for the wallet, grab the camera and buckle our seatbelts, because we all know the best part about road trips is not the destination … it’s the journey.

Through our medical school journey, I’ve been lucky enough to have the shotgun seat since the start of the trip. My husband and I have had many stops along the way. We’ve traveled the entire ride with our two children (buckled in, of course), and so far I would say we’re still enjoying the road, even though it’s getting a little bumpy.

My husband is MS4. As those who have traveled this road before us know, what makes the fourth year exciting also makes it scary. This is the part of the trip where we endure audition rotations, interviews, big financial expenses, ranking and the match. This is the year where the title of Doctor is given and with that so are the responsibilities of that title.

Are we prepared? I don’t know…

What I do know is that we traveled a long way to get where we are. The best part of riding shotgun is knowing you had a major influence along the way. I’ve been right by my husband’s side when he first decided we were taking the medical school journey. I’ve been right there with him as he prepared for the MCAT, sent applications, interviewed, got accepted into medical school and moved our family across the country.

I made sure I tightened our seatbelts as we endured the long days of MS1 and MS2 always keeping my eyes open and looking for moments of encouragement. There really isn’t much that you can do when your spouse is studying for 16-18 hours a day, other than being supportive and making sure they know you are there if they need you.

MS3 was a great part of the journey, aside from the stress of the board exam. It was the part of the trip where you really get to decide how you’re going to move forward. What kind of doctor do you really want to be? What size hospital do you feel best in? Can you work with others? Can you handle the long enduring days of this lifestyle? Can you handle death? Can you remember what you are learning? Can you apply what you’re learning? Can you rely on others to help, teach and guide you? With each question, my husband experienced a bit of self-doubt. He experienced the part of the trip where you think "Did I make the right choice?" The answer was yes. We have traveled so far to get to this spot. It is now time once again to tighten that seatbelt and finish the trip.

We know this year will be difficult. My husband scheduled 5 away audition rotations and I am prepared to be a single mom for literally half the year. We have no intentions of celebrating the major holidays on the actual day this year. We don’t even know if we will be home on Christmas or sitting in a hotel. We don’t know if we saved enough money to pay for this year, we don’t know if the CV is good enough to get interviews. We haven’t decided on our top programs yet. We haven’t even started to think about the match.

One thing we do know is that we are all still in the car heading in the right direction.

When I was asked to contribute to the LDW blog, I thought, "Yikes, I don’t have any good advice." I went back and forth about what to write and realized every journey is different, and what I could bring to the table is the importance of enjoying the journey. Our children are 9 and 7, we are 8 years into the medical school process and we are nowhere near done. The only ride our children will ever have with us as children is the medical school one, so we want to make sure to enjoy it.

To all the medical school families on this road trip, try to enjoy it. Remember why you wanted to go. Remember where you want to be. Make sure you still take a moment at each stop along the way to be grateful that you have traveled this far. I know we’re grateful for the journey so far.

By: Kendi Judy

Friday, May 15, 2015

It could always be worse.

In May of 2013, my second-born was three weeks old and our house was annihilated by a hailstorm. We huddled in the basement as huge hail and glass-shattering winds swept through our home, tore shingles from our roof and shredded our exterior paint. We were ten months into residency, and still struggling to transition from the abundant loans of medical school to a tight PGY-1 paycheck. We went to bed after the storm had passed feeling like the unluckiest family in the world.

I still panic during storms. The months of dealing with contractors as a new home owner, the stress of paying out the deductible on our homeowner's insurance when we were also paying hospital bills for our new baby, the nap times disturbed as our whole neighborhood reroofed, the whole process. It was awful. And here's what's worse: the day after our hailstorm, an F5 tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma, and twenty-four people died. The panic I feel now is less about the stress that we went through, and more about the fear of what could have happened.
Our anniversary was this week. Eight years, almost every bit of them wonderful and all but our first dominated by medical school or residency. The sitter was booked and our reservations were scheduled, and thank goodness we hadn't bought the movie tickets in advance because (of course), the day ran long with a trauma case added on, and my apologetic husband called to tell me we'd need to reschedule. 

Our poor kids, they couldn't figure out why I was crying. And you know, I got mad. I got so mad at that inconsiderate patient who just HAD to have something awful happen on our special day and just HAD to go into surgery to make my husband late. 

I'm embarrassed to say how long it took me to regroup sympathetic feelings. This poor patient, having surgery on a Friday night. And my frustration transitioned into something else. I'm still disappointed we missed our date. But it could have been so much worse. It could have been my husband needing surgery, or me, or our precious kids. I sat up waiting for my husband to come home. In the hospital, there was a wife wondering whether her husband would come home. 

It could be worse. 

A hailstorm is nothing next to a tornado, and missing an anniversary date can't possibly be compared to missing a spouse because you're in the waiting room and he's on the table.

But. They're both bad, right? It's important that we allow ourselves those moments of frustration and grieving when our plans get canceled and our schedules are flipped on their heads and our kids are begging to see their daddy, since it's been three days. I am still so grateful that our hailstorm didn't spin into a tornado and that we were all safe, but while gratitude made the next six months of repairs easier to bear, it didn't make them fun. Residency is so hard on families, and just because there are paths that are harder (military spouses, I salute you!), it doesn't take away from the difficulties that we face.

So dig into that container of phish food if your date gets canceled, sister, you've earned it. Allow yourselves a Netflix marathon instead of scrubbing your floors. And hey, if you're feeling really gutsy, don't cancel the sitter. Take yourself out to a movie instead. And allow yourself to feel disappointed. It could be worse. It's still not fun.

Friday, May 8, 2015

MS1 Taught Me...

Prior to starting our med school journey, another wife said to me, "The days are long but the years are short." Boy was she right! We are ten days and 5 exams away from the end of MS1 and it feels like the year flew by! But then again, some days felt inexplicably looooong too. Like this one.

Another wise med school wife said something akin to, "During particularly long, difficult, lonely weeks you will find yourself wandering down every. single. aisle. of Target for hours on end..." Well, it turns out she was right too. Did that today thankyouverymuch.

As I sit here in the cramped quarters of the extended stay hotel we are currently living in (long story- stay tuned), after dropping SDrH off at the school to study for finals, I am overwhelmed by the idea of summing up all of MS1 in a single blog post. A novel would be more suitable. But you don't have that kind of time. Trust me. So being the student of life that I claim to be, I ultimately decided to reflect upon what the first year of medical school taught me...and it ain't Biochemistry. Or grammar, apparently.

MS1 Taught Me...

The value of "high yield."

I noticed the phrase "high yield" getting thrown around very early in the school year. It's how students communicated with one another in regards to study material. As in, "page 145,368 of your Microbiology syllabus is extremely high yield." Meaning, they would likely see that information again or should expect multiple test questions over it. At first it made me giggle because really, it got the the point that everything seemed high yield. Then one day I realized that high yield applies to more than just medical school. Quality time together became so precious that we started referencing our free time in terms of high yield too. As in, "We get Friday evening together! Yay! Yippee! Hallelujah! What's the most high yield activity we can do? Is there a restaurant we want to try? Something fun around town we want to go do?" You get the picture. We weren't about to spend coveted time together doing chores or running errands. We tried to make the most of it. Even if that sometimes meant television on the sofa. We found that to be extremely high yield after the hard weeks.

*And this is where I take a moment to marvel over the fact that med school forces fun (previously fun), normal (previously normal) people to become efficient with their "free" time. Oxymoron anyone?

Moving on...

Structure is my friend. 

SDrH and I are meticulous planners when it comes to the big stuff. The day to day stuff, however, now that's a different story. I guess you could say we like to wing it. We've never had a set meal time, bed time, or any sort of routine. And before medical school, we preferred it that way. I very quickly learned that winging it might not be the best approach. So now I'm *that* person...the kind of person that admittedly, I used to mock. I have a fancy, colorful, bursting-at-the-seams Erin Condren planner which holds everything from meal plans to gym schedules to test schedules, deadlines, etc. Every activity has a column and a time. Get up at 5:30, leave by 7:30, home by 5:30, gym, dinner, bed, do it all over again the next day. Whew! I'm tired just thinking about it. But you know what? Most days it saved our butts. We don't have time to discuss what to eat for dinner, much less make an impromptu run to the store. Even fast food is not fast enough most nights. I realized exactly how important structure had become to our daily routine when our condo flooded last month. Hence the reason we are currently living in an extended stay hotel. During FINALS. As if the first year of medical school isn't already stressful enough...Ugh. I still don't particularly enjoy running our household like a corporation, but The Great Flood of 2015 (as I have not-so-affectionately come to call it) made me realize that having any semblance of control over certain parts of our day helped us feel a little more grounded when everything else seemed to be spinning out.

Don't wish it away.

First of all, this is no way for anyone to live. But for folks in medicine, living this way can be especially dangerous. There are too many different finish lines, right? If we were to wish away the time during med school, residency, and maybe a fellowship? Poof! There went a decade. So SDrH and I made a conscious decision early on. We will accept this process for what it is and find things to enjoy about every stage along the way. For me personally, this mindset allowed me to settle in a little. To truly view my new city as home instead of a place to kill some time. I'm more invested in our life here and that feels good.

*And this is where I take a moment to insert a loophole I discovered. Exhausted wives of first year medical students who are living in a hotel and running out of clean clothes because the repairs were only supposed to take 2 weeks but are actually taking 3 weeks are allowed to wish away the month of May. Whew, lucky me! Sounds like I qualify.

So hey there MS1, I think you taught me enough. I got it. Make. It. Stop.

Come visit my personal blog at

I thought I was already at #itgetsbetter…

I have been a doctor’s wife for 2 years and I am still coming to terms with it being part of my newfound identity. You see, I didn’t have the fairytale romance of meeting my DrH in high school or college and taking on this medical journey with him from the beginning, side by side. Some days, I think that if I had, the transition I am currently going through wouldn’t seem quite so drastic, but then again that is merely my assumption. This transition I speak of is me trying to find myself again and get back to the #itgetsbetter stage after having found and fallen in love with DrH later in life. 

Let me take you back about 5 years, as the backstory is very important to give some perspective on where I am today. Before DrH, I was a very successful 30-year-old single girl living in the city, surrounded by my family and closest friends. My life was already at the #itgetsbetter stage and I had gotten there on my own. The idea of marriage was nice, but not really at the top of my priority list, as I was happy with my independent life. You can probably already guess where this story goes from here. DrH walks into my life and everything changes. I was very hesitant to date him at first because I did not want to be involved or potentially end up with a physician. Yes, you heard that right. In my career, I had worked with doctors as a malpractice consultant for 9 years, so I knew all about the sacrifices and the long hours. It was just not the life I had envisioned for myself. However, DrH is very intelligent, handsome and charming and before long I had fallen head over heels for him. So, I joined DrH in "our" medical journey when he was in his third year of residency.

Now, let me take you to present day. I have been on this journey with him for some time now and we are currently PGY8, as DrH is completing his third and final fellowship in a couple of months These past two fellowships have taken us from one side of the country to the other, resulting in me giving up my career and six-figure salary, and moving away from my family and close friends. I have gone from shopping at Nordstrom on a weekly basis to shopping the sales at Target on occasion and from brokering big deals in the boardroom to trying to figure out how to fill my days. As you can imagine, there have been many times along the way when I felt I had lost myself and put aside my desires for my husband’s career. I was already at #itgetsbetter before meeting him and now I am not…or so I thought.

As we are approaching the end of his training, I am beginning to realize that the real truth is: we have always been at the #itgetsbetter stage. The moment I met DrH my life was better. He made me realize that I didn’t have to face this world alone, that love is so much sweeter than anything money can buy, and that I now have a best friend for life. When he completed residency and we packed up and moved across country as newlyweds, our life was better. A girl who had never left her home state was now moving across country and we would make lifelong friendships and strengthen the bonds of our marriage as we took on the world together. I learned to step out of my comfort zone at 33. Another "dreaded" year of fellowship would take us to a new city (another cross country move!), where we would be tested and tried by the long demanding days and come out even stronger and better as a couple. I would learn to treasure only having one car so that we could enjoy time together each morning and night on the ride to and from the hospital as that was all we would see each other most days.  All of my free time allowed me to find a new passion for volunteer work that would be so fulfilling and help impact young lives in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

Unfortunately, it has taken me almost to the end of this medical training journey to realize that while I was waiting for that next phase of #itgetsbetter, I missed out on the moments that were already made better through this experience. While I mourned my past identity as a career woman and breadwinner, I missed out on the opportunity to embrace my new role as a support and strength for my DrH. As we move forward in our next phase of #itgetsevenbetter, I will embrace the here and now and not always be waiting for tomorrow. I will be okay with being identified as a DrW, as I know that having that title means I provide my husband with the love and support he needs to do his life changing work… and I think that is something I can be proud of! So, for all of you that are anxiously waiting for it to get better, it probably already has. Take it from someone who has already been there before...or so I thought.

By: Toshia Wagner

Friday, April 24, 2015

Finding Happiness After a Disappointing Match

Match Day was years ago, but I still remember feeling my stomach drop when my husband read that he matched to the second-to-last program he ranked. His rank list was so long, and he had received such encouraging feedback; it was unimaginable he would match at a program ranked down in the double-digits. I ducked out of the Match Day party to weep, overwhelmed by shock and disappointment, and even a little bit of shame.

The cry you hear repeatedly is "We got our number one pick!" People say it so often it seems like no one gets anything except their first, or possibly second, choice. The reality is the only people who say anything are the minority of lucky students who matched at their top choices. The rest of us are silenced by stigma. Admitting you matched to anything other than number one is admitting that programs didn’t want you. Programs’ decisions for who they want most are largely arbitrary; they’re picking from a pool of well-qualified candidates they just met. This perceived rejection can make you believe the lie that you’re not good enough.

It took time to pick up the pieces of my lost dreams, but I’m grateful we matched where we did. My husband’s training has been solid, and the culture of his residency has been a better fit than he would likely have found elsewhere. His career will be fine. We’ve met wonderful people and had great experiences. We would still rather have our number-one pick, but we are happy and life is good. Life works out, but it can be an emotionally draining journey to make that happen.

When dealing with disappointment from the match, here are my thoughts for survival and growth:
  • Don’t envy those who did better in the match. It accomplishes nothing and poisons you and your relationships with your friends who had better luck in this fickle process. So much of it is arbitrary, and chance has a huge role in it. Congratulate your friends for their good fortune, even if it takes time for you to genuinely feel happy for them.
  • Don’t resent your husband or blame him for the match results. Let go of the "if only he had . . . ." thoughts, unless there’s a real lesson to be learned that can be applied to future experiences. Everyone has shortcomings and no one knows his better than you, but let them go. Go ahead and hate the match itself if you need to channel the anger toward something.
  • "Comparison is the thief of joy." (Theodore Roosevelt) Don’t dwell on what might have been because distant grass always seems greener. We aren’t close enough to see other programs’ warts, so we assume they are better than the life we are living with all its bumps and imperfections. For example, one program we highly ranked seemed fantastic. I spent too much time thinking "If only we were there, then residency would be better, he’d be working less, and life would be wonderful." Several years post Match, my husband spoke at conferences with their residents. The program had education problems and a malignant culture. The wonderful promises they’d made during interviews hadn’t been kept. But because all I’d known was their excellent presentation during the interview process, they’d seemed ideal. No residency is perfect, and if you can’t see their flaws, you don’t really know them yet.
  • Don’t badmouth your destination. Whatever institution you’re headed to has people who love it and are proud of it. Disparaging the program or the town can only burn bridges. So sure, tell your mom you’re disappointed, but limit that information to your inner circle and never on social media.
  • Dive into your new city with gusto. Every city has something great to offer, whether it’s world class museums, a great park, or a fantastic neighbor. There’s a treasure there somewhere. You just have to find it.
  • Establish your new place as home, both physically and in your heart. Home is where you and your partner live. It’s not where your parents live, and it’s not where you used to live. Invest a part of yourself in your new community.
  • Build a tribe. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a tribe to survive residency. Reach out to your local medical alliance chapter, get to know your neighbors, join a club, and if applicable, jump into your faith community. You will need people whom you can call on during the many times disaster strikes and your resident spouse is not available. Start building those relationships from day one and residency will be far less lonely.
  • Build up and encourage your spouse. Being rejected by a long list of programs is likely just the first in a long series of residency experiences that will hurt his confidence and his feelings. Be sure to let him know that you are proud of the person he is and the doctor he is becoming.
  • Find things to love in your program. I’m not saying convince yourself this is a better outcome than your top choice, but find the things that can be appreciated about where you are. There’s something to love about his program, whether it’s great medical benefits and research opportunities or fresh cookies in the cafeteria. Find things to be grateful for, even if you have to dig deep. Gratitude seeds happiness and dispels resentments. Choose to be happy where you are.
We are now preparing ourselves for a competitive fellowship match. This time I have more realistic expectations and a better attitude. I understand that matching anywhere should not be taken for granted, and getting the last spot on the list is still an accomplishment we are going to celebrate. If there are any tears this time, they’ll be tears of happiness.

By Anon.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Survivor Stories: Keep Yourself Busy

Oh, the pre-medical days of my romance with my husband.  Hanging out downtown, backpacking in the summer, skiing all winter, carefree and full of aspirations.  Then, medical school began and I found myself alone (often) and bored (sometimes), trying to replace those events in my life…in a new town, living in a different state, where I had no family or friends.

What I have learned, 10 years later, is that to survive a medical marriage you need your own hobbies.  The best way to push through his absence is to keep yourself busy.  So I thought I would compile a list of some of my favorites ways to do that.

Learn Something New

The Library
It’s free and every community has one.  Isn’t it fun to walk the aisles and grab a random book on a topic you know nothing about?  Okay, maybe that’s just something dorks like me do.  But still, the library is a great place to learn something new, and you don’t have to invest anything for that knowledge.  Also, many libraries use Overdrive, or a comparable app, so you can enjoy digital downloads and save yourself a trip.  If you love to read in general, the LDW Book Club is the doctors’ wives book club on Facebook, with reading discussions and great recommendations.

Professor Internet
Yes, I am a true believer that you can learn about anything on the Internet and you can teach yourself.  The problem lies in trusting the information you are getting.  Did you know many top universities have OpenCourseWare programs (like Harvard, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Yale, etc.)?  Here is link to a great site with free, online places to learn.  If you’re able to spend a little money, we’ve enjoyed some of The Great Courses.  Each course is a collection of online videos (also available on an app) that teach a variety of subjects, all led by experts in the field.  My husband has enjoyed a photography class, while I’ve been doing a culinary one.

Go Back to School
This is a good option when knowing some base information isn’t enough, or you need an actual degree.  Is it stressful to be in a medical marriage when both of you are in school?  Absolutely, been there done that.  But it doesn’t get any easier.  If it’s your passion to go back to school, just do it.  The timing will never be perfect in a medical life (for pretty much anything you want to do) so just go for it.


Religious organizations
Charity is a strong emphasis for many religious establishments, and if you have a religious community there are bound to be on-going events you can be involved in.  Just ask what you can do to help, and you may be surprised how many opportunities exits.

Junior League
Major cities all across the US have local Junior League organizations.  The emphasis is community support through volunteer and fundraising activities, while also having a social aspect to it.   Having been a leaguer at two different Junior Leagues I can tell you that they all differ a bit in their expectations.  So consider some new member events to see if your local League is a good fit for you.

Get Fit

Join a Gym
If you have the time, money, and resources in your area joining a gym can be a great way to have more energy, be more relaxed, and find friends who share your interest.  And then there's that whole benefit of a healthier lifestyle thing.

Find an Online Fitness Community
If you don’t have the option to join a gym, or prefer home workouts, there are so many options for getting fit at home.  You could do an at-home workout program with online coaching (like a BeachBody program).  Or, you can find endless workout videos on YouTube for free.  The LDW Fitness Club is a great place for motivation and ideas.

Get Crafty

Ok.  So maybe it sounds a little cliché.  Settle down with a nice doctor, have a few kids, and start becoming a pro in all things domestic (cooking, crafting, sewing, knitting).  But it’s not just a 1950s stereotype.  It’s actually really relaxing to do those things, and fun to finally have the time/money/ability to be home to do them.  So where do you learn?  The Internet again to the rescue.  I just learned to sew in the last year – mostly through online video tutorials.  YouTube is great because it’s free.  But if you want something more elaborate consider a class from .  Or, your local craft stores, like Joanns and Michaels, will do classes throughout the year and provide a great chance for hands-on learning.  Don't forget the talented doctors' wives.  Someone is bound to have good ideas on how to start and what resources to use.

Surround Yourself With Family

Change Your Perspective
Okay, I know what you’re thinking “we live 1,000 miles away from our family, I can’t be surrounded by them”.  Yep, I know what you mean.  But it’s a matter of perspective.  To survive the training, you want to have some non-related “family” in your life.  I know, it’s easier said than done.  But there may be a spouse organization at your school/residency program, or a local woman’s group, or a religious group that provides a good fit.  It may be situational and temporary, but there are people out there who will become your friends and function like family at times.

Build Your Immediate Family
If you still find yourself getting bored when your husband has a 30-hr weekend shift, or night call for the week, consider the ultimate option to eliminate your free time – children.  Nothing eats up your personal time like those adorable, bubbly little creatures.  It’s a good thing…..most of the time.  :-)

So hopefully the next time you are dreading his rotation in MICU, or that away rotation during 3rd year, look back at this list and see how the world is an amazing place and this is an opportunity to embrace it.

About the Author
Amber is married to an ER physician in Colorado and write about all things domestic on her blog Chief Household Officer

Friday, April 10, 2015

Choose Love

Just the mere thought of board exams still makes me shudder. I’m sure I am not alone. This is my story, I hope that it helps you get through this time when it is applicable or that you can relate because you have already been through it. As a spouse in this type of career lifestyle, I commend all of you for serving your families and enabling your spouses to complete a training path millions of people dream of. We are all strong, confident and independent individuals that are up for any challenge.

My husband started studying heavily for boards about six months prior to taking the exams. If I knew what I know now, I would have prepared myself better for it mentally. Our whole entire life changed the moment he committed to a study schedule. This meant that everything we used to do together, I had to do alone (e.g., food shopping, exercising, watching TV, cleaning the apartment, taking cars for maintenance, etc.). We do not have children, yet, so my home responsibilities were not terrible. What made it the most stressful was the emotional support I didn’t receive from my husband during that time. It was almost as though he had to become a robot to get through it all.

In his specialty, he had to prepare for two board exams that were very different from one another. He said that residency did not prepare him entirely for the tests, and it was up to him to read thousands of pages of information and well as review study materials in his spare time. His schedule was vigorous to say the least. For example, we were both up at 5:30 am; he was at work by 7:00 am for lecture prior to his residency assignment. He worked a full day and then would come home at around 5:00 pm. He would study until dinner was ready, have dinner and go back to studying until 9:30 pm. We would have about a half hour of wind down time before, going to bed to wake up and do it all over again. During this time, I had a busy career myself. I was an Office Administrator for a mid-size law firm. Often, my husband would leave later than me for work and come home before I did. As boards neared our schedule did not get any easier, it only got tighter. My husband battled a large bout of depression while trying to infiltrate the almost impossible job market. Someone said on the Doctor’s Wives’ Facebook group recently, "being married to a doctor is hard; but, being married to an unhappy doctor, is unbearable". I have to agree. It was extremely tough to see him that depressed. Especially, since I gave my all to help him with his job search. I contacted recruiters, filled out applications, created online profiles, filled out fellowship applications, etc.

My husband received his only job interview offer (after 9 months of looking for an attending job) in February and within one day we had a contract on a house and a contract for employment. All of the logistics for the move and purchasing our first home were my responsibility. The wind down time that we had in the evenings, turned into discussions about what paperwork was needed by the realtor, if we had enough money for the closing, etc. My nights were busy with cleaning our apartment and keeping our 70 pound golden retriever happy and quiet with frequent walks (we did not have a yard).

As Easter neared, I asked my husband if we could visit my family, and he said only if I drove 9 hours each way while he studied in the car. I did what he said and was extremely happy that I got to see my family. He had the same rule when we traveled to see his family. I had to drive both ways and he would study the entire time. We would travel often 3 hours each way in complete silence.

Just as soon as we got used to this schedule, I realized that when I would look in the mirror something didn’t quite look right on the lower part of my neck. I brought it up to my mother-in-law while she was visiting, and she said to show it to my husband. He looked at it and said "that looks large". I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I knew I needed to get it looked at. It turned out that my thyroid was encompassed by a very large tumor (non-cancerous) and I had to have immediate surgery because it was effecting my swallowing. When my surgery was scheduled my husband’s concern was not for my recovery, but for his board exam study schedule. He stated that I needed to figure out who could take care of the dog, because he could not with his schedule. I preface, by saying I was not able to walk the dog for two weeks following my surgery (I had 20+ stitches). The surgery was an overnight stay at the hospital and I was told by my husband that he would pick me up when I was released from the hospital. When he said those words, they cut right through me. I could not believe that he was the same person I had married three years prior. I didn’t yell at him, I didn’t give him an attitude; I didn’t have a reaction at all. I just stayed quiet and soldiered on. I contacted my parents and I asked if they could come and help while I recovered from surgery. They were more than willing to come. I was cautious about what I told them because I didn’t want them to hold a grudge against him; however, I made it known that my husband could not help due to his study schedule.

We closed remotely on our house on a Friday and I went in for a partial thyroidectomy two days later. In the end, my husband ended up going with me to the hospital; he studied in the waiting room and stayed with me that night in the hospital. When I returned home, he picked up my prescriptions and that was the last I saw of him. My parents helped prepare meals, take care of the dog and cat and clean our apartment. Once my family left, he called his mom and asked her to come and help. My mother-in-law had to wash my hair for me in the sink, because I could not get the front of my neck wet and make sure I didn’t lift anything heavy during my recovery. She was also there to walk the dog. As mentioned, my husband could not do it based on his study schedule. Three days after my surgery, I attended his residency graduation meeting proudly displaying my stitches; there was no way I would have missed that day.

One week after my surgery, I had my stitches removed and I was released to go back to work and accompany my husband on his out-of-town trip for his board exams. I was happy that I could fly with him and be there for him during his two day exam. I worked remotely for my job and was there for him after each long day of exams. He ended up passing both board exams and we moved at the end of June into our #itgetsbetter home.

The moral if this story is, choose love. Throughout all that we went through during board exam season, I made the conscious choice to choose love. I didn’t start blow out fights, I didn’t hold a grudge, I just kept moving forward. Prior to my surgery, I went to a Yoga class offered at my local gym, read a lot of books, walked and ran three days a week. Those activities helped keep my sanity. Make sure you have an outlet for your frustrations during board time. Do not expect emotional support from your spouse. You will have to find peace within yourself and support from your close network.

One last thing, prior to board season, I never knew what it felt like to be at home with my husband and still miss him! It was the weirdest feeling, because he was always behind the second bedroom door studying. Further, don’t expect your family members to understand what you are going through, just make sure they listen to your concerns and help where they can. In closing, the best thing my husband has ever "said" to me was written in my birthday card this past year. It said, "I would not be where I am in my life, if it were not for your help". That comment made everything we went through, worth it. Stay strong, you’ve got this!

- Anonymous

Monday, April 6, 2015

Freshman Wisdom, 16 Years Later...

April. A week into April, actually. Time certainly does fly.

I have been having a reoccurring dream for the past few months that it is Christmas again and my husband is asking why I haven’t decorated yet and I keep telling him it is because I JUST put them away and how did I have the whole year go by and not realize it. I always wake up very relieved that it isn’t true, but in so many ways, it isn’t that far from the truth.

I distinctly remember sitting in my living room my freshman year of high school with my friend Holly and talking about how quickly the first year went by and how we would graduate before we knew it since it was really just a couple volleyball seasons, a driver's license, homecomings, Christmases, proms and county fairs away.

I was a 4-H/FFA kid… years were marked by your fair animals.  1999 was Stanley, the steer.

We were so right about that.  What seemed like a week later, we were waving at each other from the distance at graduation, not as close of friends as we had been, but both knowing how quickly it all went by. 

Though nothing like the light speed of my twenties. Did that even happen?

Here we are now. Almost exactly halfway into my 32nd year on earth and a 2/3rds and one week into DH’s first year of medical school.

There have been times when it has felt like it will never end. Mind, Brain, and Behavior block specifically come to mind (which I am somewhat certain is actually an experiment in sanity using the students as unknowing subjects).  It gets frustrating to know his whole weekend will be shot cause a podcast didn’t get uploaded in a timely manner or never getting much help around the house no matter how sick you are cause med school doesn’t care about your sick wife (which is kinda funny).

I am an extrovert and my work often leaves me alone and then I will come home to an empty house and I will go a whole day or more without talking to a human (thankfully my dogs are very talkative). Though I live in my hometown still, but we are all married, working and some with kids, so I spend a lot of time alone, which drains me.

There are many parts of this journey that can wear you down, your your body out, and your patience thin.

However, I still find myself this spring, much like I did back in the spring of 1999 with Holly, thinking how quickly this has all gone by so far, and how, really, graduation is just a few Christmases, a Step 1, a couple of away rotations and, God willing, a few kids away.

Before we know it, we will be deciding where we want him to rotate, apply to residency, how to rank, and most of all wondering where the time went, so we try not to wish it away, as difficult as that can be. 

Enjoy the time you have and these years that you will never get back! 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Premed Perspective: The Baby Debate

We’re not in med school yet and we have a 11 month old.

This means that Jake and I are awesome at compromising.
Or I won.
Squeaky wheel and all that.

Back story
Jake and I got married knowing that we wanted to be parents.
For me, it was a no brainer. I wanted children as soon as we were hitched. The only thing holding me back was the impending deployment.
I was all about being a young mother, so I could pop out more kids. I’m in no way career driven, so my dream job is staying home with my children.

Well, let me take that back.
The things that I am interested in doing as a career are impractical and not really applicable to family and adult life.

Staying home with my children seems to be awesome enough to dream about now too.
It''s more important now, and possibly a gateway to volunteering in the direction of my childhood dreams.

Jake had a little longer timeline in mind for us. He wanted to be settled and established.
This meant getting into Med school and possibly even into Residency before having children.

Did I mention that we got married in 2009?
Can you feel my deadpan stare?

After Jake got home from deployment in 2012, I was fairly hysterical for a shorter timeline for babies.
It did not help that my sister and all of my sisters-in-law were pregnant or had babies within a 9 month span.
Except me.

There were a few times when I flat out cried at him.
I’m not proud of that fact, because I tend to think of myself as a pretty emotionally stable person.

We did, finally, compromise.
We were blessed that Jaxon was on his way the very month we agreed to start trying for a baby.

Now we are more than over the moon in love and happy as a family of 3 starting this journey together.

Jake and I know that it will not always be easy, raising children while Jake is pursuing his dream.
There are many long years of school and hard work in Jake’s future.
Jaxon and I, along with any other future children, will be more than ready to be his completely adorable and awesome cheerleaders.

How many of you are entering this adventure with child?
How many are planning on having kids during the process of med school or residency?
Was it a big discussion with your spouse?