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Lives of Doctor Wives: May 2015

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?

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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

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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 thehappyredhead.com


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

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