Saturday, June 6, 2009


I start residency orientation a week from Monday.

What else can I say? It just feels so huge. It is still not real that I graduated and am an actual medical doctor. Perhaps this is because I certainly do not have the knowledge or experience required to be a medical doctor. Which makes it all the more terrifying that in one week I will be expected to do the job of a medical doctor.

It's funny, looking back, at how stressed out I was about rotations and exams and stuff. I mean, those were grades--that's all. And starting in a few weeks, I will have ACTUAL LIVE PATIENTS for whom I am ordering tests and treatments and medications. Before, I could fail an exam. Now, I could FREAKING KILL SOMEONE.

Now, all of you in medicine know that this isn't exactly 100% true. There are layers and layers of supervision and oversight designed expressly to prevent me, as an intern, from killing someone. But just because I can look down from the high wire and see the net doesn't make me feel all that much better about being up there. I mean, I could fall onto the net, then bounce off of it and land directly in the mouth of a hungry lion. I could fall right into the sole location of a gap in the net. The whole damn net could break, my skull along with it. I will be way the hell up there, and having a net below you is not equal to being on nice, solid ground.

What brought this panic on is the info I just got about taking my PALS (Pediatric Advanced Life Support) class, a two day long affair you have to spend some time studying for ahead of time. And, suddenly, it occurred to me that, holy cow, I might very well end up in a position where instead of hovering against the wall or, at most, being the bag mask girl during a code, I might be expected to actually run the code on a kid. And then I broke out in a cold sweat.

I know that this will pass, and that after a few months of trial by fire I will feel more sure of myself, and less scared. But I kind of hope that the fear never completely goes away; that I never feel totally confident in my abilities. It's a price I have to pay to be the best physician I can. It's the way to keep me on my toes, keep me reading, keep me trying to be better every day. Fear, my constant companion.

(Quick side note: Since I started medical school, every day I find it harder to understand doctors who have a huge ego. Nothing, nothing has made me feel more humble, more naive, less knowledgeable, less confident than studying medicine. And because of its nature, I can't imagine ever feeling differently. Just because you are an excellent swimmer doesn't mean you can just dive in swim across the ocean, no matter how long you train.)

In any case, I leave you with the advice that all those in the medical profession already know: for God's sake, don't get sick in July.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

M.D. -> Patient -> Mommy -> Resident

Weird transitions to be happening so very closely together.
A little over a week ago I graduated. The big one. THE graduation. The Grandaddy I've been working towards for eight long years.

Less than two days later, I was admitted into the hospital where I had been a student, into one of the rooms where I had delivered a baby as a medical student, to have a baby of my own.

About 13 hours after that, I became a mother.

My head is spinning. Doing this baby thing is completely overwhelming. Obviously I have tremendous support (which is the main reason I'm still alive) but still--insane.

Again I am faced with the same issues I was when Mr. Dr. Dr. VonB got sick. I know too much, and too little. Though I'm going into a peds prelim year in four weeks, there is so very much I don't know about healthy infants. Sadly, I know way more about sick infants, the result being that I have been one of "those" mothers, the ones who drive pediatricians crazy; wondering about every single little thing incessantly. Is she breathing too hard during this feeding (subtext: could she have a congenital heart defect)? What's up with her peeling skin and nails (subtext: could she have some kind of weird genetic connective tissue disorder)? Why is she so pale (subtext: could she have a red blood cell disorder? (real answer: because you and your hubby are dairy white, crazypants...))? You know. Crazy.

Being in the hospital was strange, too. All of a sudden, instead of the medical student dealing with a frustrated patient waiting hours to be discharged, I was the frustrated patient. Instead of fielding 1000 paranoid questions about a new baby, I was the one hurling them out there.

Having not been in the hospital in forever, I had forgotten how horrible it is being woken up every 10 minutes. At one point, when my husband was taking care of the baby so I could have the first nap I'd had in almost two days, I started counting: in 1 hour we had EIGHT people knock on our door to come in and examine me, examine the baby, tell us about the new study they'd like to enroll us in, offer to clean the room, examine me again... I was ready to die. The hospital is such a HORRIBLE place to try and get any rest or recuperation. And the worst part is that when you do want to see someone, they don't show up. Ever. The lactation nurse came by once, and I was anxious to meet one more time before we left, but of course she was two hours late and I was therefore discharged before I could see her. The attending came right in the middle of my nap, but when we were ready to be discharged (and I mean, REALLY ready), it took her three hours to get the orders in. Ugh. Things to remember when I'm back on the other side.

Speaking of which, that's right around the corner. I feel I have forgotten everything I've ever learned, and it's freaking me out. I have two weeks of orientation and then I'm fresh meat on the wards (though starting with a very easy rotation).

My other problem is that I never imagined I would be one of those women who finds herself crushed thinking about leaving her child to go back to work. I'm not heartless; I assumed it would be difficult. But I can't put into words how hard it is to think about now. I am 150% sure at least part of it is the hormones and the sleep deprivation, but still. This is going to be a doozy. Strangely, at the same time, I'm excited to be a real doc. It's remarkably difficult.

Well, baby is stirring and calling for the cow (me). At her next nap I am going to try to get some reviewing in, but I'm not holding out much hope. Lately whenever I'm not actually standing or walking I tend to fall asleep, and this time I don't think that even the fear of being an intern will be enough to keep me awake while reading about strep throat.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Graduation cometh

Well, this is it. Time's up. Graduation is tomorrow.

Last night we had our mudphud program graduation party. Today we had graduation rehearsal, so I got to hear them call my name, then say, "VonB, Doctor of Medicine and Doctor of Philosophy", then I walked across the stage so they could put the crazy hood on me. Then I sat back down.

I have to tell you--so far, this whole thing has been strangely and unsettlingly anticlimactic. Maybe it will be different when everyone has on their robes and hats, and the bleachers are full of friends and family cheering. Maybe it will be different when I have a program that has my name in it. I don't know. For now it's all just surreal and, well, tiring.

Little VonB has not made her appearance. I can't wear the dress I bought for graduation, both because I can't go without support hose now (by the way, 3+ edema is VERY uncomfortable; I have a whole new level of sympathy for patients who have it) and because I can't get my feet into any shoes besides sneakers. She's due on Sunday, and I am lucky enough to have an OB who understands that I am eminently beginning residency and was happy to schedule an induction on Monday should the tike continue to be stubborn.

So, it is looking like I will be able to waddle across the stage tomorrow after all. But like I said--it isn't as exciting as I thought it would be, somehow. I find myself not really hoping that Little VonB holds out until after graduation, but feeling more indifferent. It's like when I had my dissertation defense. Then, I blamed it on not having a graduation. But I see now it's not that at all. Maybe it's because I've been doing this thing so long, it feels much more like a job than anything else. Maybe it's because endings are often anticlimactic. Maybe it's my crazy hormones. I'm sure it will dawn on me soon and I will feel all kinds of emotions. But for now, I mostly feel: meh.

I admit, have been feeling sort of nostalgic and sad; a lot of it is for the friends who are moving away, but some of it is for my MSTP program itself. It's been like a family to me for so long. I've invested a lot in it, made a lot of changes I'm proud of. I hope I've left it a little better than it was before. And it isn't like I won't be around and able to check in from time to time. It's just... well, I won't be part of that group anymore. I'll be in a new group.

I think that's part of it, too. I'm excited to meet the new interns and get to know all of the residents I hadn't met before--but I'm nervous, too. And kind of tired just thinking about it. Although basically everyone would describe me as an extrovert, I'm shy in my own way. I'm also not good with change (I guess most people aren't, but still). Also, like when I started medical school, I'm hesitant to get too attached to a new set of people I will be leaving so soon. However, I always regretted not making more friends in my original medical school class, so maybe this is my chance for a do-over.

On the other hand, as we recently discussed over on OldMDGirl's blog, it can be hard making friends with people who are so much younger than you, with such different life experiences. Maybe residency will level some of that out. Hmm. Not holding my breath, but still hopeful.

Now I'm just rambling, which is my cue to sign off. When next I post, I will be VonB, M.D., Ph.D. For reals.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Residency, husband, baby, nervous breakdown

Old MD Girl recently posted her thoughts on "The Good Life", specifically the musings about it she had heard from a male lecturer. It got me thinking a lot about my experiences so far and what I am facing down when it comes to being a mudphud, married to another mudphud, looking down the barrel of us both being interns and then residents, with a baby on the way and hopes for at least one more in the future.

Like Old MD Girl, I have also been privy to the musings of many a physician or practicing mudphud when it comes to "lifestyle", "goals", "balancing career and family", etc. The striking thing is how differently this is talked about by males vs females.

I do hate to generalize and certainly hate to generalize based on gender--Lord knows I resent it when anyone else does--but I would be lying if I said there wasn't a persistent difference in my experience. So far, without fail, when a man is talking all about how "you CAN have it all", how he has a thriving practice, two grants, and three great kids, he says it all has to do with balance and good decisions and careful planning. I always ask these men: "What does your wife do?" And so far, without fail, they look slightly abashed as they answer, "she stays at home with the kids." Aha. So she's the one running the parts of your life that aren't lab or patients; she's the one that makes sure that when you are at home you get Quality Time with the Family, because she's already done the laundry and the cooking and the shopping and the cleaning and the paying the bills and... well, you get my point.

When women mudphuds or physician-scientists talk about Life Balance, they almost always say you can't really have it all, that something has to give. They talk about hiring help; nannies, cooks, maids, whatever you need to get through. They talk about having to cut back hours sometimes, and finding lots of good after-school programs; about working part time if you have to, and having a very supportive spouse (interestingly, they always bring this up without me having to ask. So far, none of the men have).

There was one exception to this. We heard from a couple who were both physician scientists and had a young child. I'm sure they are perfectly lovely and accomplished people but please believe me of understatement when I say that after hearing their presentation on "balancing" professional and private life, my husband and I wanted to shoot ourselves. Their system went something like this: one would go in to to work around 4am while the other kept the baby until the nanny arrived; then they would both work all day; then the one who went in at 4am would come home around 6 or 7pm and relieve the nanny, while the other would stay at work until around midnight. The one who stayed at home would work from there, writing grants. Sometimes, they said maybe once a week, they would both be home and have dinner together--although this meant one would have to go back to work until 1 or 2am.

Horrible, horrible, horrible, we thought. There must be another way. I don't know about you, readers, but I can't live like that. As I said when I was interviewing for residency and was repeatedly asked why I couldn't expand my geographical area and just live away from my husband for three years: I married him for a reason. I like having him around, and honestly being apart for three years is not an option I am willing to consider. Sorry; life is too short not to be with the ones you love.

Likewise, I can't imagine never seeing my children. I have no delusions that I will not see my daughter as much as I'd like this coming year; however, I can manage because it is a temporary situation. The couple described above intended to keep up such a schedule for at least three years until their fellowships were completed (and hinted it would be many more before their labs were established enough they could give up such a schedule).

I'm sorry, but since when did becoming a doc mirror entering the priesthood? Is it reasonable to expect us to give up any chance at having a life outside of work? Although we both love our chosen fields, my husband and I picked ophthalmology and dermatology partially because we knew those areas gave us the best shot at being able to be fully functional mudphuds--patients and research--without guaranteeing that we would suck at one or the other (or both), and without having years of never seeing each other or our children. Had one or both of us chosen medicine, followed by a fellowship, it's hard to image a way to escape the misery of the docs described above.

I feel there has to be a better way to do things. I worry that by asking so much sacrifice, the most talented people are being driven away from medicine and research, and particularly those fields where they are most needed (primary care, etc.). And the sacrifices seem to only get bigger as time goes on--more debt upon graduation, more hours spent on billing and insurance, more days on the phone with some random dude who has a bachelor's in rhetoric and communications and is trying to tell you how to treat your patient, more years working such long hours that you don't have anything to give at the end of the day to research, much less your family.

We are going to have to face the fact that we would have more, happier, better doctors if we didn't abuse them so. I read that Obama is struggling to find the best way to address the current and growingly alarming doctor shortage. How about allowing them to have a decent quality of life? More debt forgiveness for those who go into primary care; more flexible schedules and hours (which would often mean hiring more docs); more autonomy from the HMOs in how they treat their patients.

Well, I've gotten off topic, but I'm sure you get the gist. I wonder--I hope--my hubby and I are doing the right thing. Most days, I feel pretty confident that our kids will be fine in daycare. We'll have time for them and for each other, and hopefully won't suck at patient care or research. I'm hoping that we CAN "have it all". I'm pretty sure I will need a maid, though, since I'm unlucky enough not to have a stay-at-home spouse running the rest of my life. To those of you who do, I salute you. Just be sure to thank him or her the next time you're bragging about successful you are.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

T minus 18 days until MD

Crazy, no?

It's extra strange to me because I have been so completely focused on other things--lab, getting my medical license (pain in the ASS), doing the mounds of paperwork required to be a resident, getting ready for the baby (YIKES), the foils of pregnancy (being essentially handicapped with various ailments, frequent doctor visits, etc etc), and importantly the hubby's PET scan which is at the end of the week--that I haven't thought much at all about the fact that I am about to graduate and be a student no more. It's a mind scrambler.

In other news, I passed Step 2 CS, which is good, because it means that no one at the NMBE has to get a whupping from me. What a lame experience that was.

My internship starts June 15th, which is more than a week sooner than I had hoped. Mainly I am sad to have less "maternity leave"/time to recover from childbirth and attempt to build up a supply of pumped milk. By the way, though I have seen lactation nurses teach new moms how to pump I am not relishing the thought of having to pump myself.

Which actually kind of explains my whole take on this pregnancy/childbirth thing. I've seen a third degree tear up close and personal, as well as lots of C sections, births gone awry, or even those that go okay but still leave mental scars for those who had to witness them. Having seen so much from the medical end of things must alter how you view the experience, but I can't say, having only had the experience from this point of view. It's also weird because I am reading books about Lamaze, approaches to laboring, etc., most of which are pretty darn anti-medicine; however, clearly I am NOT so much with the anti-medicine. But apparently I am pretty susceptible to suggestion because I keep finding myself thinking, "Yeah! Why DO they make laboring women do that?!" It's very strange.

And even though all the books try to make you feel guilty about having any drugs, I am totally getting an epidural. Why? Because I've seen what happens to first time moms who don't, and... well, no thanks.

In any case, that's all for now. The countdown to labor and--gasp!--graduation is ON. Hopefully I will labor early enough to be able to go to graduation. It's going to be a close shave, as I am due the day after graduation. I think I would be pretty bummed to miss graduation; after all, this is a big end to a looooooooong road, and I feel I've earned hearing my name and walking across the stage. I guess there are more important things, but damn. Come a little early, girl, and let your momma have her day in the sun!

Now I'm back to all those chores and errands which somehow seem to take up WAY less time when you are working than when you are on vacation. How does that always happen?

Monday, March 23, 2009

What Capstone Taught Me

-First, I am even more scared to get sued than I was before. I don't think that is what they were going for with their "Don't worry, you can avoid getting sued" talk.

-By the way, malpractice insurance is frickin' expensive.

-Also, it now seems inevitable that I, or someone I know, will develop a drug or alcohol problem. If it is someone I know, I will be forced to report that person to the Medical Licensing Board and potentially ruin their lives.

-Say what you will about the MD/PhD pathway (Lord knows I have), but at least I am not well into six figures in debt like my classmates, who will have to work just as hard as me (who am I kidding, I'm going in to Derm... they will have to work harder) and be much poorer for a looooooooong time.

-Docs sure do seem to get the s*** end of the stick.

-I figured it would be awful to have to tell the family of a patient that their loved one might die because I screwed up; standardized patient family members have helped me realize that "awful" is the understatement of the year.

-Sometimes, there are patients who have had bad health care experiences who have a lot of valuable things to say. And sometimes, there are patients you want to smack because they clearly think they understand what happened to them, but in reality they got most of their information from qacks and you have to listen to their ridiculous nonsensical ramblings about how awful doctors are.

-Apparently--and this TOTALLY blew my mind--it's a bad idea to have sex with one of your patients, especially if that patient has borderline personality disorder. Holy Cow! I am so glad I sat through an hour long lecture to learn this gem, because otherwise I might have gotten into real trouble!

-Residency is hard. No, seriously.

-You won't have time to take care of yourself, but you owe it to yourself and your patients to take care of yourself. Whatever that means.

-Finally and most importantly: I am completely done with medical school. Holy 8 year training program completion, Batman!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Dr. VonB is a lucky, lucky girl

Well, I am still in shock, but I have managed to get everything I hoped for. Yesterday I found out that I matched into my top choices for preliminary year (pediatrics) and my advanced year (dermatology)!
Match day was kind of bitter sweet. Lots of friends leaving, lots staying; lots got what they wanted, some were disappointed. I was a lucky one, getting what I wanted, sticking around. I'm sure I will be even more excited as days go on, but for now I'm kind of still in stunned disbelief.
Here's the thing: I can't tell you how excited I am about dermatology!! I love, love, LOVE it. It is just about perfect for me. I've said it before, but I get to do everything I love. Great diagnostic work, surgery, and kickass immunology. Plus, my daughter will probably even know what I look like!
As for intern year, I am also very excited, but nervous. It's such a huge leap, going from not doing anything without four levels of permission to basically being able to make decisions on my own. Also: the hours. Scary. And even scarier... Capstone has given me a very clear understanding of just how much stuff I've already managed to forget in just a few months. But I'm not thinking about that now. Right now all I'm thinking about is packing for a short, weekend getaway with my hubby which we have been looking forward to for months. :)
For those of you out there who matched, I hope you are as happy as I am. For those with the match still ahead... sitting on this side of things, I can tell you that keeping up with that hard work and studying does pay off! Hang in there! And enjoy the first day of spring.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Changing gears, Step 2 CS, and OHMYGOD MATCH DAY

Well, clearly I have not been 100% on top of updating this thing, which is probably appropriate since things will be moving on soon. I have been trying to decide if I will blog about this next great phase in my training--moving from being a student to being a resident--and I'm undecided. With a baby on the way and a husband who will also be an intern, there may not be time. On the other hand, Lord knows I always have lots to say.

These days things have become considerably more peaceful. It's nice, but almost frightening--I feel as though I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. My husband has completed chemotherapy. He gets his port out soon and in another couple of months will have his follow-up PET scan. Waiting for that is certainly a source of anxiety; I try not to think about it, and to just rejoice in seeing him slowly return to his old self. Another huge source of anxiety, which was finding appropriate child care for next year, is now gone. We found a wonderful situation which we both feel great about, with the tiny exception that it will take MY ENTIRE RESIDENT SALARY to pay for it. That's right, folks. My. Entire. Salary. Repeat after me: MD/PhD training is worth it... MD/PhD training is worth it... MD/PhD training is worth it...

The following year we will probably be able to use considerably cheaper child care, but for now this is really the only way that we can both do our jobs. I keep reminding myself that this is still an investment, and that one way or another we will be able to survive on one resident's salary. Hey, it isn't really that different than what we did before, so I guess we'll be okay.

The big YIKES on the horizon right now is: MATCH DAY. Yipe. I think that a week from Monday is when we learn if we matched or not; official Match Day, where we learn where we will be, is March 19th. Now, I know that a lot of MS4s out there are feeling anxiety about this, but allow me to put it in perspective for you: I applied to dermatology. And ranked two programs. TWO. It is the height of madness, but luckily, I have to say that the PET is scarier, so there you go. In any case, hopefully I will at least have a prelim spot for next year, and if I am a REALLY lucky girl, I will have a place to call derm home after that. One way or another it will be nice to know for sure.

I also took Step 2 CS. I don't want them coming after me so I won't say anything about it except that I expected it to be really stupid, and it exceeded those expectations like a champ. I have never been forced to do anything that was such a racket, so pointless and aggravating, in medical school or graduate school, and those of you have done either or both know that is saying something. I urge anyone with the power to do so eliminate this charade, this rip-off disguised as an exam. Everyone knows you make us do it for the money. Why give us that final slap in the face after we've crawled through the sewer tunnel to graduation? I'll say no more.

These days I am all done with rotations, and am back in my dissertation lab for a while to help out with progressing my old project. Going back to research, changing gears again, is a strange experience. It's both harder and easier than I thought it would be to come back to it. My main issue right now is fatigue. It's hard to focus, hard to care as much as I did when I was here almost two years ago. I'm trying, but it ain't easy. It's also interesting to see how my perspective has changed with just a few years of clinical work under my belt. It's a good thing, and it makes me more certain that in the end I've done the right thing with the MD/PhD. A nice place to be.

No other big insights here for now. I have a Capstone course coming up, and my forecast for that is Stupid with occasional chance of Helpfulness. It sounds like most medical schools have these, so I might post a little something there. Also expect a triumphant or tragic post regarding match results. And wherever you are, whatever stage you are in, I wish you godspeed in your endeavors. We all have it pretty tough no matter where you are in this drawn out hot mess of physician-scientist-dom. Hang in there. I can honestly say that things keep getting cooler with each passing year.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

No, I do not have any more #@*$&! questions about the program, or anything else

Interview season has come to a close for me. My interview season was relatively very short and painless; with my husband having a spot at a nearby university for residency, I only applied locally. Let's not talk about what that means for my matching chances, especially given that I am attempting to match in dermatology. We will pretend that this is NOT the scariest thing ever, and move on. Very well.

In any case, I only had five total interviews, and had to travel for exactly zero of them. Given how ecstatic I am that I am all done, I have to wonder--how do people DO this? Most people have 10-25 interviews, all over the country. I was ready to stab myself in the eye after just five. Plus, I actually liked all of the places I interviewed, which makes it even less painful.

However, there is something weird about interviewing only where you have done rotations. It leaves a lot more blank space where there would have been questions, and as anyone who has gone through interviews can tell you, there is already a lot of blank space where they expect questions that don't exist. After you've gone through two or three lectures about the place and met with residents and faculty both formally and informally, there just aren't. Any. More. Questions. But yet they ask, at some point during every individual interview: "Any questions for me? Anything you'd like to know about the program?"

It is especially tough for derm interviews, where you have to meet with essentially ALL of the faculty individually, typically at least 10 or more people. It's nice in these situations to have a Blue Ribbon Pony of a question all picked out that you can parade in front of any faculty member, especially if you care about the answer. My personal Pony was: "What do you see as the most important goals for the future of (fill in name of residency program here)?" Interviewers love this question, and it gives a lot of helpful information to you, too.

That is my one useful tip for today. I have been heavily engaged in recruiting for our MD/PhD program, which is fun but busy and stressful. It is also very weird to have just finished being on the interviewee side of things, and then being on the interviewer(-ish) side of things. Now I have been chained in the garage by my husband to help him sort through the mind-boggling amount of ridiculous crap we have in there. It's nice, but now I need a nap.

I had something else to say, but it's gone now. Will post more when brain working again. Unless I inadvertently put said brain in one of the to-donate boxes in the garage... hmmmm....

Friday, January 2, 2009

It's not just good things that must come to and end

Bye, bye, 2008. Please be sure to let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.

This year has had a few nice points for us, but overall, it can go straight to hell. I have a very optimistic eye trained on 2009, and that eye is looking through the laser sight of a powerful rifle, so you'd better watch your step, 2009. It's time to pony up and be good to us.

In other news, I'm all done, and it couldn't have come a day too soon. PICU was definitely the most difficult rotation of medical school for me. I would like to say that unconditionally, without the qualifier of what was going on in my personal life during that time, but I can't. After all, to be fair, the second most difficult rotation was probably OB/Gyn, due not in small part I'm sure to the fact that I had a miscarriage right smack dab in the middle of it (stupid 2008). So, clearly, personal issues cannot be put aside here.

However, I must say that even without the whole husband with cancer thing and the being pregnant thing, PICU is amazingly difficult. I have a whole new level of respect and awe for critical care physicians, particularly those in PICU. There is a new dimension added to critical care when you have children involved.

It's very feast or famine; my first week, we mostly had kids that needed a lot of very careful care but would almost certainly be okay. Then we had weeks where we lost three patients and an additional 30% of our service was about to die.

It blindsides you. There's the kid who comes in with headaches and is found to have terminal brain cancer; the kid who was totally healthy until infection led to meningitis led to stroke; the kid who came in for a simple, common operation and died three days later from massive cardiovascular collapse. I couldn't put it aside like I could with older adults. Losing patients has always hit me hard, but this was something new. The grief of parents of young children is somehow much harder to bear than the grief of adult children of elderly patients.

Then, you add in my current personal situations. Having to go see a family awaiting biopsy results for their child's brain mass every day, for days and days, without having an answer for them--and then having to deliver bad news--was heart wrenching. I had just waited for those results for my husband, and it was the longest and most horrible two weeks of my life (and we got relatively good news at the end). We still have scary waits--PET scan results, blood culture results, etc. etc.--and every minute still kills me.

I was waiting to have our 20 week ultrasound during the majority of the rotation, and seeing a parade of tragic lethal congenial malformations being desperately, and unsuccessfully, treated kept in fresh in my mind just how many things can go wrong with a baby. I went from being excited about the scan to being terrified. Luckily, everything looked great. It didn't stop my obsessive worry, but it took it down a few decibels.

Intellectually, it was always challenging. These are the most complicated patients around, with multiple life-threatening medical issues balanced against each other like a house of cards; every day you were trying to shift one of the bottom cards without having the whole thing collapse. I never felt that I developed a good grasp of the sickest patients. Yet, looking back, I am somewhat disappointed that I couldn't find within myself the usual regret to be moving on from something before I felt I really understood it. When I finished the rotation, I felt nothing but relief.

I was exhausted, in every sense of the word. At one point my husband spiked his first fever--luckily, he was not neutropenic (Go Go Gadget Neupogen!) but it was still terrifying. Having to be away from him so much was really agony, worse than it had been since his diagnosis, if that's possible.

What got me through it was 1) my deep, deep desire to never, ever, ever ever ever have to go back and do it again; 2) my husband's constant encouragement; and 3) my fantastic residents. Thanks a bunch guys--literally couldn't have done it without you.

And now I'm done, done, done. Though I'm technically on vacation it doesn't feel like it; at least, not yet. Hubby got very very sick a few weeks ago and we had to postpone his chemo. It was the worst week since after we got rolling on the treatments. I was terrified. He had high fevers, night sweats--it was a perfect example of how horrible it is to be newly minted MD when something like this goes down. We knew every possible bad thing that could be going on, but we both lack the practical experience to offset those fears with less frightening possibilities. The one thing I hadn't thought of was relapse, and when the doc pointed out that possibility, I well nigh had a meltdown. There were several nights I just laid in bed next to his sleeping, sweat-drenched form and cried. But he got much better, and today the doc informed us he thinks it is much, much more likely to have been a virus than anything else; sometimes, a little reassurance is magical.

We also found out that one of our doggies has a cancerous mass--can you believe that @)%&@? She has to go back in for a wider excision, and get an ultrasound of her spleen to see if there are any mets. This is the kind of tumor that if her spleen is clear, she will almost certainly be fine; if she has mets to her spleen, she's a goner. So, that has certainly added to my current Climate of Frenzied Panic.

Once I finished, I had about eight metric tons of random life chores to get done, the holidays, the family in town, blah, blah, blah... and I have a solid week of interviews starting Monday.

So, vacation, but not really. Looking ahead I think things will become substantially more sane towards the end of the month, but I've been saying crap like that for a while. Hubby only has three more treatments, then a PET, and if that sucker's clean, it will be the best thing ever (of course we have to await the 3 month PET...). The doggie gets her scan next week and if that looks good it will be a big relief (and if not... LALALA, I CAN'T HEAR YOU!). End of Feb I have to take--and pass, unless I want to cough up an additional thousand clams--Step 2 CS. Then comes the rank list and match. Baby looks awesome, still kickin' me with a vengeance.

So that's it for now. The long update. I am thinking of some ideas for future posts, perhaps about interviewing and ranking, exciting stuff like that. Until then I hope everyone had a wonderful, safe, happy and healthy Holidays, and that you remembered all of the wonderful things you have in your life. They are too precious and delicate not to be treasured.

Except for 2008. That sucker can go into concrete shoes at the bottom of the Hudson.