Thursday, March 11, 2010


I've always appreciated the opportunity to be a big fish in a small pond.  My undergraduate studies were formative because in a liberal arts environment I was able to build what I wanted to exist if it was not already at my disposal.  I am able to flourish in my work environment because I work in a small lab, and am proficient in almost all of the many techniques we employ -- an opportunity devoid in most research technician experiences in major labs.  Why in the world I thought I wanted to become a water strider in a small pond, I... well, I was naively drunk on ambition and high on painkillers at the time.  It happens.

It has taken me longer than I expected to come to terms with what I am finally admitting was, in fact, not a major failure or condemnation of my prospective life.  Explaining this requires an extrapolation of the last two years.

In 2008 when I graduated, my plan was to stay in Portland working in my newly salaried lab position, get a grant funded, get a paper published, and apply to medical school.  However, having met H.B. and had a heart to heart with my boss, I relented to the reality that medical school would probably be my physiological undoing.  That was June of 2009.

So mid-June, I put away my MCAT books and invested in the GRE (which is much cheaper, much simpler, and much much less inspiring).  That was a Friday.

On Saturday, I was writhing on the bathroom floor unnerving H.B. with labor pains such as I hadn't felt in ten years.

In August, I finally met with Dr GI who was content to see me after staving me off with oxycodone for two weeks.  Glossing over the finest details, I took the GRE at the end of the month on painkillers, nausea medication and having eaten only fake broth, baby food and crackers for several weeks.  Not one of my best performances.

Nonetheless, I applied in November to four of the most prestigious PhD programs in Neuroscience that I could find.  In my defense, it's not my fault that the only places who offered my ideal program-PI combo were the hardest to get into in the country.  It is my fault, however, that I was so fool-heartedly naive as to think I might be competitive in those programs (as a non-resident), and to discard any opportunity that wasn't up to par with my quixotic dreams.

Since November, the condition of my guts has improved astronomically.  That being said, I am not yet what I would call "physically well".    But it's getting there.

And here, my dear readers, is the kicker: I'm not crushed by this failure.

I am nothing if not obdurately and nonsensically ambitious.  Making the drastic changes of heart and career direction that I did in June should have been, of themselves, enough to convince me to take another year to get it all put together the right way.  A healthy me might have been sufficiently adjusted and prepared applications by November.  Having been in pain, starved and on drugs, however, I am willing to make the concession that I was hasty and would have fared better from having given myself a year to stabilize.  That wise thought did not occur to me at the time.  The things a deadline can do to one's soul...

I now have another year to make myself invaluable, to heal and to get it right the next time around.  And I can survive this set-back.  Things may actually get accomplished this year, too; I have three papers and two conferences in the works, and will be moving toward disability accommodation so as to avoid another tragic event as that which usurped my intentions last August.

Needless to say, I'll be looking into smaller ponds next year.

Currently, I have had six Remicade infusions, have dropped 6MP, and have finally tapered successfully (or so it seems) off of Prednisone after six turbulent months.  I am eating 4-6 small snack/meals a day and avoiding pain 70% of the time by having eliminated quite a few foods entirely.  Nausea is usually quelled by the late afternoons, and fatigue has been mild and tolerable.

Another year to spend in my beloved lab, in my beloved Portland, near my beloved family and with my beloved H.B..  Things could be worse.


  1. You are an inspiration. Heres to success in every pond!!!

  2. very sweet of you to say. and hear, hear!

  3. you totally rock. Totally inspiring. Its weird when you get that first diagnosis of crohns it doesn't sound as scary as it really is. Good luck and I hope you have tons of success:)