Sunday, December 18, 2011

Latency in Stress-Induced Crohn's Attacks

Folks, grad school is on hiatus for the next few weeks, so there is about to be a lot of straight up Crohn's talk up in hur.

Like most Crohn's (and IBS) attacks, mine have perpetually been the post hoc ergo propter hoc artifacts of stress.  As I have mentioned... somewhere... there is so much constitutively happening during grad school that what time one would ordinarily find to spend stressing out, one instead spends steeped in exhaustion-driven apathy.  While this is generally good for me -- as it would be for anyone with a type A personality in an incredibly demanding job -- there are residual consequences.

For instance, as soon as I stopped working in my new lab and traveled to my most dear childhood home, I was interrupted by a fairly large-scale attack.  Right in the middle of the restaurant.  Then right in the middle of the theater.  Then most of the rest of the evening when we arrived home accompanied by butylscopolamine, peppermint tea and a heating pad.  It was the worst episode I've had since the summer (non-opiate-grade).

It appears that now that I'm not in the midst of academic turbulence, I am beginning to feel the after-effects of the stress that was suppressed during the term.  There are some very serious defects in my program that were, naturally, not apparent until halfway through the term, and which cause a ridiculous amount of unnecessary stress in all of the students.  I had a nightmare last night that a department committee kicked me out of the program (despite the NSF grant, the Badass Student grant that they themselves bestowed upon me, the now five first-author publications, and the fact that three PI's are currently vying for me).  Yes, this is a real fear for most of the first-years in my department -- some of the brightest minds I have ever encountered.  It's why the program is so prestigious -- failing is less than an A-, for which one is put on academic probation and potentially booted from the program.  I never looked at the grades I got on finals because they are so arbitrary that they mean almost nothing and it was an unnecessary agony that I did not need hanging over my break.

These are the concerns that are suppressed during the ebb and flow of the active term, and which are now showing their might through latent Crohn's attacks so that I cannot fully relax during this brief and precious vacation.  Despite really not thinking about school.  I attribute the attack last night to having been asked "how school was going" and making the mistake of actually talking about it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Crohn's v. Grad School Free Lunch

I don't know what all these penniless graduate students are complaining about.  Between the seminar snacks, defense sandwiches, Neurobeer meals and lab-mate bakers I hardly need to grocery shop anymore.  And that's in spite of only being able to eat half of the free food thrust upon the academic community that is my department.  Toss in a few holiday luncheons and it's enough to induce a constitutive state of Food Coma.

When I leave my house in the morning, I bring an apple, a bottle of water and a few tea packets.  Rarely are leftovers necessary to get through the day, for, invariably, lunch will provide itself.  There are instances, however, wherein I resist temptation to partake, knowing that I have a long 6+ hours of afternoon lab work ahead and will need to be able to stand upright.  Our department holiday luncheon this week was a tantalizing array of six different kinds of lasagna -- all with cheese.  Fail.  One poor tenured faculty member and myself were left sipping our [albeit, heavenly] lemony spiced apple cider alone while others bombarded the buffet line.

It's a slippery slope.  My inherent frugality and neurotic inclination to not let free things go to waste versus the Crohn's baby.  But even if I must decline lasagna and chocolate butter cookies, I am never starving.  And what's more, they have started to serve lactose-free hot chocolate at mini-seminars.  Soon there will be rice milk for my coffee... soon.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Remicade... I've lost count.

This morning, on a clear 70 degree day in December (no biggie), I sauntered into the Cancer Treatment Center on the beach [sort of] no earlier than 10am.  Within forty minutes I was in my corral, neck deep in stem cell litricha and racing along at 140 mL/min.  This was a smaller corral than last time, with only three stations.  And.  Guys.  There was a huge window.

My baller nurse convinced me to let her do an inner forearm I.V., at which I cringed in reflection of the last time I agreed to this (it was ouchy enough to require a warm pad for the full 3.5 hours, and this is coming from someone who likes needles).

              Isn't that an insane spot?  I thought it was an insane spot.  Although I did end up requiring a "warm pad", it was only briefly.

Two.five hours later with my brain and veins saturated, I headed back out into the sun to find groceries and prescriptions.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Rotation 1 closes; cue Rotation 2

Although I did not die of post-SfN sickness, I have [three weeks later] just now regained my ability to breathe lying down.  Kudos, Remicade.  Well played.

Never mind that I could have used this capability two weeks ago while preparing for journal club presentations, lab meeting presentations and finals.

My first rotation closed with a somewhat awkward bang.  After 72 hours of studying and final-taking, I presented some data to my lab.  I did not accomplish as much as I would have liked over the term, and yet when I presented my last piece of data to Dr. Spinal Cord, the lab manager and a Most Prestigious Collaborator, I was encouraged to stay in the lab so that I could lead the projects in the new joint grant that they are going to propose based on my data.

"Oh thanks, I'm so honored by this awesome opportunity that you're willing to entrust to me... but I still wanna to go check out this other lab that I might like better than you... kthx. PACE."

That was Monday.  I started Rotation 2 on Tuesday.

In stark contrast to Rotation 1 Lab, everything about Rotation 2 Lab is omgshinyandnew.  Also in stark contrast, I was able to get started on two pilot experiments immediately.  Since Rotation 2 Lab (forthwith referred to as StemCell Lab) is just getting going, its 5 active members work closely together to get everyone's projects under way.  And boy, is this a successful approach.  StemCell Lab is also not as big as SpinalCord Lab (n=16-18), so inveterate members have time to train and are invested in making sure everyone is comfortable and independent.  So far, so good.

Unfortunately, StemCell Lab does not have its own hot water dispenser as I grew accustomed to in SpinalCord Lab.  However, StemCell Lab's restroom is ~15 feet closer than SpinalCord Lab's -- critical.  If I stay here, the hot water dispenser is something I can barter for... Raga needs her tea.