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When the last time you post something was 3 days ago, seeing the number reduce by so little is a bit disheartening, haha.

Week two in Radiation Oncology has been alright. I felt like a complete idiot yesterday when I basically got 80% of the questions a consultant asked me wrong. So yay, for the final year medical student who knows nothing.

I’m gonna be an awful doctor, guys.

I’m waiting to attend a consult in a few minutes but I thought I’d type up something here in the mean time to keep with the pretty lame tradition of writing a post on my Friday break.

I have been weirdly exhausted these past few nights. I don’t know what it is exactly but I’ve been having a huge difficulty in waking up. Falling asleep has not been that much of an issue, thankfully, but the rising from bed has been quite trying. I don’t know what it is, or how to fix it. I’m not going to set an alarm for tomorrow morning so I can sleep in a little. I know we’re not exactly “adviced” to try to catch up on lost sleep on weekends, but whatever.

And no, I don’t have a fixed plan of what I am going to do this Saturday and Sunday. The fact that I don’t is kinda fun. hah. I should get round to posting up pictures of the places I’ve been going to in the last few weeks. Maybe that will be the sole thing on my agenda.

Have a great weekend and week ahead, guys. x

94

I delayed this by a few days but guys, I fell sick on Thursday and I’m still sick now. It’s Tuesday. I’m in the library again, and tapping away at this keyboard while waiting for clinic to start.

So, week 1 in Rad Onc. It’s been okay.

Honestly, I’ve been a lot busier. I’m in the hospital for longer hours, but that does not necessarily mean I’m doing more. There’s some moments of me sitting around waiting as always, but yeah, generally busier.

I’m actually writing more in this department since I’m actually given the intern role, so that’s not too bad. I’m a little more fnctional, so that’s always good. I also watched brachytherapy being done last Wednesday, so that was interesting. At one point, the resident wanted to give me his pager so I could ‘hold on to it’ and help him answer pages. Not that I actually know how to answer pages. hah.

But it’s okay. I do miss the comfort of knowing where to go and what to do most of the time, but I’m settling in alright. I must admit that I would rather be ‘free-er’ and go do whatever I want in the afternoons, but that’s just the lazy person that is me.

I still have not gotten round to meeting my supervisor so he can get the assessment form, but honestly, I have only seen him that ONE TIME and I don’t think he even knew I exist. But whatever. I’ll deal with that later on.

I met a new registrar yesterday and she seems pretty nice. I have decided that I’ll be spending most of my time hanging out with her instead, just so I can make the most out of my time here.

My week aside from that has been quite busy. We went to Philip Island on Saturday and then, Funny Girl on Sunday. I’ll admit that I was underwhelmed with Funny Girl. I think in my head, I thought it was going to be far far more entertaining than it was. But after watching the movie with Barbara Streisand, I knew that I should not expect much. I mean, yes, it was good, but it would not be on my list of ‘favourite musicals’ I’ve seen.

All in all, I’m doing okay. I am hoping to cook myself a homecooked meal today, instead of eating crap and buying stuff from shops. I know, it’s awful. I swear, my diet since being in Melbourne has been pretty shite.

My med school ‘partner in crime’is away this weekend so I’m going to be spending my weekend on my own terms. It’s likely that I’ll be going to the Degas exhibit and maybe attempt to watch a movie here (although the ticket prices are outrageous). We shall see how this plays out. I’m more looking forward to sleeping in as long as I want as there is no pressure of having to be somewhere at a certain time.

Anyway, have a good week ahead, lovelies. I hope to write about good things soon.

Death and all his friends

Let’s talk about death and the dying.

I know, I do this a lot. It’s like death is a ‘favourite’ topic for me.

So, it’s still Friday right now and I’m still in medical oncology. (I’m not sure when this post is going up. It may be today. It may be some time next week) A patient passed away in the ward. I’m hanging out in the library just waiting for my resident to call so I can observe how to ‘certify a body’.

I’m sure you remember my little freak out three weeks ago. But after much reflection, I must face my fears. So when my resident asked if I’ve ‘been around dead bodies’, I said ‘yes’.

We walked in and saw the family briefly earlier. With all the emotions in the room, and the crying members of his family, I couldn’t help but get a little emotional myself. Yes, yes, Grace is a sap. But his daughter could not have been more than 15 years old and she was sitting on her mom’s lap.. it was all very sad.

As with all dead bodies, he was pale, he was still and very quiet. They genuinely look like they’re asleep. During the ‘certification of death’, the doctor has to check for response. That means calling out to the patient, physically trying to wake him/her up, checking for pupils to respond. I don’t know how that’s going to be like. I’m going to wait and see what happens later and update this post.

There are a good number of patients that I’ve seen that have a ‘poor prognosis’. They’re likely to live for a few months or less than that. One of them was told today that he may not live to see Christmas this year, so maybe it would be best to see his family as early as possible and get things sorted out.

That’s like a kick in the teeth, isn’t it?

Death and misery everywhere. Oncology is a serious business. It’s not jolly happy times- it’s people coming in knowing that they’re hanging out with the Grim Reaper all day. That must be a heavy weight to carry.

One of the patients mentioned yesterday that he hopes to be able to go downstairs and have a cup of coffee with his wife today. It’s the little things that matter at this stage.

Once upon a time, I thought I was cut out for hanging out with Death. But maybe I’m not. I’m not as stoic as I wish I was. I’m far too emotional and I get attached to people too easily sometimes.

So, I did the certification with the resident. I will admit that I felt quite a chill doing it. The room was quiet, rather gloomy. The blinds were drawn. It was just the three of us, two living, one gone.

The patient was in his bed, pale like he was before. His eyes were taped shut. We had to remove them. “You can always tell when someone is dead. They look like a wax figure,” my resident says.

We had to put on gloves. I chose the wrong size at first, having to go back and get the right ones. I struggle to put them on- anxiety? clammy heands? I don’t know what it was. It’s not like I have never worn gloves before.

“We have to check for response now, so that’s calling the patient’s name, doing a sternal rub..

He calls the patient’s name. He does the sternal rub, which is when you use your knucles to forcefully rub on the thin skin overlying the breast bone. Try it on yourself. It hurts. That usually elicits a response from someone who’s alive- a moan, movement to try to shove you off.

He had none.

“Now, we have to assess the tone. Once it’s a few hours after death, rigor starts to set in, rigor mortis, you know… try to move his arm.”

I felt like someone was squeezing my heart. I have never touched a dead body before this. I have touched my dead dog’s body, but not a human being’s. I have been for funerals, don’t get me wrong, but those bodies are in their coffins, behind glass and wood, preventing contact. I don’t know if my hands trembled, I don’t know if my resident noticed if they were. I touched his arm, I tried to move it from where his family undoubtedly placed them, fingers almost interlocking.

The joints were rigid. I should not have been surprised.

“Okay, listen for heart sounds, and lung sounds. Place your stethoscope on his chest, we’ll listen together.”

I am ashamed to say that I was a little afraid that I would hear breath sounds, or a heart beat. I am more ashamed to say that I actually thought to myself, “If he wakes up, I won’t scream. It’ll probably be a loud gasp at most.”How selfish and distasteful is that. How disrespectful.

The pupils were the final step. His irises were blue, surrouding the dilated center. No shrinking to light, no flicker of movement.

We discarded our gloves, my resident called time of death.

4.25pm.

I left not long after, there wasn’t any paperwork that I could assist with. There was this feeling, the same one I felt when I was in forensics. That weird ‘uncomfortable’ feeling of seeing someone dead. I don’t know the right words to describe it. It’s not fear. It’s not quite fear, I should say. It’s just a feeling of disconcertion. Just thinking about it now, days after, I can still feel it. I cannot put it to words.

My mother said that evening, “If you’re afraid of dead bodies, you’re in the wrong field.” Well, maybe I am. Maybe these almost-five-years have been a mistake. I don’t know if she’s completely right, but I know she’s not wrong, not 100%. Death is a process of life. And I should not fear it. But boy, am I uncomfortable with it!

Does this require ‘practice’? Can you practice being ‘comfortable’ with loss? Should I immerse myself in an environment that caused me to have a visceral reaction, like those however many minutes in the morgue.

Would I be less of a doctor by being uncomfortable?

I don’t know anyone in my batch who is comfortable. Maybe that is a failing of the way it’s taught in my course. We never dealt with dead bodies in anatomy. They could not ‘weed out the weak ones’ early. I am one of those ‘weak ones’. I am uncomfortable.

Maybe it’s part of the process. And in some ways, maybe it’s good that I still feel something, rather than feeling nothing. I’m sorry that it upsets my parents so much that I have a reaction.

I can’t help it. I may have had my own share of ‘near misses’ with Death in my life, but that does not mean that I am happy in his company. I am not his friend- I thought I could be, but I’m not.

Is that wrong?

105

Clearly I’m going to title all my posts with a countdown to the number of days before I go back.

Today is my last day in this half of the posting. This week has been pretty okay. I did a little more than the last week and I think my resident and I are genuine friends now, haha. Frankly speaking, he’s the only person I’ll actually miss when I go to radiation aspects of cancer treatment for the next three weeks. When he saw me this morning he went, “Amazing grace. How sweet the sound.”

“Like I’ve never heard that all my life.”

“It’s a big day, you know. Your last day in Med Onc. I’m going to try not to cry.”

See, guys, I made a friend.

I don’t quite know what to expect from next week but it means I’m going to have to readjust everything again. I won’t know the routines, I won’t know the team. But clearly, that’s just how my life works now, right?

Aside from that, this week has had some drama. On Tuesday morning, I woke up to a text from my friend saying that someone broke into the house they were staying at. Actually, to call it a house is putting it too kindly. It’s basically a makeshift home in not-great conditions. The plumbing is terrible, there’s no central heating, and the owner is a prick. So anyway, on Tuesday morning at 4am, someone broke in and went into one of the rooms. The girl staying in that room thankfully woke up and screamed, causing the other two people to wake up. The trespasser ran out and escaped through a window via the one unoccupied room.

The three of them called the cops who came and saw the place, documenting what happened. Can you imagine how that feels like? Being in a country without your normal social support, without the convenience of a car, in some shitty conditions, defenseless.. and someone breaks in and walks into your room. I panicked when I saw the text that morning. My first instinct was to head over and try to help, but I couldn’t because I didn’t have any connections to do anything about the situation, and I had to go to ‘work’. After a good 40 minute phone call with the girl who texted me, the plan was to go to uni and get some help from the person in charge of our Malaysian students in Year 5 and see where it goes from there.

Tuesday and Wednesday were crazy for them. They moved out and had to stay in separate places. Thank goodness we made friends with the Australian student who was with us in our second rotation because she drove them around and helped them look for somewhere else to stay. The two girls also crashed on her couch that night because they could not move in to their new rentals.

The importance of making friends!

I think I would go crazy and hop on a plane if something like that happened to my daughter. I would be on the first flight over, screw my job. But that’s just me as a hypothetical parent. No judgement whatsoever on theirs, of course, because one girl has an aunt here (who’s unfortunately out of town) and the other one didn’t tell her parents until the drama had ended.

Melbourne has been tumultuous, really. It’s been pretty mad.

But on the lighter side of things, on Tuesday evening, I went out to dinner in a fancy French restaurant with the lady who was my supervisor (for two days!) in the forensics rotation I didn’t complete, and the other Australian student who I sorta befriended on my first day there. It was a nice meal, the food was pleasant, but here’s the kicker: I ate brain. Sheep’s brain, if I’m not wrong. The Aussie student was keen on trying it because ‘it would be the perfect way to end my rotation in forensics’. The plate came, and it was three little brains in some sauce. I initially took a bite out of curiosity, and then had another one in solidarity just so we could finish one of the three brains.

Brains taste weird. Or maybe it was the sauce. It’s so mushy and fatty tasting on the inside. I think the fact that I knew it was a brain did not help. My gag reflex kicked in at some point, and I gulped down a lot of water. But even though that was the starter, and we had pretty sensible mains (fish and veal), the taste of the brain did not leave my mouth.

So yeah, I ate brain.

In other news, my next few weekends should be interesting. Last Friday, after I finished up the post and headed off to the city with my friends, I bumped into someone I did not expect AT ALL. Clearly, it’s a small, small world because I just so happened to make eye contact with someone walking in the opposite direction of me in the mall, and it just so happened to be Serena, a girl I knew from Sunday School ages ago. Coincidentally, the first time I went to Melbourne during my WYD trip (we spent a day in Melbourne on our way back from Sydney), I was with her! While we were quite good friends and met up consistently a few years after WYD- I watched the last 3 Harry Potter movies with her, and the other girl from WYD, Katrina- I think life took us to different paths after a point and we lost touch.

So, it made it absolutely bonkers that I bumped into her last Friday. We exchanged numbers and are planning to meet up this coming Sunday. Isn’t the world a funny place?

On the musical front, I think I’m going to be spending a whole lot on that while I’m here. I’m going to see Funny Girl next Sunday (24th of July) and then Avenue Q on the 14th of August. We have not picked a day to watch Mathilda just yet, but that is definitely happening. Kinky Boots is also in town in October, so that seems very likely. Singing in the Rain and Sound of Music are currently playing, and I won’t be surprised if I find myself watching those one of these weekends.

And I’ve somehow gotten myself a place watching Selena Gomez in concert on the 7th of August. I know, I’m not a huge fan or anything, but a friend is going and I didn’t actually have plans. So yeah, I’m seeing Selena Gomez in concert in three weeks. Who knew this day would come?

I did go to Mount Baw Baw last Saturday, but I’ll keep that story for when I go through the pictures and choose what I want to put up on the blog.

So yeah, for now, I’m going to hang around and meet my resident back at 1pm to see if anything is going on in the afternoon.

Have a great weekend!

 

Brighton Beach

So this is gonna be the first of the super ‘tourist’-y type posts with all the ‘tourist’-y photographs. These were taken two weeks ago on a Saturday, where I got my shoes filled with sand and I got genuine ‘beach hair’ from all the sea salt in the sea breeze.

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and here is evidence that I was actually there:

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 6.36.57 PM

(photo stolen from my friend’s Instagram page haha)

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It’s been a week since my lengthy last post. And things have thankfully been ‘okay’since then. I’m coping better at least, so that’s always a good thing. There isn’t much to say about the department I’m in. The patients range from saddening situations to reasonable ones. They aren’t as sad as I expect them to be, but then again, that is me imposing my own feelings and opinions on others.

I wish I could say that I’m ‘happy’now, but I’m pretty sure you figured out that I’m not. And chances are, I won’t be.

But that’s okay. I’m just gonna be here, counting. haha.

I believe that I mentioned that I may move out of the place I’m staying at, in the last post. But that didn’t work out. I did go see the place my friend was staying in, and unfortunately, it’s not exactly “ideal”. It’s pretty run down, the environment isn’t nice and the room was much, much worse than the one I’m in right now. Heck, I don’t even have any complaints about my current room apart from the fact that it’s cold.

So yeah, not moving out. Gonna stick to where I am. Transportation is also far easier in my current position, so yeah.

I think I will start posting pictures of the places I’ve been to. Lots of photographs are taking up a whole bunch of space on my phone but I have not actually found the mood to do anything with them. Here’s the hoping that I find some time to do all that.:)

I’m mostly hanging out in the library nowadays. I don’t do much, and I have no motivation to do anything. It’s awful, I know. I’m awful. But my brain isn’t where it’s suppose to be. Maybe I should swipe some antidepressants from that one patient.

I kid (but for real tho’)

Tomorrow a whole group of us, 29 to be exact, are going up some mountain place to play with snow. That should be interesting!

But anyway, I hope things are going well for you, dear reader. May your days be filled with wonderful interesting things and may you be surrounded by awesome people.

May you not need a Xanax.

118

that’s the number of days till I fly home. Unless of course, I can change my flight to an earlier date in order for that number to reduce.

Is it obvious enough that I don’t like it here?

Once upon a time, I thought I was capable of doing the ‘move overseas alone, figure it out, be an adventurer’ type dream. I’m not. I’m just not that person. I have a cousin who’s jetting off to different countries while studying overseas- one minute she’s in Russia, the other in London. Now she’s in NYC because she’s going to do a rotation in Mexico.

I am not that person, at all. I’m the farthest from it. I have been highly homesick since arriving here. I did not enjoy the one week I had to settle in. My brother was with me and all I could do was complain about how much I wanted to go home. And I still do. If you told me that I could continue my rotations in JB or wherever in Malaysia, I would leap at that chance.

Melbourne is cold. Melbourne is not home. Melbourne makes me feel like I’m so far away from everything.

It does not help that I am living alone. I mean sure, I’m in an AirBnB with the owner of the place and three other housemates, but I’m alone. And I do not do well alone. In JB, I lived in the same apartment as my friends. I had people right outside my door with whom I am comfortable with. But here, I literally make my way out and in of my room and go no where else.

I hate being alone.

I am literally checking out another place tomorrow to see if it’s comfortable and convenient enough to move into because I have a fellow Malaysian medical student there. I am not that person who’s a ‘self sufficient’ survivor. I am hopeless at this.

Waking up in the morning to 6 or 7 degrees in comparison to the 28 back in Malaysia doesn’t help. Going back in pitch darkness because the sun sets by 5pm is no fun. Being without a support system makes me feel terrible. I get up in the morning wishing so hard that it’s my friends outside that door, and that we’d go to ‘work’ together. Or that it was my family whom I can hug before and after I get back.

It’s not going great. I’m better at not crying now. The homesickness is a dull ache in my chest that I’m hyper-aware of when there’s silence around me. That’s why my earphones are almost always ‘in’ and I have watched so many episodes of comedy TV shows, and random comedy movies. I need major distractions so I don’t get trapped in my own head.

What more, to top off this wonderful time, I freaked out at forensic pathology. I’ve switched electives because I have found that I cannot take being in the morgue. Maybe it was nerves, maybe it was the fact that I was so hopelessly alone and homesick, but my experience on Monday made me want to die. And that was simply 40 minutes in the morgue. 40 minutes.

But being surrounded by all those bodies in different states of decomposition, in different positions and different parts removed.. it is not like TV. It is not like anything I thought I was prepared to face. It was paralysing and horrifying. I went to see my coordinator that same evening and ended up crying in his office because I could not take it.

Yes, I am a failure in Melbourne so far. I am not coping well with anything, and without anyone. I wish I could fly my parents here permanently. But more so, I wish I could go home.

So yes, I flunked out of forensic pathology on Tuesday, and since Wednesday, I’ve been in a different hospital and doing a completely different elective. Three weeks of Medical Oncology and three weeks of Radiation Oncology. Basically oncology.

My mother gave me hell for bailing on the initial plan. There was a huge fight over FaceTime where she basically berated me for chickening out, and how I should not see her body when she dies because I’m ‘too fragile’. More than anything, that huge fight absolutely tore through me. The whole of last week was basically a big mess of my parents being upset with me for being upset. And then this happened, so it was a massive explosion of emotions.

But in a way, that has moderately settled down. My mom isn’t ‘over it’ but she’s able to look at me, so that’s a good thing. I get where she’s coming from, and in some ways, I wish I had not ‘chickened out’. I was just so overwhelmed and I wish I had handled that better.

The current elective is rather quiet, and rather dull. That’s not a nice thing to say but it kinda feels like that. Oncology is to do with cancers and I know nothing about cancers, so yeah. I have not done anything in the three days that I’ve been here that’s worth shouting about. I did see interesting things in the forensics elective which were highly interesting in the two days that I was there. Hence the ‘why didn’t I just stick with it? why did i let myself get overwhelmed so easily’ that runs through my mind pretty frequently.

Then I remember how it felt to be in the morgue and I question my own questioning.

In all honesty, I think doing my rotations in Malaysia would allow me to learn more and to do more. Based on what my friends have been saying, they don’t do much or learn anything in the wards in this country either. I would have gained a lot more from doing rotations in JB. Or even in Sunway. As terrible as this sounds, there’s nothing ‘great’ about being in Australia. All I see is how much more I gain from being back home.

I don’t know. Right now, the only thing that’s pushing me forward is ‘when can I see my friends’. My weekends are the only thing I care about. That and the countdown to when I’m flying home.

Maybe my rotation will improve with time. Who knows? But for now, I cannot quite see how it can. I’m just counting down the days, guys. I just want to be over with all of this and go home.

Did I think this is how it was going to go? No, I did not.

118 guys. 118.