Welcome to the Other Side

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Well, here we are! I took my MCAT and lived to tell the tale (again), and then Ken and I went on the best trip of our lives. Being back to work this week is pretty lame, especially because there are no mountains and no sea lions here, but I'm finding ways to cope, haha.

So. The MCAT. I took a bunch of practice tests leading up to the actual test and had improved my score about 3 points, which was dangerously close to my goal. The night before the test, I got a good night's sleep, and that morning, I got ready at a semi-leisurely pace and got on my way to my exam. I was early, so I sat in my car for awhile, looked over my formula sheets, and breezed through some genetics material to refresh my memory. At 12:45, I went into the testing center and it was full of anxious pre-meds. I found myself thinking, "Wow, these kids are really annoying," and then I remembered that 6 years ago, I was one of those really annoying kids. It was an odd mix of people academically posturing ("Man, that orgo class was SO rough," "Yeah, but half of MY class failed... I got an A...") like they were trying to psych each other out (WHY?) and people freaking out, including a girl who kept getting up, saying she was leaving, and then coming back in. At one point, I said, "If you don't take the MCAT, you definitely won't get into med school. No one's ever died from taking this exam.... that we know of. But seriously." That last part may or may not have been helpful, but that girl needed to seriously calm down. (And you know when I'm telling you to calm down that it's BAD.) There was one guy who refused to talk to anyone and just had his headphones in... he was the smart one. I kept to myself and waited for my time to get called back. After the usual signing various oaths to not disclose information about the exam, being digitally fingerprinted, and having my photo taken, I settled into Test Station #10, quickly clicked through the tutorial, and began the exam. For those of you who are fortunate enough to have not taken the MCAT, it's set up like this:

Physical Sciences section (General Chemistry + Physics, 52 questions, 70 minutes)
Optional 10 minute break
Verbal Reasoning (Lots of boring passages, 40 questions, 60 minutes)
Optional 10 minute break
Biological Sciences (Organic Chemistry + Biology, 52 questions, 70 minutes)

There used to be a writing section after the physical sciences, but they removed that this year. Instead, at the end, there was another optional 10 minute break, and then a 45 minute, 32 question, trial section in which they are piloting new questions for biochemistry, biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, sociology, and biology. The AAMC was offering a $30 Amazon gift card, and since I am a sucker for free money, I took the trial section (I got the biochem, bio, chemistry, and physics questions). The entire time to take the exam, start to finish (including the tutorial and miscellaneous questions about wanting to void your exam etc) is around 5 hours. I didn't take the full 10 minutes for any of the breaks and didn't leave my seat. All told, it took me abound 3.5 hours to take the exam, which felt really short, but I have to remind myself that I read a lot faster than most people, so the verbal section was done more quickly than the 60 minutes. I took almost the entire 70 minutes for the physical sciences section, and about 2/3 of the time for the biological sciences section. I didn't feel rushed, and really, the entire thing felt like just another practice exam.

Everyone wants to know, "How was the MCAT!?" when you're done, and it's such a hard question to answer. My answer was generally some variation on, "I took it and it's over," because I honestly have no real clue as to how I did. I knew a lot of the answers... I think? There were definitely a few where I was like, "Well, that's something I just do not know," and made an educated guess, but those were few and far between.  I was glad when it was over, and almost as if on cue, as I walked out of the testing facility, I got a BLINDING headache. I guess my brain was sore? Now we're just waiting for scores, which should theoretically be released on 9/17... not that I'm counting. Actually, I'm trying very hard to not actively think about the MCAT at all because I have too much other stuff to worry about that is far more pressing than an exam over which I officially have no control. So yes. MCAT. Done and done.

Friday night, we were up until 3:30 in the morning packing for our trip, so after a 2 hour "nap" we were on our way to the airport. The security line was completely nuts, but we made it to our plane and 5 hours later, we were landing in San Francisco. The entire week was... amazing. Beautiful wineries, delicious wine, amazing food, the most gorgeous scenery I've ever seen in my life, and 7 uninterrupted days of spending time with my husband. We laughed our heads off every day and basically had the best time ever. There will be an entire post dedicated to pictures and more details about the trip, but for now, just know that it was awesome and exhausting, but in a good way. I am definitely sad to be home, mainly because I never realized how flat NJ is until I went to somewhere where there are just mountains all the time. Also, there is a decided dearth of sea lions here.

So, now we're back to reality, and what a reality it is. I saw my rheumatologist yesterday to discuss the fact that the prednisone had little effect on my joint pain, and whatever pain it had alleviated immediately returned upon the tapering of the prednisone. I was less than thrilled with this because it meant that something was up with my as-yet-unnamed autoimmune disease that Plaquenil could not handle. My doctor, whom I trust immensely, suggested that I try methotrexate, which is the first treatment they try for people with RA. I know, I don't have Rheumatoid Arthritis... sort of. Apparently, names and diagnoses are suggestions at best and are used largely to get reimbursed and covered by insurance (because you have to tell them something). It's strange and frustrating to not be able to say, "I have _________, which is why I'm taking ________," and instead saying, "We don't know what this is but I'm taking methotrexate." Methotrexate is a pretty serious drug. It is used to treat various kinds of cancer, and in lower doses, it's used to treat autoimmune diseases because it is an immune suppressant. Possible side effects include nausea, vomiting, mouth sores, and hair loss. They are giving me folic acid to counteract some of these, but they can't give too much folic acid because it might compromise the action of the methotrexate. Complicated! I start on Sunday with my weekly dose of 6 pills, and hopefully in 4-6 weeks, we'll see some improvement. There are more serious drugs that we can go to, but I'd really rather not (for obvious reasons). I'm really glad to finally have a doctor who:

a) Doesn't think I'm crazy and
b) Is willing to treat my symptoms without having blood markers all over the place for various diseases

So.... we'll see where this goes. I'm hoping that it doesn't make me crazily sick and that it helps! Any fellow rheumies out there have any advice?

Aside from that, I've just been getting back into the swing of things. I have a lot of things on my to-do list, and for some reason, I can't make myself do them. Blogging was one of the (less important) things, but I finally made myself do it. I was telling my friend Chrystina that I don't feel like I am a "blogger" and more like "someone who blogs" because I "just talk". Apparently, that is called a "lifestyle blog". I think I have a lot to learn.

But yes, my to-do list.

- FINISH PERSONAL STATEMENT (for the love of God and all that is holy)
- Submit med school applications (definitely won't get in if I don't apply)
- Organize my dresser/nightstand/bookshelves (disaster zone)
- Mail stuff to my Snail Mail Collective partner and to LF for her birthday
- Clean the bathroom
- Make challah (and subsequently, challah French toast)
- Try the bean/sausage/kale soup recipe that Pam gave me (which included gems such as, "Brown sausage in pot... cut up it, crumble it, I don't give a fuck.")
- Put up our pictures/decorate the living room etc
- Buy a friggin' toaster
- Get school supplies for classes that start on Thursday (what the actual?)

So, upcoming posts will include a honeymoon recap (with pictures!), recipe reviews, talking about the Snail Mail Collective, and of course, Wonderful Stuff Wednesday!

And now, it's 4:15 and I am going to get going because I am trying to go to the gym more (read: at all) and there's a Barre class that I've been trying to get to for MONTHS now and I am going tonight, damn it!

Let's hope I don't make a total fool of myself, shall we?

- A


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