My Journey to Match Day

A whole month later, it is finally sinking in that I actually matched and that I’m starting residency again in less than 2 months! After reading the following series of events, maybe you will understand why I didn’t quite believe it for so long:

March 2013 – I leave surgery residency.  The following week, I have my first eye surgery

April 2013 – I spend the month recovering and catching up on sleep. I have no intention of ever practicing medicine again since I can no longer be a surgeon.

July 2013 – I have my second eye surgery. Still no intention of practicing medicine. I take up other hobbies while I think about other career options.

November 2013 – I find myself casually looking at medical missions trips through Global Health Outreach and actually wanting to go.  I’m pretty surprised, since I thought that I was done with doctoring. Must be from God.

March-April 2014I freak out at the thought of applying for and doing residency again.  I am afraid of how hard it’s going to be, and what my future will look like.  My small group prays for me and my fears are settled, so I forge ahead with starting to gather my application materials.

September 2014 – I submit my application to ONE program only.

October 2014 –  I panic after not receiving an interview offer and quickly submit my application to 10 other programs.  I almost immediately get rejected from 2 programs because I didn’t read their websites carefully regarding deadlines.  Oops.

November 2014 – I receive two interview offers! But not from the ONE program.  My confidence is boosted after attending both interviews and I end up loving one of the programs.  I buy myself a medical book and start reading for a couple hours a day.

December 2014 – Still no word from the one program.  I am starting to resign myself that I will not hear from them, despite multiple phone calls and emails.  At the end of the month, I reach the peak of my anxiety and frustration with the whole situation.

January 2015 – Not a peep from the one program…….until I receive an email out of the blue on January 8 offering me an interview. WHAT?!? I start ugly crying.  My interview is scheduled for the second to last available date.  During the interview, I am told in so many words that I am only there because I was “persistent” and that they are somewhat doubtful of my ability to practice medicine after 2 years off.  My confidence goes way down.

February 2015 – I submit my very short rank list. And wait.

March 2015 – I find out that I matched at the ONE program!  I cry again. Husband takes me out to dinner to celebrate:)

This timeline is a reminder of God’s incredible provision over these past 2 years as I found my way back into medicine.  I really think that the odds were stacked against me; my grades and test scores are just average, and my CV is pretty bare.  But as I keep telling people, God wanted it to happen, so it did.  I’m so thankful that my heavenly Father has been so patient with me as I struggled with fears and doubts, anger, frustration, and sometimes apathy.  I’m also incredibly thankful for everyone who prayed for me, encouraged me, wrote letters of recommendation, edited my personal statement, made phone calls, etc.

So now, I plan to take full advantage of the next 2 months of freedom, and then onward to the hard work of becoming an excellent internist. Hurrah!

That Time When I Cried Over a Doughnut Pan

Husband and I celebrated our 3rd anniversary this past week.  Nothing too fancy, since he was working on a big presentation for the very next day.  We exchanged cards and gifts, and had a homemade dinner.  Anyways, if you know me, you know that it’s not unusual for a card to make me choke up.  But this time it was the gift that did it.  Yes, a plethora of baking supplies made me cry – doughnut pans, a cake carrier, pie weights, a dough scraper/cutter, and a set of offset spatulas.

I think that this gift really got to me because it was yet another demonstration of David’s kindness and graciousness to me over these past 2 years especially.  He has never shown me anything but complete love and acceptance, which was what I needed to help me through my struggles with identity and self-worth after leaving residency.  When I judged myself for my less-than-productive days of sleeping in, going to the gym, hanging out with people, and of course, baking, he was actually delighted by all of it.  Gifting me with all of these fun supplies was a culmination of all that.  I felt so cherished for exactly who I am, unemployed baking addict and all.

So, happy anniversary to my wonderful husband. Thanks for loving me so well, for being such a fun partner in life, and for making me feel safe to be me. I can’t wait to see what this next year brings!:)

2015/03/img_1907.jpg

Life with Glaucoma

For some people, having glaucoma is merely a nuisance – putting in eye drops in twice a day, and yearly eye pressure checks.  It isn’t a painful or otherwise debilitating disease.

For me, it started out that way.  Even my first surgery in 2005 seemed more like a little bump in the road than a major life event. I recovered, my vision was stable, and I even got to start wearing contacts again. But apparently it wasn’t meant to stay that way.  In 2012, when my eye pressures started climbing, there was a whirlwind of doctor’s visits, referrals, escalating medical therapy and finally permanent and acute visual field loss followed by 2 surgeries.

Since then, I have constant, niggling worry about my eyes.  I wish my ophthalmologist appointments could be routine, but they never seem to be. Every visit and every test is accompanied by anxiety as I wonder what my eye pressures will measure and what new issue will come up.  Is my vision worse? How are my visual fields? Will I need to start a new medication? Do I need another procedure because I’m maxed out on medications? And when things are stable for the time being, I feel deep, immense relief.

The past couple of months have felt like that whirlwind again – multiple appointments, new medications, new issues, and now a (minor) procedure scheduled next week. I was pretty upset about it a few weeks ago, but my perspective shifted ever since I watched a documentary about the uninsured who flood an urban ER (“The Waiting Room” – it’s on Netflix if anyone is interested in watching it).  I realized that I am in the best possible situation because I have:

(1) health insurance, with easy access to doctors and medications
(2) fantastic, aggressive doctors who have worked hard to preserve my vision
(3) amazing and supportive husband and family
(4) the time, flexibility, and means to schedule these appointments and this procedure without any added stress

So I don’t really have anything to complain about. In fact, I’m actually really thankful.

I know that I will never be “cured” of glaucoma unless God miraculously heals me, so I am finally accepting that I have a chronic, lifelong disease (while still praying for healing!). I have absolutely no control over its progression, which keeps me humble and dependent on God.  And I’m simply grateful for each morning when I wake up and still have sight:)

Thanks for reading!

Welcome, 2015!

During our little New Year’s Eve dinner at our house, a friend asked everyone to sum up 2014 in a few words.  I honestly can’t remember all of my words, so I’ll just come up with new ones here: family, transitions, good food, and struggles.

In 2014, I’ve gotten to spend more time with my family than ever before, for which I am so thankful.  I’ve fallen in love with cooking and baking new things, and grown to enjoy sharing that with people.  It was a year of huge transitions, a cross-country adventure, and adjusting to a new city and for husband, a new job.  And man, have I struggled with God this year!  The big struggles this year were our miscarriage and my future.  And this holiday season especially has been tainted with underlying anger, anxiety, and frustration despite the many, many things to enjoy and be thankful for.

Anger that this residency application process has not been straightforward and that husband and I will have big decisions to make in the upcoming months.  Anxiety about constantly feeling like we’re transitioning and not having even a clue of where we will be in 6 months.  Frustration that there is constantly something going on with my eyes – if it’s not having to go to the ER because my eye turned red and started swelling up, it’s that my pressures aren’t that great, and I might need yet another procedure next year since I’m approaching maximum medications again.

So this is where I am right now.  It’s a strange place to be in, because there is silliness and laughter, wonderful people, and yummy food, but also fear, uncertainty and anger…all at the same time.  Even so, I am immensely grateful that God is here with me in this place that is definitely not shiny and put-together and full of smiles.  And when I just can’t see how things will work out, I’m so beyond thankful for friends and family who demonstrate God’s love, tell stories of His faithfulness, and pray words of encouragement over me.

I guess I can have hope for this New Year, and maybe even feel excited about (rather than afraid of) what 2015 will bring.

Happy New Year!

And also, happy birthday to my mom!:)

RECIPE: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

I went and bought 3 cans of pumpkin puree from Trader Joe’s a couple weeks ago to celebrate the start of fall.  The scary thing is that most of it is gone already from making caramel-filled pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, pumpkin coffee cake with maple glaze, and three batches of these pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.

pumpkin choco cookies 3These cookies are super easy, which is why I make them so often.  They are also really yummy and relatively healthy as far as cookies go.  I modified the recipe from this one.  My recipe cuts down on the sugar and eliminates butter, using healthier oil instead (grapeseed oil or extra light-tasting olive oil). It is also vegan if you use dairy-free chocolate chips:)

As a side note, I absolutely love using my kitchen scale for baking, which is why this recipe includes the ingredients by weight. The first reason is that is cuts down on dishes — no need to wash an extra measuring cup because you can just throw the ingredients straight in the bowl.  The second is that it’s more accurate, especially when measuring  ingredients that can get packed down over time, like flour or brown sugar.

Anyways, here is the recipe!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yield: 18-20 cookies
(depending on how much you “taste test” the dough

Ingredients:
6 tablespoons (86g) pumpkin puree
slightly heaped 1/2 cup (110g) granulated sugar
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra light olive oil or grapeseed oil (canola would also be fine)
1/2 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups (190g) all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line baking sheet with parchment paper
2. Mix together pumpkin puree, oil, sugar, molasses, and vanilla until smooth
3. In separate bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, and spices
4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, mix until combined. Dough will be soft and sticky
5. Fold in chocolate chips
6. Drop dough by rounded tablespoon onto baking sheet, then flatten each ball of dough slightly with hand
7. Bake for 8 minutes. Cookies will be very soft and puffy, but will firm up and deflate a little as they cool.  The cookie should feel dry to the touch.
8. Cool for 10 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to wire rack to cool completely

pumpkin choco cookies 1

Dough ready to go in the oven

pumpkin choco cookies 2

Fresh from the oven, very soft and puffy-looking

My First 5K

Running a 5K – not a big deal to all you marathoners and triathletes out there.  But for me, it was an accomplishment for a number of reasons:

(1) As of May, I could barely run for longer than 3 minutes at a time on the treadmill.
(2) I did it by myself.
(3) The race was to raise funds and awareness for a cause that I am pretty passionate about.

5K_2

I used to think that people who would pay money in order to run were a little bit off their rockers. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that it was actually…..fun?  I’m normally not a morning person but the energy and enthusiasm was really infectious.   Plus the morning was crisp and sunny, the course was nice, and there was plenty of people-watching to keep me occupied.  It turns out that time flies when you’re running in a big pack of people with more people on the sidelines cheering for you.  Crossing the finish line was kind of anti-climactic since it was sort of like finishing a regular morning run and I wasn’t really going for speed.  My favorite part was actually the snacking afterwards** – energy drinks, fruit, and protein bars galore.
**one of the reasons why I enjoy donating blood too😀

5K

Regarding the cause, which was to raise funds to support organizations that fight human trafficking and help victims of trafficking: it is something that is very close to my heart.  I have never personally met any victims, but my heart absolutely breaks just reading the stories and imagining the horror of what they endure.  At this point, I’m still trying to figure out how to get involved beyond donating money and educating myself about the problem of sex trafficking both here in the U.S. and internationally.  This is a really good book, if you’re interested in learning more.  Apparently Sacramento is among the worst cities in the U.S. for its trafficking problem, so there is plenty to be done here.  Here is more information about the organization and its beneficiaries.

So that was my first 5K experience.  I would totally be up for doing another one, and maybe even a 10K someday.  No thanks to anything with the word “marathon” in it:)

Blueberry Cream Cheese Danish Braids

A few weeks ago, I got to buy a few new kitchen toys — a food processor, a gorgeous NordicWare bundt pan, and a mini tart making set (thanks to a generous gift card that was given to us, which David promptly handed over to me and told me to go nuts😉 what a great husby!). My sister keeps telling me that I’m going to make her fat with all of the baking that I’ve been doing. That’s what you get for luring us here to Sacramento, Mollie!:)

Anyways, with the help of these new kitchen toys, I’ve gotten to branch out a little bit in my baking adventures.  Mini tarts galore, strawberry cupcakes with fresh strawberry puree, and most recently these blueberry cream cheese danish braids.  I don’t usually like danishes because they are always sickeningly sweet, stale tasting, and way too rich.  But these homemade ones were absolutely divine.

Danish 3

I was pretty pleased with my first attempt at making these pastries.  Yes, there were some issues….the bottom of the pastries browned way too quickly, the layers weren’t as flaky and puffy as I would have liked, and there didn’t seem to be enough cream cheese.  But regardless, they tasted dangerously good – buttery, crispy, flaky, creamy sweet, and tart deliciousness. Between me, husby, sister, and other friends, both braids were devoured in less than a day.  Oops.:)

I followed the exact recipe and method as detailed at Sally’s Baking Addiction.  It was actually surprisingly easy with this quick method that does not involve laminating the butter or anything like that.  Still time consuming, but not difficult.  I ended up making the dough first and then doing the shaping, filling, and baking the following day.

Danish1Specks in the dough = chunks of butter. Oh, yeah!

 

Things to do differently next time, because there will most definitely be a next time:
(1) figure out why they browned so quickly on the bottom (oven temp off? baking sheets too thin? heat uneven)
(2) make my dough more neat and uniform especially around the edges
(3) figure out how to keep the cream cheese from falling out of the pastry during baking


Danish4

 

If I can make these, then so can you.  Happy baking!:)

Running Thoughts

So I recently started running regularly again, after a 5-ish year hiatus.  Since moving to California, I have absolutely no excuse since the sun shines every day, the mornings are beautifully crisp and cool, and we live right next to miles of trails, parks, creeks, and sidewalks.

While some people are natural runners and feel rejuvenated by it, I’m actually exhausted just thinking about it.  I feel pumped up for about 2 minutes, but then after that, every single step is agony.  Within 5 minutes, my legs start burning, my chest tightens, and I am gasping for air, all the while wiping sweat and snot off of my face.  But I persist so that I can continue to fit into my pants and because I need to be in shape for when I climb Kilimanjaro someday.

Today, I realized that running parallels my life lately — it is hard and not always fun.  Not that life is difficult right now.  It’s actually pretty sweet. I love where we live, husband has a great job, and I have gotten to hang out with my sister more in the past month than I have in the past 2 years. But with regards to pursuing God, finishing up my residency application, and finding purpose in each day, it is hard. It’s hard to stay motivated, hard to keep my legs moving, and hard to see the point of putting in a lot of effort.

I have been noticing, though, that running is easier if I just keep my head down and focus on taking the next step without tripping.  And then I think about what will make that next step easier – taking good deep breaths, swinging my arms efficiently, keeping my tummy in and my back straight, etc.  If I look at the long stretch ahead of me, I start to feel discouraged because the end seems to be too far away.  But If I just think about the next step, and the next one, and the next one, before I know it, I’m at the end of my run.

So it is with God and with life.  He is impressing on me lately that I don’t need to know the 10-year plan or even the 1-year plan, but only enough to take the next step.  Even if I don’t see where this residency application process is headed, even if there are days when I can’t see or hear God, and even if I wake up fearing the long, lonely day stretched out ahead of me.  Jesus wants me to simply follow Him, even if all I can muster is one small step at a time. Eventually He’ll lead me to where I’m supposed to be.

So….on that note, I guess I should go back to working on my personal statement now:)

I’m Starting to Feel My Age

The fact that I’m in my 30s now has really started to sink in over the past 6 months.  At first, it seemed like not much had changed, but recently and most notably during latest trip back to California, I’ve started to notice my age more than ever.

Here are a few of the reasons:

1. I can’t eat the way I used to. Normally, a visit back home means a non-stop eating fest.  Burrito for breakfast, double-double animal style with well-done fries for lunch, and sushi for dinner.  Or Indian buffet for lunch and Korean BBQ for dinner.  You get the idea.  But nowadays, my body just doesn’t tolerate that kind of eating.  I tend to feel bloated, constipated, and overall uncomfortable the next day.  Blech.  So this time, I had to plan my eating much more carefully.  If I knew I was going out for a big meal with friends or family, I would make sure to eat verrry lightly for the  rest of the day and also try to schedule a work out.  I was also much more conscious of eating balanced meals with lots of fiber in order to, you know, keep things regular.

The great thing is that even with these healthier boundaries in place, I still managed to eat lots of delicious food:)

BreakfastTop: Eggs benedict (2 kinds!) and hash brown at Snooze; pancake flight at Snooze
Bottom: enormous sage fried chicken eggs benedict at Tractor Room

 

DinnerTop: amazing, melt-in-your-mouth miso-glazed Chilean seabass over crab fried rice at Truluck’s
Bottom: delicious assortment of sweets and savories at Tea Upon Chatworth afternoon tea; Japanese BBQ, pork belly and short ribs on the grill

 

2. Friendships are starting to span decades.  As I was having having great conversations and sharing delicious meals with very dear friends, it boggled my mind to realize the duration of some of these friendships.  How is it possible that I am old enough to have friends that I’ve known for 15-20 years now?  Yikes.

Friends Shadowoodgard

Loves:)

3. Babies. Everywhere.  At a wedding that I went to while I was in California, there were kids and babies (and pregnant women) everywhere.  Yes, we are definitely at the age where everyone is having kids.  Yikes again.

Shannon + BrianBeautiful wedding, beautiful couple:) Congrats Shannon and Brian!

4. I feel the need to exercise.  This is sort of related to #1.  In the past, I exercised occasionally because I knew that I should, but never actually felt the need to.   My laziness was reinforced by the fact that I could usually keep a steady weight without doing much at all.   But now, there are lumps and rolls appearing where there never used to be.  Working out has become essential to fitting into my pants, maintaining my energy, and sleeping soundly at night.  I’m glad about this though, because I know that I’m healthier and happier for it.

And a shout out to my parents for running/walking with me when I was visiting!  If they can exercise almost every day at ** years old, then so can I:)

Chinchilla Update

We’ve had this little fur ball for almost 6 months now!  I’m happy to report that he is acting much more like a normal chinchilla after a few months of getting to know us.

At first, he was extremely skittish and anxious.  He never came out of his cage and would freak out at every little footstep and sound.  But now, after 6 months of patiently sitting with him during playtime, bribing him with treats, and giving him lots of attention, he is calmer, much more curious, and loves investigating new things.

chinchilla 2Chinchi exploring David’s head

He has been spoiled with tons of things to chew on and play with lately, ever since I found this great online store, Whimsy’s Menagerie.  Buying from this store supports a chinchilla rescue which is an added bonus!  So if you have any chinchillas in your life, this is great place to buy them some fun chinchilla-safe things:)

pinataChinchi enjoying a “pinata” made of willow and filled with yummy treats like rose hips, pumice, wood chunks, etc.

When it’s time for him to come out of the cage for playtime, he knows it and starts bouncing around the cage and waiting by the door for me to open it.  During playtime, he likes to perch on my leg for a break and use it as a springboard to jump all over the place or back into his cage.

chinchilla

He still loves his dustbaths, chewing on things, and recently has been trying to squeeze through the bars of his playpen to escape (he actually did escape once).  He also enjoys eating treats like rose hips, oats, and barley from my hands.

And at the end of a long night of running on his wheel and around his cage, I often find him in the morning like this, snuggled and passed out in his fleece hammock.  Such a cutie!:)

, chinchilla 4

He still struggles like mad whenever I hold him, but that seems to be the norm for chinchillas who haven’t been handled from birth.  And even in this area, he’s gotten better!

Once we get settled in our new place, he may also find himself with a (carefully and slowly introduced) new friend to play with:) Yay