Saturday, May 8, 2010

Finals Week

It’s rough for college students everywhere. Study your material. Do your projects and papers. Try to maintain your good grades (or resuscitate your bad ones). Hope you don’t get sick from the stressful week combined with the lack of sleep and dehydration breaking down your immune system and making you more susceptible to infection. 

For me? Well, I’m already immunocompromised. Touch a door handle? Hand sanitizer. Sitting at a new desk? Sanitizing wipes. Drinking a protein shake out of a can? Swab it with alcohol first and use a wrapped straw. Sharing food with someone? Don’t let them put their hand in the bag. Coughing and sneezing classmate? Don’t sit near them. And that’s just bacterially and virally. What I’m really worried about is the one that goes minute by minute. The one that always creeps up on me at the worst possible times and I have no choice but to push through it, treat accordingly, and hope it gets better. Am I panicked because I’m stressed out? Or is my bg (blood glucose) too low? Maybe the stress is causing the low bg? Am I crying because I’m crumbling under the stress? Or is my bg too low? Is this headache because I’ve been staring at a computer screen all day? Or is my bg too high? Is my bg, whether too high or too low, the reason I’m having such a problem concentrating and focusing? Or have I finally just run myself into the ground? Did I just get sick at the gym because I pushed it too hard? Or did my bg drop because I’ve been sitting at a desk all day and my system was shocked by the exercise? 

This semester more than any other my professors seem to have forgotten what it’s like on the other side of the podium. I’ve had papers and projects assigned at the last minute (a.k.a. the last week of class) that weren’t part of the syllabus that I have to get done on top of studying for and taking my finals. Maybe it’s because I’m an older student and I know that finals week doesn’t *have* to be this way. Maybe it’s because it’s my final finals week (at least for now) and at the end of this I’ll be getting my third degree. Or maybe it’s because this is the first semester I’ve had an overly full course load since my diagnosis and I’m physically and mentally exhausted, but it feels as though this particular battle is going to get the best of me. 

It’s funny to look back at my original “final finals” week. I defended my honors project thesis, wrote 3 papers, took a lab final and 3 class finals, and got everything done in time to fly out to my brother’s law school graduation and surprise him. I did it all while finishing up my internship in which I was a substance abuse counselor for those who were court-ordered to it. Back then, the stomach problems I was having (and still have) were a big deal but now they get filed under “the least of my problems” and are largely ignored aside from taking a pill every day. When I started this chapter of my education, it was only supposed to last 2 years. I was just going to take the pre-requisites for medical school so I could take the MCAT and apply. I was accepted to the Postbac Premed Program at Harvard but was too sick due to what was then a “mystery illness” to go. Then 2 years of pre-requisite classes became 3 years. I stayed close to home and received my diabetes diagnosis 2 months before my MCAT test date. Then 3 years of pre-requisite classes became another degree program to give myself some time to get a handle on my health before starting medical school. And now? Well, I certainly wouldn’t say that I’m choosing not to head to medical school because I’m diabetic, but I will say that my diabetes has helped me realize that I don’t have to be a doctor to help people.  There are so many other ways. Who knows? A year from now I may be posting to say that I’m applying to medical school but for now, I just need to survive this week in one piece.

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