Highlights and Lessons Learned from the Second Month of Medical School

The second block of medical school is complete! We just spent the last 5 weeks learning about lung structure, function,  diseases, diagnoses and treatments, interspersed with a few lectures on clinical method, epidemiology and genetics. My favorite parts of this block were the anatomy and histology labs, and learning how to interpret chest X-rays and CT scans. We also learned the basics of how to perform bedside ultrasound. I love how hands-on the curriculum at my university is!

In mid-October, I had the wonderful opportunity to shadow a pathologist and two pathology residents for half a day and I loved it! The atmosphere was very welcoming and I was allowed to sit in on some cases at the microscope. Fascinating!

During one of my clinical sessions at a private Family practice, I got to perform my very first physical examination on a patient. I was a little nervous at first (especially since I have very cold hands) but the patient was very gracious as I stumbled along trying to figure out how to use my stethoscope and the blood pressure machine.

My final exam on this block was tough but I felt good about it overall. The week before the exam, I started to recognize signs in myself of feeling a little burnt out so I took a break from studying and went for the women’s fellowship at our church during the week. It was so rejuvenating to exercise with the ladies, chat and study the Bible. What I was challenged about most was resuming my daily devotional time with God (particularly first thing in the morning). I have to admit that with the busyness of school and  family, I have not been as consistent with my quiet time. I was reminded how important it is to have daily reflective time alone to recharge and gather my thoughts! Whenever you suspect that your life may be going out of balance, acknowledge it and try to address it as best you can. Medical school is demanding and it’s important to take care of your emotional and spiritual needs too.

The other item that challenged me during the bible study was to reflect on what things I can improve on in my character. There is always room for improvement. For me, the 2 areas I would like to work on are patience (particularly with my children) and humility (it is important to remain teachable, humble and remember that every person is valuable).

As I start Block C of medical school (Circulation), I am so grateful for all that I have learned during the past 2 months! It’s been both challenging and fantastic!

A Fruit a Day…What Does it Mean to be Long-Suffering?

Welcome back to our study on the fruits of the Spirit. We are almost half-way through the study, having already tackled love, joy and peace. Today we get to look at one that I find particularly difficult to achieve in my own life: FORBEARANCE.

My thoughts on Forbearance

When I think of forbearance, the first thing that comes to mind is putting up with someone or something difficult. Forbearance is not a word I use or come across often so I had take more time than usual to research this.

Merriam-Webster Definition of Forbearance

The definition of forbearance is ‘the quality of someone who is patient and able to deal with a difficult person or situation without becoming angry‘.

Synonyms for Forbearance

Long-suffering, endurance, fortitude, living with restraint, temperance, tolerance, leniency, mercy

Greek word for Forbearance

I had an interesting discussion with my husband about this. One of the ancient Greek words used for forbearance is makrothumia which means “long-tempered” (as opposed to short-tempered). What struck me about this word is that it does not mean we are to never get angry but rather that there can be a “slowness” to becoming angry. There is an element of forethought and consideration before we react to something.  So how does this relate to the concept of forbearance or long-suffering? If we are being patient with someone who really does not deserve it, then we are challenged with the task of exercising restraint and not getting angry with them easily. So much easier said than done but it is one of the fruits of the Spirit so something I intend to work on!

The Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament describes forbearance as “God delaying his wrath”. So once again, there is an element of “delay” and not acting out on our first reaction or impulse.

Favorite verses on Forbearance

  • Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” Eph. 4:2
  • Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone”. Col. 3:13
  • Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

Final thoughts on Forbearance

The concept of forbearance or long-suffering is a sensitive area. It can be hard to find a balance between being patient with those who do not deserve it versus becoming a door-mat for someone. It can also be a challenge to try and put up with a difficult or inconvenient situation without getting upset or annoyed. How do we find balance? How do we know when enough is enough? I don’t think there is an easy answer to it. All I know is that I can certainly do with some improvement in this area. I get impatient with my children sometimes when I could be more tolerant of their tiredness or moodiness. It’s easy to get upset about traffic, about someone being insensitive, or about plans not unraveling as intended.  Makrothumia means not reacting angrily to the person or situation but patiently bearing it for the moment. It’s not easy, is it?

Forbearance or self-control is the ability to exercise restraint, to stay in balance. It is disciplining yourself to be measured and temperate in your response to trying circumstances. It is being patent and even keeled while enduring hardships. It is having the ability to constrain your own worst impulses and allowing thoughtful, wiser aspects of yourself to govern what you say and do. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. Forbearance protects us against doing harm on impulse in the throes of anger or fear. Since so much of virtue is about finding a balance point between two kinds of excess, forbearance helps to keep us close to the center of our better selves.” –Wisdomcommons.org

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

A Fruit a Day…A Sense of Peace

Welcome back to our study on the fruits of the Spirit. Now that we have tackled the fruits of love and joy, let’s move on to the next one…PEACE!

My thoughts on Peace

When I think of peace, the first thing that comes to mind is a state of serenity. I imagine a still place at the center of a whirlwind where nothing is moving, nothing is being disturbed, it is perfectly at rest despite the turmoil going on around it.

Merriam-Webster Definitions of Peace

My favorite definitions are listed below:

  • a state of tranquility or quiet
  • freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions
  • harmony in personal relations

Greek word for Peace

My husband is my go-to person when it comes to finding out the etiology of words because he has a great love of ancient languages such as Greek and Hebrew. When I asked him about the word ‘peace’ last night, he enthusiastically leafed through one of his ancient Greek Lexicons. The ancient Greek word for peace is eiréné (phonetic spelling ‘i-ray-nay’). It alludes to a sense of harmony, concord, security and safety. Peace also has roots in the word eirō, which means “to join, tie together into a whole“. I like this definition because it gives me the sense that when we are at peace, we are whole.

Fun facts about Peace

  • The ancient Greek word for peace was originally used to depict a state of calm or cessation of fighting during war-time. It is only more recently that peace has been associated with relationships, thoughts, etc.
  • The Hebrew word for peace “Shalom” was used as a greeting to indicate “peace be with you”. It also connoted a sense of harmony, completeness, prosperity, and welfare.

Favorite verse on Peace

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Phil 4:6-7.

Final thoughts on Peace

I don’t always find it easy to be at peace with current circumstances. Sometimes it seems there’s no way out and circumstances are hopeless. But I’m hoping to develop an attitude of peace even in those moments. I like the definition of peace regarding freedom from oppressive thoughts. It gives me the idea that even though there is turmoil around us, it is still possible to find a place of peace.

As I write this, I just read a comment from a fellow blogger who is going through a really hard time in her family. My heart feels heavy for her and I would just like to take this moment to share some peace with her. You know who you are. You are a strong woman with a beautiful family and you will make it through this difficult time. Peace be with you.

“Shalom…does not mean merely the absence of strife. It is pregnant with positive, active and energetic meaning and association. It connotes totality, health, wholesomeness, harmony, success, the completeness and richness of living in an integrated social milieu. When people meet or part they wish each other shalom, or they inquire about eachother’s shalom”.-William Chomsky from “Hebrew, the eternal language”

Image courtesy of dan at freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy of dan at freedigitalphotos.net

A Fruit a Day Keeps the Doctor Away…Let’s Start with Love

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. I remember hearing this often when I was growing up.  At the time, it didn’t really convince me to eat more fruits and vegetables but now that I’m older, I have come to appreciate the benefits of eating healthily. This gets me thinking not only about my physical health but also my mental and spiritual health. Healthy food and physical exercise are good for our bodies. What sorts of things are good for our mind and soul?

I leafed through my Bible and came across this familiar verse on “Fruits of the Spirit”. To me, these are virtues that keep me spiritually healthy, partly because they require some action on my part. They are not just a state of mind but something that I can consciously decide to do.

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”. Galations 5:22-23.

I decided to take a look at some of the Merriam-Webster dictionary definitions of these words and compare them to how I feel they can be applied to daily life. I will tackle this over a series of posts just so we can take a detailed look at these words. Let’s start with love.

Love

There are so many forms and definitions of love but the ones I like in particular are these two: “strong affection for another; unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another”. I like these two definitions because they acknowledge that love has a component of “feeling” and emotion as well as a conscious decision to care about someone else solely for their good. Therefore I choose to behave in such a way as to bring out the best in them. In the Bible, Jesus spoke of loving our “neighbor”. When asked “but who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:29, Jesus went on to talk about the Parable of the Good Samaritan. A selfless individual who decided to help a battered and bruised stranger at the side of the road, who had been brutally attacked by robbers.

When I was growing up, we passed by beggars in the street as quickly as possible. They were considered unsafe, it made us uncomfortable and we just didn’t really know how to respond. When I think about those moments, I really cringe at myself. How thoughtless and selfish of me! Jesus’ words to love our neighbor challenges me to find ways to help those who are hurting and suffering. This is one of the reasons I am passionate about pursuing a career in medicine. Just the idea of being able to heal someone’s diseases, offer them counsel, and alleviate their worries really gets me excited. One of my friends who is a first-time mom often calls me with motherhood questions (“White noise or no white noise? or “My baby is breastfeeding around the clock…help!”) I absolutely love these conversations because I can draw from my own experiences and alleviate some of her concerns. 

There is so much that can be said about the concept of love but what I have learned from my interactions with people and from observing my friends and family is that love in its truest sense is selfless and unconditional. The “feeling” of love may come and go. There are times when our significant others, children, brothers, sisters, parents may annoy us, make us angry, make us want to give up on them. Yet, we decide to still love them. We may see someone suffering who is perhaps not from our culture, not in our income bracket, who has differing opinions, or who we may not be able to relate to. Yet, we decide to still love them. Love is a powerful thing. Love erases fear, love erases prejudice, love erases judgement. The Bible itself said the greatest gift of all is love.

Image courtesy of maya picture at freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy of maya picture at freedigitalphotos.net

Week 2 is Through! The 30-Day Challenge Towards Wholesome Living Continues…..

Welcome back everyone! Can you believe we’re already half way through the 30-day challenge? I hope you’ve been seeing the benefits of your hard work towards attaining better health physically and mentally while at the same time preserving sacred time to be intimate with God and reflect on your spiritual state of being.

It has been a great past few days and I have to say that despite a brief period of discouragement last week, this 30-day challenge has done wonders for my life overall. Just knowing that there are others doing this with me and that we are accountable to each other motivates me to prioritize exercise, healthy eating and devotional time. I have found myself feeling more patient and just ready to enjoy each day as it comes.

This weekend was our first free weekend in months and normally that would mean that I am flitting around the house looking for things to “accomplish”. But this weekend, I just slowed down the pace of my mental thought, looked out at my backyard and just gaped at the beauty of the landscape. It had been weeks since we had gardened and things were getting a little out of control with the weeds and fast growing trees. We spent a good part of the weekend outdoors, clipping trees, pulling out weeds, while the kids ran around in the yard, and it was just….beautiful. When my son was telling me something for the thirtieth time, I didn’t distractedly say “oh, really, that’s cool”, I looked him in the eyes and laughed like it was the first time he was telling it to me. It was just amazing to be so in the moment with my family and with my surroundings.

My walks in the neighborhood with the kids were more enjoyable than usual because I decided to try and engage with whoever I passed by, be it a smile, a wave or stopping to say hello. It was something so simple, yet meaningful to me, and perhaps to the other people I met too, whose lives I don’t know much about but who may have been going through a rough time and needed that smile or moment of engagement from another human being.

The 30-day challenge has been going well the past few days with me achieving my goals of consistent exercise daily (at least 30 minutes), eating healthy and spending time with God. This week in particular I was aiming to eat some new foods just to introduce some variety into my diet so I opted for some tilapia, sweet potatoes and green beans which I hadn’t eaten in a while. I have also been using a spreadsheet of foods categorized into food groups so that when I am planning my meals, I can just look at the spreadsheet to see what foods I haven’t eaten in a while and to make sure I am including foods from every food group. Exercise-wise, I am finding myself feeling fitter and can already see physical changes in my body. I am more alert and energetic. I am starting to find ways to fit in exercise in my day no matter what. If you think about it, 30 minutes a day is not that much time even with a busy schedule. If I am having a really busy day, I try to consider what ways I can make my current activity into an exercise. For example, if I am alone with the kids at home and I can’t find the opportunity for exercise, we go for a walk together or they hang out in the yard with me as I am doing the gardening (which can be surprisingly strenuous, I was aching from having my arms over my head for an hour snipping branches and moving them). So don’t feel bad if you don’t always have time to do more ‘formal’ exercise. Even folding laundry or tinkering with the car can be done with a spring in your step and some exaggerated movements just to get your heart-rate up and your blood flowing.

Time with God has been awesome and I have not been restricting myself to one particular time of day. If I cannot do it first thing in the morning, I find moments throughout the day, when I can just clear my head of all “noise” and just focus on God and his goodness. I try to think of a few things to be grateful for and that puts me in a more positive frame of mind. Sometimes, I just sing as I’m going about my day and I find the kids joining in with dance-moves. Other times, I pray as I’m pushing my daughter’s stroller around the neighborhood. I find that the more I focus on God, the less I focus on me. And that helps me not to dwell on life’s uncertainties or fears. I trust God with the smallest details. No issue is too silly or insignificant for him.

So as we enter the second half of the 30-day challenge, I encourage you to keep going. If you fell off the band-wagon at some point, don’t worry! You can get back on! And if life is going a bit too fast, slow it down a little. Take time to enjoy each day afresh. The moments we have with people are the most important and will be captured in our memories for eternity.

Slow down...and enjoy life! (I took this picture close to the Giraffe Center in Nairobi, Kenya. It makes me smile!)
Slow down…and enjoy life! (I took this picture close to the Giraffe Center in Nairobi, Kenya. It makes me smile!)

Week One is Done! The 30-Day Challenge Continues…

My son and I have a funny routine at bedtime where we have a “sword-fight” after his bath and we end up rolling around on the bed grunting and roaring. As I walked into the room yesterday ready to get into battle mode, I was surprised to instead find my son with a huge grin on his face and his arms open wide. He then enveloped me in a long, warm bear-hug. Needless to say, I melted into a puddle of goo on the floor. My son is affectionate by nature, but moments like this never cease to amaze me. It was a lovely way to wrap up the first week of the 30-Day Challenge, a journey into wholeness… physically, emotionally and spiritually!

Here’s an update for you from the weekend:

  • Fitness: My greatest challenge with exercise is getting it done on the weekend because often we have social activities and are extra busy with the kids so it’s difficult to get that physical exercise in. Thankfully, I knew that I would be reporting to you early this week so I forced myself to make that time one way or another! Friday consisted of a nice, brisk 45 minute walk around the neighborhood with my daughter. Our walk took us through some woods in which I was hoping to stop and do some stretches and squats, but the palpable mosquito presence in the woods forced us to make a quick exit!

    My daughter and I going walkabout in the woods (before the mosquitoes descended upon us!)
    My daughter and I going ‘walkabout’ in the woods (before the mosquitoes descended upon us!)
  • Fitness: Saturday was busy with us hosting a good friend’s baby shower and so there wasn’t much time to work-out. However I am consoled by the fact that I was on my feet most of the day decorating the house, prepping food and attending to guests. Sunday was also busy with church and although I was feeling really tired, I decided that a 30-minute walk around the neighborhood was better than doing no exercise at all. If you are feeling tired or unmotivated about doing exercise, take heart! You don’t have to do a killer workout everyday. Just get on your feet in some way, shape or form, even if it’s gardening, doing housework, dancing, walking or riding somewhere instead of driving. And if you miss a day, don’t feel bad, try again the next day. You can do it! Today’s fitness consisted of a light 10 minute warm-up on the elliptical followed by a similar upper body workout as last week, including some additional wrist strengthening exercises. In addition to physical exercise, I realized the importance of having good posture. This is crucial for keeping our spines properly aligned and preventing back problems. I am quite tall (5 feet 9 inches) and so I have a tendency to slouch (I was reminded of this recently when I saw some pictures of me that a friend took). We often don’t realize the way we sit or stand, and this can have an impact on our overall well-being. So I have been making an effort to monitor my posture, particularly while sitting or standing. Here’s an interesting link I found with tips on maintaining good posture.
  • Nutrition: Friday and Monday went well for my nutritional goals but Saturday and Sunday consisted of two BBQs so it was difficult to keep track of nutritional content and to stick to healthy foods. There’s nothing wrong with eating less healthy foods now and again (they can be so delicious!) but I’m trying to avoid it becoming a habit. My goal this week is to try and eat some different foods compared to last week to introduce some variety in my diet. Let’s shake things up!
  • Spiritual: I thoroughly enjoyed having my prayer time during my walks outside with my daughter. It allowed me to put God in the context of nature and just appreciate the beauty around me. I loved those moments with my daughter where her eyes would light up when she saw a bird or a horse. Kids have a way of keeping things so fresh! I have really been enjoying reading what I call “chunks” from the Bible. In the past, I  had a habit of reading a few verses here and there but I am really enjoying reading scriptures in the form of complete chapters where I can get the full context and even imagine myself being there in that time. Despite the busy weekend, I definitely saw the difference it made to have time with God daily. It brought me to a place of reflection and to a time when I could continually unload and tell God that He is in control and all I can do is my best. It’s so comforting to know that we are not “doing” life alone. We have a Heavenly Father who is working out all the details of our lives. We only need to walk in faith and trust. “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it…” Phil 1:6.

Well done everyone for making it to the second week of the 30-Day Challenge. What exercise do you have planned for this week? Having an idea of what you will do each day will increase your chances of actually doing it. Formulate a plan for the week and try to stick to it as much as possible! You’ll hear from me again soon. Thank you for joining me on this challenge and keeping me motivated!!

Here comes Week 2 of the 30-Day Challenge…Keep going!!!

Courtesy of arztsamui @ freedigitalphotos.net
Courtesy of arztsamui @ freedigitalphotos.net

Day 4 of the 30-Day Challenge….. It’s a Wrap!

Welcome back everyone. Have you been sweating? What have you been eating? How’s that devotional time going? Hopefully you are already starting to see some benefits of consistent exercise, eating right and having some quiet moments with God daily. We are drawing close to the end of the first week of the 30-Day Challenge and it’s been great!

Here’s a quick update for you:

  • Fitness: Today I did a very invigorating ~30 minute workout, the T-25 that focuses on cardio and stretches (thank you subsaharangirl for the recommendation). I have to say that this was a lot of fun. It was reminiscent of doing a hip-hop dance routine with old-school moves from the 90’s, all while getting your heart-rate up. Loved it! I also appreciated that there was one person in the video who did a modified version of each exercise which is great for those who cannot handle the high-impact version of the exercise. I am starting to realize that my previous attempts to really be consistent with exercise were being impeded by doing the same exercise workouts over and over. I think I was just getting plain bored! But having done a different type of workout everyday this week has left me feeling full of energy and motivated to keep going! If you’re finding yourself losing steam, perhaps try a new type of exercise or change up the scenery. It’s all about keeping things fresh!
  • Nutrition: I am definitely seeing the difference in eating the right type of food and eating every few hours throughout the day. I have much more energy! All nutrition goals for the day…..met!
  • Spiritual: I was a little bit distracted during my quiet time today partly due to some things I read on the internet that frustrated me. But I decided to just pray about it and let God help me get my attitude under control. Interestingly, I found a verse towards the end of 1 Thessalonians that was very appropriate for the situation, “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong but always try to be kind to each other, and to everyone else“. 1 Thess 5:15. I was also reminded about the importance of “putting on faith and love as a breastplate” 1 Thess 5:8. Breastplates were designed to protect the torso. In the same way, faith and love offer protection from the negativity that can fill our minds and hearts if we lose faith in people or have resentment. It’s not easy to forgive past hurts, but it surely liberates us when we do.

Day 4 of the 30-Day Challenge… It’s a Wrap! Well done everyone for getting this far! I plan to post my next update early next week so please stay tuned. In the mean time, keep going, keep exercising, keep eating right and keep feeding your spirit and soul! Onward…..

Courtesy of Vlado from freedigitalphotos.net
Courtesy of Vlado from freedigitalphotos.net