In many medical school curriculums, the first year is typically normal anatomy and physiology and the second year is mostly pathology. So far, in each theme this year, I’ve had at least a passing concern that I had some condition that we were studying. For instance, in our pharmacology theme back in July, I worried that I might take too much ibuprofen. Then, in the introduction to pathology theme, I wondered about aneurysms. Next was immunology and microbiology, and I feared foodborne illness. Oncology brought with it questions about fibroadenoma.
Right now we’re in the middle of studying anemia and blood cancers. This theme is no exception to the rule. I found myself with a random bruise the other day and spent the better part of the afternoon thinking about easy bruising. And naturally, since I’m studying a lot, sometimes late into the night, I’m tired. But then I worry about whether I’m easily fatigued! And what about swollen lymph nodes? Since the early symptoms of anemia and blood cancers are somewhat general and can be spotted in day to day life, this theme has been hard for me to take. Fortunately, it will be over in a week and we’ll move on to neuropathology. Not that it will be much better, since I’ll wonder about every headache I experience!
Sometimes I feel like I have reasons to worry. Because medical school can be very demanding, some of our health needs don’t always get met. In exam weeks, for example, I often find that my diet becomes very bland, mostly just cereal and bagels because they’re filling enough and fast to make. Occasionally, my boyfriend will come over and bring “real food” with him, usually a pizza, which is tasty but still doesn’t fill many nutritional needs. And studying for hours on end makes for a pretty sedentary lifestyle. I start to realize that I’ve been studying too much when I find that I’m sore after sitting for so long. Of course, sleep can be a challenge as well. The advice is mixed… I want to do well on my exam, so I need to study everything, which might mean staying up too late. On the other hand, sleep is restorative and builds memory, so I should sleep if I want to do well. I have this mental argument regularly and usually come down on the side of staying up. Studying seems to pay more dividends for me, but I definitely need some time to recover those lost hours of sleep after the test is over!
It’s clear that medical school can take a toll on your physical health and can weigh heavily on your mind as well. For now, I need to remember to take better care of my health so that all that’s “in my head” is knowledge, not anxiety.