new york

43 days, 7 hours, 20 minutes until I take 3 great big suitcases, a few text books, and my shiny new stethoscope to the big city. Why New York? and why a stethoscope?

I’m headed to Columbia University School of Nursing to begin their Entry-To-Practice (ETP) RN/MSN program to become a Nurse Practitioner (NP), and will probably stick around a couple more years to get either a PhD or DNP (Doctorate of Nursing). That is a WHOLE lot of abbreviations. ETP, RN/MSN, NP, DNP.

Am I excited? You could say that. I am filled with satisfaction that I am finally moving forward, now at lightning speed, into a career that I know is the RIGHT fit. Yessssss. deep breath. I know in the center of my being that this is the right choice, and I am just content and glad and joyful.

so, now I’ve got 43 days, 7 hours, and 15 minutes to make the best of my time in Oregon with my husband before our world expands and the REAL fun begins. Thank goodness spring has finally made its arrival! Off to the mountains for now……

What I’ve learned so far about genetics:

I am a very self-reflective person. I always love to check in on my growth and evaluate my progress. As my 6 month tenure in my current position is approaching, I have been reflecting on how much I have learned from this experience. I have gained so much insight into medicine, not only the scientific information, but gained a holistic understanding of the business and industry of medicine too! This has helped me expand my plans for my career in the future, but also greatly improved in my skills in my current position.

Specifically in regards to genetics, however, my breadth of knowledge has expanded exponentially. I have learned so much, and am eager to use and share this knowledge, so I think I’ll share a few fun facts with you:

1. Hereditary cancers, those with identified mutations, make up for 5-10% of all cancers.

2. So far, we know of about 26 different genes associated with these cancer syndromes. Some you may have heard of before are BRCA1 and BRCA2 related to Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer, and less well known is Lynch Syndrome, associated with mutations in the MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, PMS2 or EPCAM genes – these genes are responsible for many cancers involved in the gastrointestinal system such as colon and pancreatic cancers. 

3. Other genes, with detrimental impacts on health, are the PTEN gene associated with Cowden Syndrome, and the CDH1 gene associated with Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Syndrome, a dangerous syndrome causing stomach cancers.

3. There are several ways to identify these mutations in patients. Traditionally, genetic professionals would test individuals for one or two genes at a time, looking for the most likely candidate gene. Most recently, panel testing technology has been developed to test multiple genes at one time, “casting a wide net” to “catch” the right gene. This, in my experience at work, has identified many genes that may not have been expected, or would not have been identified by testing for one gene at a time, however in many cases it is more appropriate to use single gene testing. This should be determined by the patient and credentialed health provider.

Many people ask why would we even want to identify these genes? What is the point?
    Well, when someone carries one of these genes, they can have as high as an 87% chance of developing one of the associated cancers over their lifetime. In most cases, there are screening programs, chemopreventives, and surgeries available to eliminate or drastically reduce the risks for these individuals. So the short and sweet answer to this question is that we can stop cancer before it starts for these folks.  I think that’s pretty incredible.

I can’t wait to share more on this subject, to work to bring awareness to cancer prevention, and to help patients seeking proactive approaches to their health. 

Resources for learning more about genetics are:

Genetics Home Reference  www.ghr.nlm.nih.gov/  

The National Society of Genetic Counselors http://www.nsgc.org

NCI’s Cancer Genetics Division http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/genetics

and of course speaking with your medical professionals about your risks, particularly if you have family members who have been affected by cancer.

 

Please feel free to comment with additional questions or topics of interest! 

 

community

Lately I have been longing for a sense of community of like-minded peers. I’ve been craving a group of souls to connect with to share ideas, hopes, dreams, and to reenergize with. I’ve been longing for people who understand what it means to chase a passion for miles and miles down a never ending coastline in pursuit of a dream, for those who don’t think you’re crazy for your wild determination, but understand that mild insanity is necessary, and in most cases, the key to your success. I have been wanting to connect with others and share in those “you too??” moments, when we realize we are not alone on our purposeful journeys but traveling together on parallel roads.

While living in Portland, I have found that many of the young adults here float through life, accidently finding themselves in situations and without direction in life. In these interactions, I often find that I feel misunderstood and out of touch, and I worry that I have created an esoteric world all of my own without any open windows or doors to connect with others.

In the last week, however, I have been surrounded by wonderful examples of community through connections on various levels. One evening my partner and I found ourselves at a dinner table on a farm just outside the city with a gaggle of fellow airbnb hosts, all from different backgrounds, professions, lifestyles and neighborhoods, who were able to connect with each other through our shared interest in travel and love for humanity. I so enjoyed finding a group of individuals who love nothing more than opening their home to strangers and getting to know others in the most intimate way, at home. This experience, shared over a few glasses of wine and dinner, reminded me that connections are always out there.
Today, I stumbled into an old school mate Sarah,  and her husband, and experienced that “YOU TOO?” moment when we both discovered we shared the same sense of isolation within our chosen lifestyles. Too often do we find ourselves feeling alone in our work, without a group of like minded peers who understand the long hours, the sacrifices, and the passion to turn our dreams into reality. Sharing in the “you too?!” moment, I felt my spirit lift as we both found support and shared interest in each others’ work.

I am so thankful for the revived faith I have gained in these community experiences, and love knowing others are out there. In an effort to continue to cultivate this sense of community, I plan to engage more and more, to foster these relationships and release my worries about sharing my dreams and passions with others. While most of the time my passionate lifestyle will be foreign to others, I know there are so many others out there passionate as hell about their work and their life missions, and in order to share in the community, we just have to occasionally look up from our work and reach out to touch one another and let ourselves be reminded we are a community.

colonoscopy

ok no joke, I’m getting a colonoscopy done on Monday.

why? I thought you were only 23…..

The answer? family history of multiple GI cancers – time to get scoped. Thsi will be the first of many on the fun life ahead of me, so I might as well embrace it.

Setting up this appointment was no easy task for me. I spent several weeks waking up in the middle of the night terrified of what might happen when I get it done, what they might find….
and even worse moments crying and worrying about what might happen if I don’t get it done. The only way to get some relief would be to stop waiting and take action.

So I went to that storeroom inside of me where I can always find some courage, and bravely told a few friends who I knew would help back up that courage, and finally dialed that number I had been carrying in my wallet for weeks and made the appointment. Right away the doc said “lets just look and be sure” and here we are.

This weekend will be spend doing the “prep” – its like a 2 day speed diet. I’ll let you know how much fun it is later. But the good news is that I’ll be  “wedding dress ready” by the end of it! yippee

Anyway, the point of this post is to remind all of you out there that while it might be scary as hell to address your own health issues, you really need to. You are brave enough to face whatever funny things are going on inside your body. You have to be your body’s advocate. You will thank yourself later.

So my tips on the matter: wear sunscreen (although not related to colon cancer..), find out your family’s medical history and see what you need to be on the look out for, be informed, stay up to date on your check ups and screenings, don’t put it off. We have all heard those unfortunate stories and know of people who put it off too long. You can rewrite the story for yourself.

 

stop and go

Recently I’ve been reading “What’s holding you back: 8 critical choices for women’s success” by Linda Austin and have begun noticing areas where I hold myself back. In the book, Austin addresses areas where women stand in the way of their own achievements, and motivates women to address these choices.

And since I have ambitions I MUST achieve, its time to cut the crap and make better choices for myself.

I am guilty guilty guilty of comparing my success to others, my income level to others, and my place in life to others. This is far too common among us gals, but lets get real. No one is living my life, no one is in my skin, I will never share those others’ experiences in the same way.  All of our neurons are connected uniquely, we quite literally could never be the same. Its time to appreciate differences, stop comparing goals and speeds and paths. I’m on a great path, and I need to make myself focus on seeing that.

Another way I’ve held myself back is my fear to break through into a new group of colleagues. I know this stems from my “newness” to the business, but I have to dig up the confidence that I belong in the group, and these colleagues, many 20-30 years older than me, are in fact my peers. I need to remind myself that I do have a voice, I do have expert knowledge, and people DO want to hear what I have to say. Ah, this one is tough. Attending meetings, research presentations, social hours, and dinners with these pros….I just always feel out of place. I need to get better at the small talk, introductions, and generally feeling at ease in new social groups. ho hum

The last area I find that I hold myself back is in the circular reasoning I mull over in my head. I often find myself questioning and creating negative outcomes of what might happen to others when I do move forward. While on one side I can hear myself applauding myself for being such a kind hearted, caring fiance, friend, daughter, etc for considering how others might feel or respond to my decsions….I realize this is not only harmful to me, but holding myself back can actually harm others too. I know in the deepest parts of me soul without a doubt that those around me “have my back”, and would be pleased as pie to see me succeed. There may be sacrifices along the road to that success that affect others, but worth it to all involved.  Furthermore, these worries I have crafted so cleverly in my mind, really only exist there.

 

so, this little rant summarizes a few insecurities I’ve been addressing, and hopefully these small bits won’t stand in my way anymore.

Have you noticed times when something inside you held you back from achieving goals? How did you get past it? What ways are you wanting to expand?

from 30,000 ft to 25 genes

I’m writing this post from the sky on my way to attend the and annual meeting for the Genetics program in Houston, Texas.  This group consists of physicians and Genetic Counselors from across the country involved in developing the program, its resources, and providing access to cancer genetic screening within the network of oncologists we work with, a national association of oncology clinics and centers.

And I’m headed there.

As previously mentioned, I am SO glad to have landed this job, as the genetics Program Admin. This, at times, can get tedious and repetitive, but it is a wonderful stepping stone into medicine. I have gained such a broad and diverse perspective on the various careers and roles within oncology, and have had several fabulous opportunities to expand my scope.

This particular trip will be another huge stepping stone, as this meeting will be held at the companies’ headquarters. I will be sitting amongst the top leaders in this field, listening to the very inner working conversations moving the program forward. I am honored that the physicians I work with value me enough to invite me to attend and participate in the leadership meeting, and am so excited for the education this experience will provide me.

Perhaps I might even have a novel ideal to throw in. I’ll let you know if I come up with anything brilliant, and in the mean time, will try to avoid coming across as a 23 year old buffoon.

Free Angela

Two weeks ago I had a life changing experience. Adolfo called me on my way home from work and said casually, “Hey, I got tickets to see this civil rights activist, Angela Davis speak. Its in Forrest Grove, wanna go? I think you’ll like her”. Lately, I’ve been feeling very lethargic and uninterested in attending speakers, but on this day, I was all for it. “Ok, lets go” – I had never heard a Civil Rights activist speak, this could be interesting.

During the hour long drive from Portland, Adolfo subtly hinted at a few pieces of information about her history, explaining who the Black Panther group was, and that she was once imprisoned for her ties with the Communist Party. Who was this woman we were going to listen to? What was she doing speaking at a university in the middle of no where out side of Portland? What are we getting ourselves into?

As we walked into the gymnasium at Pacific University, my eyes told me this was going to be quite an event. I believe there was more diversity in terms of skin color, ages, gender identity, sexual orientation, and the beautiful groups of humans gathered together in that gymnasium than in all of Oregon. It was wonderful, and I was excited.

Her introduction gave more hints about her history and what an honor it was to be in the audience. As I listened, a tingle crept up my spine. Who was this woman? What had she experienced, And why have I never before begun to question and critic our society the way she had done for all of her life?

As she spoke, my soul was lifted. I furiously took notes, writing historical events, names, and concepts I had never before heard of. I leaned over to ask Adolfo naïve questions like, “what is she referring to?”, “what is the proper term for ____”, and a stupid comment that came to mind that “I always felt like I needed permission to talk about race since I wasn’t affected” – oh the privilege!

Her speech shook me. It slammed me right up against a wall, stole my pocket change, and opened my eyes while forcing me to become uncomfortable with the way things are. When she finished answering questions and wrapped up her speech, I raced to the table where her books were being sold and bought all of them. Since that speech, and working my way through her wonderful writings, I have learned so much about the society we live in. She has opened my eyes to the insurmountable social injustices taking place and has led me to question things such as, Why is it that we accept racism, sexism, and poverty to still exist in a nation of so many resources? When did our society start believing the lie that we are ALL FREE? This is so very untrue.

Some of the other major topics Ms. Davis addresses are the industrial prison complex, a modern day form of slavery, and the feminist movement, which is not just for women, but a continuation of the civil rights movement benefiting all of HUMANITY. Her words of wisdom have awoken me from an ignorant state. I’m not satisfied with the huge disparities and inequalities of basic human rights still engulfing our nation. I am thrilled to continue reading, and plan to educate myself further and begin to take actions within the movements. First and foremost, I would like to find a way to join the Black Panther movement, or find a current day group fighting for the same ideals..

I think Adolfo was right, I really like her. and I think everyone should go find a copy of “The Meaning of Freedom” right now, and get back to me when you’re done.