September 4, 2007

First Day of School!

Hey! It's the first day of school! This semester I'm looking forward to 4 hopefully great classes:

SAS Procedures & Data Analysis
Epidemiologic Methods III
Epidemiologic Methods IV
Decision Analysis for Healthcare

I looking forward to lots of application based instructuion which I am anticipating getting in the SAS procedures class, epi methods 4, and the decision analysis class. Hopefully this semester will mark alot of progress towards feeling like I will be ready for the work force come May.

I've got my big Dialogue for Action working meeting coming up next week, so I'm looking forward to that and the ideas that will come out of the meeting. Next wednesday I get to present the questionnaire I was working on the the Minnesota Department of Health to the CDC site visit team, so I'm looking forward to that as well.

Pretty much it's going to be a busy first two weeks of school, but busy in a good way.

This summer was pretty awesome. In the midst of taking 11 credits, working 20 hours a week, and doing my field experience 10 hours a week, I did manage to squeeze in a ton of fun activities. A few trips home to see Adam and my mom definitely made the summer go by quickly. My mom just finished her last dose of chemotherapy last week, so she's recovering from that. In a few weeks she'll get her port out and then probably start radiation therapy a few weeks after that. She's doing pretty well, though the side effects are pretty major and we're really excited that the end is in sight.

In other news, my comptuer got fried by one of the lightning storms a few weeks ago (yes I had a surge protector!, though obviously I need a new one). I've been spending alot of time lately trying to identify the broken hardware and get new hardware ordered and installed. Moral of the story... make sure you have a decent surge protector and unplug your computer during lightning storms!

July 17, 2007

Summer Update

Summer has pretty much been trucking along with nothing getting in it's way. I'm taking 3 online classes this summer plus working at my field experience and my RA position. I've definitely been busy, but it's been good. I've had time on the weekends to hang out with friends and I was able to go home and see my mom for a while, and home for one weekend to see family and go to a friends wedding. I'm taking a weight training class this summer at the rec center, which I definitely am enjoying.

Here is a picture of the baby geese at the park where my mom works. She has been working full time all through her chemotherapy for her breast cancer.
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This is another pretty picture of the flowers from her park.
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There have been so many activities that I just haven't gotten around to putting up postings about them!

Things I should post about
-May BBQ at Thuy's House
-My afternoon at the MoA underwater adventures aquarium
-Emily's Wedding
-Hanging out around Minneapolis
-Summer classes

Well, I'm off to go work on some homework, hopefully I'll be able to get more pictures up soon!

Hope everyone is having a great summer!

Pretty Flower

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May 14, 2007

Done with finals!

Well, I'm done with finals! Hooray!

I think they went quite well overall, though I haven't seen grades for the two big classes yet (epi and biostats). I thought the tests overall were quite fair, there were a few tricky parts, but nothing that was unreasonably tricky.

This past weekend has been FULL of commencement parties! It was a really fun weekend. Friday I went to a BBQ at Thuy's house and there was a ton of Karaoke (I'm more into the watching than the singing). Then on Saturday we had a party at the Radisson. It was very fun, there was great food, a photo booth and frame-making table, and a band, and a locked treasure chest with two round trip airfare tickets in it (or rather a certificate saying that's what the prize would be). It was an action-packed prize giveaway-- Each student at the party was given a raffle ticket which they then turned in for a key. The key was for the lock on the treasure chest, and whichever key opend the lock won the tickets! The absolutely freakishly awesome thing that happened though is that it was the absolute LAST key tried that opened the chest. Made those who planned the treasure chest even a tad bit nervous when none of the keys had opened the chest so far. Good times. Then yesterday we had a picnic at como park. It was very relaxed, people just sat around or played lawn games, and enjoyed each others company and the nice weather. Overall, really great last weekend.

This afternoon is SPH commencement. I'm really excited that Laurie Garrett is the speaker; she is one of my favorite authors so I really look forward to hearing what she has to say. Her favorite book of mine is "Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health" It's pretty gigantic, but tells a good story.

This week I'll be working quite a bit at my job to get a bunch of work done before I'm gone for 3 weeks to Seattle/Spokane, so I better get started!

May 5, 2007

Nearing the end

Well classes are all finished up for the semester. Next week I have 2 in-class exams, 1 take home exam to turn in, and 2 homework assignments to finish up. I also need to get my field experience paperwork in place before the 15th.

As far as my field experience goes, I'm pretty excited about it. It looks like I'll be working at MDH this summer in the cancer control section developing a questionnaire for the SAGE program. SAGE is the breast and cervical cancer screening program for women who are either under insured or uninsured. I really like the woman who manages this part of the cancer control division. We are going to meet again next week at MDH to go over some logistics and come up with a plan of what my project this summer will look like. I have learned over the past few years that I really enjoy survey design. It gives me great pleasure to put together a form that looks good and makes it easy for a study subject to fill it out.

So the most exciting part of my week was the present I got from my fantastic other-mother (boyfriends mom Laura)
We had been talking for a long time about sewing machines. She had her older sewing machine that we were thinking of getting refurbished for me to use and also she had an elementary model of a sewing machine she was going to send to me to use here in MN. So I was expecting that to come in the mail at some point.. but instead I got a brand new Singer in the mail!!!! It's SO cool. It has 30 different stitches it knows how to do just with the touch of a button. So today Stacy took me to the fabric store and I got a rotary cutter, a mat, pins a small iron and thread. I already have quite a bit of fabric- though I meant to get some practice fabric, but I forgot. So I need to do some laundry to wash the fabric I have designated for some projects and get started sewing! :-) so excited :-)


April 27, 2007

Busy!

I've had a pretty hectic past 3 weeks, much of it made hectic by my own choices.

So last week I was in Seattle all week. It was a trip that had been planned for about 8 or 9 months, so it's arrival was not unexpected. The trip was originally planned around a trip that Adam and I had won. Round trip airfare and hotel to Anaheim CA. Of course we figured we'd go to Disneyland the one day we were there. But the trip ended up having a dual purpose which was to try and see my mom (see the earlier post about her having just been diagnosed with breast cancer not too long ago). I wanted to go over and see her for 4 of the 7 days I was in Washington, but it ended up not happening. I had so much work to do for school last week that I just couldn't justify adding in another trip. I eventually decided not to buy the extra plane tickets becuase my mom was doing so well and I'm going to be home for a few weeks during May, so I figured I'd actually be able to see her and be able to help out with stuff, rather than be like "hi mom, excuse me while I go work on this paper on the computer" :-)

Mom started chemotherapy yesterday. So far she's feeling fine, but they told her it would take about 24 hours until the steroids they gave her wear off and then she will probably start to feel yucky. She's taking all of the anti emetic drugs, but I guess they work differently in different people, so hopefully hopefully she is one of the people who they help alot. I think the part she is most afriad of with the chemotherapy is the nausea. She'll be on 4 doses (8 weeks) of AC chemo, then 4 doses (8 weeks) of Taxol, then 6 weeks of radiation, then 5 years of tamoxifen. So she'll be done in about six months probably (end of September, beginning of October-ish). So anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing her in a few weeks.

With all of this happening, it's been pretty hard to concentrate on school. Though I think I've been doing a pretty decent job of keeping up with my school stuff during all of this. My professors have been very understanding and flexible. At this point in the semester there are just a handful of things left to do, but when you write it all down it still looks like quite a bit

School stuff
Biostats homework
Epi homework on questionnaire design
2 postings left for online ethics class
some question postings for Cancer epi
Cancer epi take home final
Epi final
Biostats final

Other stuff
Friend coming in from out of town on May 1st
Work DFA planning meeting on May 7th
Attend cancer summit on May 8th
Help out at commencement on May 14th and with all of the pre-commencement activities over the weekend.
Head home to Seattle on May 17th or 18th.

I don't really feel overwhelmed with school at all right now. I feel like everything left to do is pretty reasonable and have pretty much felt that way about most of my first year of graduate school here at the U of M

April 12, 2007

Update

My mom is doing really well. She went to her surgeon yesterday and got cleared for physical activity and prescribed some physical therapy to help her get her arms limbered up again after the surgery. They invited her to participate in a phase III clinical trial. You can read the description of the study at

http://www.cancer.gov/search/ViewClinicalTrials.aspx?cdrid=334899&version=healthprofessional
or

http://www.ctsu.org/ and search for breast cancer trials
The study is called...
Phase III Trial of Continuous Schedule AC + G Vs. Q 2 Week Schedule AC, Followed by Paclitaxel Given Either Every 2 Weeks or Weekly for 12 Weeks as Post-Operative Adjuvant Therapy in Node-Positive or High- Risk Node Negative Breast Cancer.

We haven't decided for sure yet if she is going to participate, but think that she probably will.

I've had a TON of class work to take care of this week and I'm hoping to be pretty much caught up with my work by tomorrow.

April 4, 2007

A Sad and Happy Story

The good news is that everything is going to be okay.

I debated and I thought for quite a while about weather or not I wanted to share this story with the general global community and have eventually decided yes…

As a public health student and professional, I realized that I have developed a “knowledge will protect me? attitude. That if I can just know enough about a topic then I will be protected from the ravages of that disease or bad health exposure.

About 5 weeks ago ago my mom went to the doctor to schedule her colonoscopy and also mention a lump that she could feel in her breast. She has had fairly regular mammograms over the last 14 years, but because of “dense? tissue in her breasts the last scan did not detect a smaller version of this lump. The mammogram revealed a mass in her right breast that was fairly large (about 3cm). The day before her biopsy she finally told me what was happening. I was heartbroken, but placed a great deal of my faith in the low chance of having a lump biopsy come back positive for cancer. The days of waiting in between the biopsy and the results were torturous and nerve wracking.

The Friday that spring break was starting I was at the airport waiting for my plane to take me home to Seattle. I called my mom to find out if she had the biopsy results yet and she sounded like she had been crying. I knew right then that the tests were not what we had hoped for. We cried alot those first few days and then got over the sadness and on to fighting the battle. Further diagnostics revealed that there were two tumors which may or may not be bridged, and still further diagnostics revealed two more tiny tumors in her right breast and a suspicious area in her left breast.

Initially the plan had been to do chemotherapy, breast conserving surgery, and then more chemo/radiation. But once they discovered that there were several tumors and that they were widely dispersed in her breast, they decided that mastectomy was the only option. My mom decided as soon as they told her she had breast cancer that if they had to remove one breast, then they were going to remove both of them. She firmly believes that breasts are for one thing, breast feeding, and they served that purpose a long time ago.

They had my mom scheduled for anesthesia on the 23rd to do her sentinel node biopsy and to install a port for chemo. Since she was already going to be knocked out, they decided to do the double mastectomy at the same time. So just two weeks after she found out she had cancer, she had a double mastectomy. Everything has just been moving so fast it's hard to keep my wits about me.

The pathology results from the surgery came back last Tuesday. We were thrilled to learn that there is no nodal involvement with her tumor which indicates there probably isn't any metastasis of the cancer! Hooray! They also learned in dissecting her breast that the two larger tumors were bridged and so her tumor will be registered in the cancer registry as an "Invasive ductal, stage 3 5cm tumor that is Estrogen/progestin receptor positive and HER2 negative."

She is going to do 4 rounds of chemotherapy and will start that in about 2 or 3 weeks depending on how fast she continues to heal from her surgery. I hope to be able to go home and visit her sometime in the next month or so.

I've been really glad that I have been able to help my mom navigate the health care system a little even though I am so far away. And I've been able to help her understand all of the research literature that's out there and interpret that they mean. She has a really great friend support network at home and my Aunt from California has been able to take time off work and helped my mom through the toughest parts of the surgery recovery.

The moral of the story is: Remember the saying of "cobblers children wear no shoes" If you are a health professional, don't forget that those near and dear to you need screening just as much as the next person. Make sure you encourage your older friends and family to stay current on their health care screenings and to see a doctor if they feel like something isn't right with their bodies.

Had my mom not gone in to see the doctor about the lump she felt, a few more months might have been the difference between no metastasis and metastasis. Luckily it looks like we managed to get hit with just a few bullets, but dodged some other larger artillery.

Since all this has happened we have also done alot of thinking about our family history of breast cancer, what was said and what wasn't said. When my grandma was 52, she felt a lump in her breast and went in for a lumpectomy. When she woke up from anesthesia she only had one breast! No one had even asked her if that was what she wanted, they just did it (thank goodness for progress in informed consent procedure). I don't think they ever told her if the mass in her breast was cancerous or not, so we can only assume that it might have been. It was never said that my great grandmother died of breast cancer, but in trying to remember some of the stories my grandma used to tell about her mother, it seems like that might have been what happened to her. I'm considering asking to be screened for the BRCA genes just to confirm my own curiousity about weather I have the gene or not. I'm already planning on heightened screening, so knowing if I have the gene would just be for curiousity's sake more than anything.

So anyway, just thought I would share my story. Maybe some of you have gone through the same sort of thing and felt the same sorts of feelings of helplessness, or maybe this can just give you something to think about as another aspect of your professional careers bumping into your personal life.

March 19, 2007

Long Week

I *just* now got back from spring break. I was supposed to come back last night around 5pm, but my flight was full, so I volunteered to take the red eye flight to get a free plane ticket. It was worth it for the free plane ticket, but I'm definately going to be a little bit of a zombie today.

Spring break was pretty good overall. I had lots of fun as usual getting to see Adam, but there were a few sad family/friend things that happened over spring break.

I'm supposed to have a half-semester online course that starts today, but the professor hasn't sent out an email with any instructions or opened webCT yet, so I guess I'm just supposed to wait until that happens to do anything.

February 24, 2007

Trip to California and Stormy Weather

School is definitely going to be busy these next two weeks before spring break. As I'm sure most students do right before spring break, I've got lots of assignments and tests and meetings. I'll do a more complete class posting sometime this week, but for now I think posting pictures from my trip to California would be more fun!

The Wedding Party
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The fun wedding party picture!
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Natalia and I getting ready to head off to the wedding location doing makeup and such...
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The awesome weather and the Santa Barbara beach (actually it's the Carpinteria beach, but close enough)
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Did the storm on Friday night wake anyone else up periodically throughout the night?
I'm a pretty heavy sleeper, but the wind woke me up about 3 or 4 times during the night. The wind kept shaking my windows and blowing the icy rain sleet stuff at them. Very noisy little storm. Saturday morning it was really quiet when I woke up, so I figured the snow must have started, and indeed it had! I love severe weather!

Friday night I was planning on hosting a potluck at my house with a few other students from the school of public health. But at the last minute everyone decided the weather was going to be too severe to be out driving around in it, so it ended up being just me and Jooyeon. We still had fun though! Jooyeon made a Korean spicy vegetable dish ( I can't remember what it's called) and I made crab puffs, a vegetable soup in the crock pot, and margaritas.

February 9, 2007

How I came to be here...

Well, I’ve been saying for a while that I wanted to write about how I decided to come to Minnesota for grad school and I’ve finally got a moment when I can devote a while to doing the story justice.

I started picking out which programs and schools to apply to in the fall of 2005 in preparation for starting graduate school in the fall of 2006. I ended up applying to 5 schools. The 5 finalists were University of Washington, University of Minnesota, University of Arizona, University of Illinois Chicago and Ohio State University.

I spent quite a bit of time trying to decide which programs to apply to. I knew that I wanted to apply to a school of public health masters level program, but I was pretty torn between biostats, epi, and health services. I ended up choosing to apply to the EPI MPH program because I thought it would fit best with what I wanted to get out of graduate school. After I thought a lot about what I wanted to do, I decided that what I really wanted out of my masters program was to learn as many analytical and study design skills as I can so that when I go out into the work force I can work on many different areas of public health and have the toolkit of skills I will need to do many different aspects of study design and analysis.

Looking back I’m not really sure I spent as much time choosing the schools I would apply to as I should have. I’ll admit that my first choice was not the U of M, though I am quite happy with it as my final choice. My first choice was the University of Washington because it’s a good school and I’m from Seattle so I wanted to stay there with my family and friends, but my grades weren’t quite good enough to get in there. As for the other 4 schools, I did get in to all of them, but for several reasons, the U of M definitely came out waaay on top of the other schools. The application for UofM was a million times better than any of the other schools I applied to. I heard back about my admission about a month and a half after I sent in my application and the student services office was always available for questions and super helpful in terms of directing me to people that could answer my questions. That combined with the fact that U of M is a highly ranked school clinched my decision.

I didn’t actually visit the U of M campus before I accepted my admission here because I didn’t have time to schedule a trip. It worked out fine, but I was a little nervous about moving out here having never been to Minnesota.

If you’re reading this and you are a prospective student, please feel free to leave me a message and I’ll try to answer your question or point you to the person who can!

January 19, 2007

Nice Restaurant

I'm trying to come up with a nice/fun/tasty place to take Adam for dinner while he's in town at the end of January. Does anyone have any ideas about a really yummy restaurant in the twin cities area? We don't have a car, so we would be taking the bus or a taxi to and from dinner. I have a pretty good idea about chain restaurants, but I'd love to hear some suggestions from people who have tried out some of the local restaurants. All types of food are welcome, and most price ranges are fine.

Suggestions?

Christmas Break

okay, I said would post pictures from Christmas break, so here they are! Now that classes have started again I'll have some more school related stuff to talk about. I think I'll do my next entry on the classes I'm taking this semester (though honestly they haven't even all met yet for the first time!) :-) and I'm also going to post some stuff about how I decided on U of M for graduate school.

We got a really good family photo while I was home in Spokane for Christmas. My mom is a gardener for the city of Spokane. One of the things she worked on this year was the decoration of the conservatory with Christmas lights. Every year they string every single plant in the conservatory with lights. They have even come up with ways to light the really flimsy plants. So while we were there someone took a picture of us on the bridge over the little pond in the greenhouse. It is such a nice picture!

Family Photo
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My big project over vacation was making this decoupage decorated box for Adam for Christmas. I took pictures from the past 3 years and effectively made a giant collage on a box, but it looked really cool when it was done!

Box for Adam
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Our neighbor in Spokane was in a really horrible car accident about a year ago. She has two cats, so my mom has been taking care of them while our neighbor has been living at a rehabilitation place. One of the cats has decided that she really likes to be inside and be getting into EVERYTHING! here is a picture of her getting into the Christmas tree, which she found soooo fascinating.
Christmas Tree Cat
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While we were in Seattle we went out for one of my favorite foods- conveyor belt sushi! We had a dinner date with our friends Christie and Nick. You can see the cool conveyor belt full of yummy sushi in the background.

Christie and Adam at the sushi place
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Well, the highlight of Christmas break was getting to spend 2 weeks in Seattle with Adam. I know I've said it a million times, but it's true. Below is cute picture that I took while I was in Seattle. Adam is going to come to Minneapolis to visit at the end of January. I'm hoping that we will be able to go to the St. Paul Winter Carnival to see the ice carving and other such things.

Cute Pic of Annie and Adam
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January 11, 2007

Back to School

This week I've been taking the 1 credit SAS class called Data Processing with PC-SAS. The class is only a week long, but I think it has been extremely helpful in terms of getting comfortable trying things within SAS and feeling more comfortable with manipulating datasets. The class is taught by Michael Oakes and I think he does a really great job of explaining concepts in a way that I at least have a very easy time understanding. There are probably about 30 people (I think) in the class, but I think everyone feels very comfortable asking questions. The class is structured such that you spend 2 hours in lecture in the morning (9-11) and two hours in lab after lunch. The lab section is really nice because it has !3! TA’s which makes getting individual help very easy.

I was a little hesitant to take this class because I didn’t want to come home a week early from winter break, but I think it has been a nice transition for me from vacation back to school.

I had SO much fun over the break. After spending a week at my mom’s house for Christmas, I went and spent two weeks at Adam’s house with him and his family. On New Years we went up to Seattle to spend the evening with a bunch of friends from college. It was so great to see everyone.

When the weather first started turning cold here in Minneapolis, I noticed that many people had a pea coat for their warmer winter jacket. I’ve always kind of wanted a pea coat so I asked for one for Christmas. Adam got me one and I’ve been enjoying it’s wolly warmness a lot this week ?

Keep your eyes out for upcoming pictures from Winter Break!

December 26, 2006

loving Christmas break!

Hope everyone is having a happy holiday season. I've been at home here in Washington for about a week. Finals finished about a week ago for me and I've been loving being done. I got my grades and I'm satisfied with how I did in my classes. I got an A- and two B's. Not fantastic, but I can deal with that. Hopefully I'll do better next semester.

I got two new pairs of long underwear pants type things for Christmas, which I totally needed. They are so nice to have to wear under clothes when it's cold outside and you have to walk to school. I also got some new sheets for my bed, some cute socks, and cute sweaters. I also got a scrapbooking instruction manual to learn how to do all sorts of cool scrapbooking things.

I keep hoping for snow, and we got about 3 inches in Spokane, but so far none in Seattle, which isn't too surprising.

Well off to do more holiday activities!