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Nicole Mooney Icon inverted

Nicole Mooney

Icon Founding Member
Medical Student
Glasgow
I'm currently a 3rd year medical student at Glasgow University.
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Dealing with Personal Illness in Med School

Hey guys! I’m Nicole and I’m a second year medical student at Glasgow University. I’ve decided to start this blog to write about my experiences as a med student and the difficulties I encounter along the way, hopefully giving you something you can relate to. Since June of last year I have been suffering with a personal illness, with symptoms of persistent nausea, gastric pain and lethargy. At first I thought it was just a bug that would pass on fairly quickly, but as the summer months went on it was clear that this illness wasn’t going to disappear overnight. I spent my summer going through a copious amount of medications in hope that I’d feel better for term starting. I visited my GP several times and had bloods taken regularly. After 2 months, I finally got given a diagnosis; I had a helicobacter pylori infection. I started eradication therapy for a week and although it made my symptoms worse, I was positive would make me better and I’d be well again within the week. The week passed with no improvements in my condition. Frustrated, I went back to my GP who referred me for an endoscopy. Term started back the next week and despite feeling miserable I managed to drag myself out to every lecture, tutorial and lab. Within a few weeks I began to fall behind in my work, doing the bare minimum required to get through. Getting up each morning was a struggle and forcing myself to sit in lectures despite the severe nausea I was experiencing was becoming a bigger challenge each day. In October I went for my endoscopy which, for those of you that don't know, is a horribly uncomfortable procedure. My family and friends assured me that this would be the final stage and I’d be better very very soon. The results came back and my GP gave me a different PPI in hope that it would fix everything. I waited a few weeks and struggled through uni constantly hoping that everything would magically get better. I gave up almost all my extra-circular activities which for me, the extrovert I am, was possibly the hardest part of it all. I wanted to stay in bed all the time and I become more miserable every day. I was stressing about falling behind in uni and tensions began to build up in my personal life. It got to the point where I couldn’t eat a meal without it coming back up causing me to lose a substantial amount of weight. I got so stressed that I had to leave an exam to throw up. I was truly miserable. I seen a consultant just before Christmas who scheduled me in for some scans, but it wasn’t until January. I was frustrated at how long this was going on for and I thought it was about time I told the medical school about my situation. They were very understanding and I was slightly surprised at just how supportive they were. I contacted my head of year who arranged a visit with me for January. During the Christmas break I had a chance to relax and forget about everything that was stressing me. I got put on a stronger anti-sickness medication which, surprisingly, seemed to work. The tensions in my life that had built up in the last few months seemed to resolve themselves and I began to feel a lot more positive! I met with my head of year just last week who was encouraged by my newly found positive behaviour. We’ve agreed to see how things progress over the next few months, but things are looking a lot brighter than before. I’ve taken on a new attitude and I’m determined to work my hardest to get through this year. I’m currently undertaking an SSC so I have lots of free time to catch up on work I missed during the last term. My head of year has assured me that situations like the one I’m in happen all the time and I’m definitely not alone. I feel better knowing that the medical school are behind me and are willing to help and support me through this time. The most important thing I have taken from this experience is the fact that you’ll never know the full extent of what a patient is going through. Illness effects different people in different ways and it may not just be a persons health thats affected, it can affect all aspects of their life. This experience has definitely opened my eyes up and hopefully I’ll be able to understand patients’ situations a little better.  
Nicole Mooney
over 5 years ago
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Chronic: How one word can change everything

So, I think its about time I posted another blog post! A few weeks ago I received the results from my most recent scan. I was both nervous and excited to find out my results, after months of tests and being misdiagnosed several times I just wanted to know what was wrong with me. However, as I read through the letter from my consultant I realised that my journey was just beginning. I was diagnosed with a rare stomach condition. Gastroparesis. A chronic illness. There is no known cure, just various treatments with limited success. I didn’t really know how to react to this news. Shouldn’t I be happy that I finally knew what was wrong? I had convinced myself for months that as soon as the doctors found out what was wrong, they could fix it and I’d be better in no time, but this wasn’t to be. I couldn’t understand how this could happen. Slowly the reality began to sink in, I’ll probably be fighting this battle for the rest of my life. I think the mental aspect of chronic conditions is so commonly overlooked. I’ve sat through endless lectures about the pathophysiology of illnesses but I’ve never once stopped to think what it must be like to actually have it. The way it can limit your life, from not being able to go for a drink with friends because you’re in too much pain to the countless hospital appointments that your life seems to revolve around. The thing that hit me the most is the amount of medications I have to take on a daily basis just to make my symptoms bearable. I no longer have full control of my life and that's the worst part. This experience has given me an invaluable insight into how patients with chronic illness feel. It affects almost every aspect of your life and you can never escape. It scares me to think of the future, I never know when I’m going to get my next flare up or how long its going to last. I just have to take one day at a time and hope that when I wake up tomorrow I won’t be too nauseous. After spending a few weeks feeling down about it all, I’ve realised that I just have to enjoy life when I can and be grateful that I can still live a normal-ish life. It doesn’t matter how much I complain, it's not going to go away, and I think I’ve finally accepted that fact. If anything, this experience has made me more determined to achieve my dream of becoming a doctor. I’ve been a lot more motivated to work harder so that one day I can help others like me through some of their toughest times, hopefully bringing them some comfort and relief.  
Nicole Mooney
over 5 years ago