I want to do it all…

Ever since I was a kid, I had grand ideas about what I wanted to do “when I grew up.” I wanted to be that “Astronaut-Veterinarian-Doctor” who rode horses and ice skated in my free time. That hasn’t changed much.

For a few years, I had gotten so sick, that I had resigned myself to the fact that I may never get well, never mind pursue any dreams of a career. Dr. C changed that, and in time, I began to get better, and she planted the idea of finishing a medical education as a nurse practitioner into a brain that was finally clearing from the fog that chronic Lyme disease and its co-infections can bring.

So I began down that road, and it’s what continues to drive me: the thought of bringing wellness to others who are also suffering with a disease so few in the medical field are treating with the seriousness it deserves. And here I am farther down that road, and having done an internship with Palliative and Hospice, I found a nursing specialty that speaks to my soul: a specialty that brings dignity and clarity to the chronically ill and dying – a specialty that so few seem to really understand. So I wonder, will I ever get the chance to explore that specialty?

But then, recently, I attended a lecture on emerging viral disease, and it reignited my love for research. I took 6 months off from my undergrad education back in the early 90s to participate in governmental research at a national laboratory, and I was bitten by the lab bug. There is something about finding the answers to questions and performing experiments that tickles the mad scientist in me. So I wonder, will I ever get the chance to be in a lab again? Perhaps doing research on Lyme disease and other tick borne illness?

The truth is, I really want to do it all.

But for now, I will continue in my initial direction, and finish my education as an NP, so as to help patients who suffer like I once did. However, you can bet I will be looking for the opportunity to explore my other interests along the way.

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Catching Up!

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It feels like ages since I’ve written. But let me tell you what’s kept me so busy!!!

I just passed my last nursing final! And as soon as transcripts are ready after graduation, I send them to the state boards and then I can finally set a date to take my NCLEX-RN exam. I’m exhausted and excited all in the same breath.

This has been a hell of a journey. I was merely 18 months into treatment when I started nursing school, at the suggestion of my Lyme doctor who thought that if I finish as an FNP, I can join the fight as a medical professional providing care for those afflicted. And I’ve been on that mission ever since.

My family, friends and classmates have walked this journey with me, and for all of them I am grateful. My classmates saw me on my good days and on my bad days. They saw me trudge through the halls, more than just a few times, pain written all over my face, and in my gait. In the beginning I used to try and hide it more, but by the end I would just honestly tell them I was having a bad pain day. They were always empathetic, as I could see my discomfort reflected back in their furrowed brow and grimace. I hope I touched them somehow. I hope I was able to open their eyes to what Lyme disease can do to patients, and they can be that one medical professional who believes their patient when no one else does.

My friends came to me when I couldn’t go to them. They let me sit on the couch in comfort when my upbringing told me I needed to put on coffee, put out a meal, or at least some cake, and be a proper host. “Sit DOWN!” became more of an order than a suggestion. They knew. Oh, how they knew.

And my family. My husband. He worked every day through this process, supporting us financially through treatment and the cost of classes and books, uniforms and tools. Never once insinuated I was faking my illness, or that I could be doing more through my illness. He always just accepted whatever stage I was in when I was in it. My daughter, who has helped pick up the slack at home, despite her own busy schedule as a high school sophomore. And all she ever asked for was cuddles in bed before she went to sleep. I am lucky to have been blessed with them.

And now, finally, the first step is nearly complete. I have to earn my RN license, and only one test stands between me and that license. Step two will be spending a year in acute care, learning everything I possibly can, and being on a progressive care unit, I have no fear that I will learn a lot in short order. Then comes the next step, which would be to get into an MSN FNP program.

They keep telling me the hard part is over. Earning the RN license is the biggest hurdle, and that if I can do that, the higher degree should be manageable. Thankfully, there are program local to me that will allow me to enter the MSN program with my bachelors I already hold, instead of having to earn a BSN. That saves me tens of thousands of dollars. And with a high school student who is on the cusp her own higher education, I need to save that kind of money.

But truthfully, I think the hardest part is over. My symptoms are much less than they used to be, and the really bad days have gotten farther and fewer between. I still have pain most days, but it’s largely manageable. Fatigue also continues to plague me, but I normally just push through, choosing to leave the house and get out and DO SOMETHING because when I’m outside and engaged in life, it’s easier. But the biggest indicator that I am feeling better is my ability to metabolize alcohol like I used to. So after finals this year, I had a few celebratory drinks. Granted it was spread over nine hours, and I still ached the next day, but the fact that the room wasn’t spinning after half an ounce was HUGE for me. Now, I’ve never been much of a drinker, but it is nice to be able to celebrate this way once in a while, especially since I couldn’t for so long.

I’m hoping I can start focusing on my physical health again, because I know nursing is hard on the body. I want to be as good as I can be before I start work this summer. I have to remember to make every day a step toward that goal.