Thursday, July 30, 2015

Week 35/36: I want to be a part of it! NY, NY!!

(If you only want medical info and want to skip the travel talk, scroll down to that)


Start spreading the news! I want to wake up in the city that never sleeps!

Some famous lines from the song "New York, New York". Also the song that I had playing while I boarded the plane from Frankfurt to New York City. I left thinking that this week would be much like last years week. I should have known better than to be so naive. It is New York City after all. 

I woke up at 5am in Germany although my train to Frankfurt didn't leave until 8:17. I figured it would make me a bit tired and I could get a nap in on the plane. The great in flight entertainment system Delta provided didn't leave me much opportunity. I watched Get Hard (funny movie, especially if you are a fan of Kevin Hart and Will Ferrel), The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (I loved the first one and the second one did not disappoint) and finally, as a way of getting into the right mood, I watched Breakfast at Tiffany's. I've always liked that movie and often saw certain aspects of Holly Golightly in myself. Quotes from the movie also ended up being the title to most of my Instagram shots (@svikkivmh ; in case you don't follow me yet and would like to). 

I was in the city for a convention to assist my agent/boss/one of my dearest friends. She wasn't arriving until the next day however. Being chronically broke and always looking for a good deal, I booked a bed in a hostel out in New Jersesy's Union City. It took me a good 1.5 hours to get there. I had made arrangements to go out on the town with DJ Spade (a friend of friends of mine). Before hand, I walked to the Best Buy a mile away to charge my SIM card for my phone. I honestly felt less comfortable walking the streets of Jersey in the dusk than I have walking the streets of other places. I don't know why that is. I'm sure they are all lovely people there. I just wasn't really sure how safe or unsafe the neighborhood was. I generally believe in the goodness in people and know that the houses are filled with hard working loving families. I passed a few graduation parties with loud Spanish music playing. I was tempted to go congratulate the grad and see if I could get some yummy food. I thought it best to not interrupt however and continued on my way. I made it to Best Buy and back just before it was completely dark out. I wasn't sure what time I'd need to be back in the city so I just got ready and waited. Eventually I made my way back into the city and hung out in Time Square people watching until DJ Spade picked me up and we left for the club. You can really have a quite entertaining time watching people in time square. Revlon has an ad playing that included a camera zooming into the crowd and taking a snapshot. Of course, everyone tried to be in the focus of the shot. What made me laugh was that they ALL had their camera phones in front of their faces, so really, all you saw was the phones. It amazed me that they didn't catch on to just have the picture taken of their faces and then take a picture of the giant screen displaying the picture for about 15 seconds. Seriously people, learn to enjoy a moment and don't constantly document every second of your life. 

The night out was fun, the way home showed me just about how cheap I am and was a funny learning experience. I won't go into as much depth on the other days (this is a medical blog after all and it would be way too long and I don't think any one actually cares to hear it all) but the story of how I got home is one to learn from. 

When I booked my hostel for the night, I made sure to see if the buses would be running throughout the night. I picked a random time around 3am and saw that a bus did in fact run. I stupidly just assumed that meant they ran all night long. Unfortunately, I had just coincidentally looked up the last bus of the night. I also assumed the New York crowd partied until 5am as they do in Miami (at least that's when the clubs close....and then you proceed to 24 hour clubs like E11even). However, the lights went on at 4AM in the club we were at. My phone was at about 20% battery. I looked up the next bus and found no specific suggestions leaving Port Authority at 6AM. I wasn't about to make anyone drive me over to Jersey. I hung outside the club with DJ and his friends for a bit. Then DJ and I went back to Time Square to take some pictures. 

The place was basically empty. Total contrast to a few hours before. That all only went on until about 5:15. Port Authority wasn't opening its doors until 6. I decided 45 minutes wasn't a terrible wait. I had DJ drop me off in front of the station. I quickly decided the crowd might not be the best to hang around at that time of the day. Across the street was a 24 hour Duane Read store. I decided to get some band aids for my blistered feet and some coconut water. I'm a people person (most of the time), and figured I could use that to help me have a safe haven while I waited for the bus station to open. I just simply chatted up the cashier who didn't seem to mind. Another employee joined in on the conversation. For a second I thought the security guy was going to ask me to leave, but he just joined the conversation as well. It's fun to see what happens at a Duane Reade at 5:30 in the morning in NYC. I even helped a customer find mentos (might as well put me to work if I'm staying). At the end of the 45 minute conversation, I shook everyone's hand, thanked them for their hospitality and walked over to the bus station. At this point I had left the club about 2 hours ago and my phone only had 3% left.

I've had the great opportunity to have traveled quite a bit in my life so far. Nowhere, in the places I've been, has a public transportation location bin as horrific in navigating as Port Authority New York City has been. The gates are different than the buses, their isn't a proper way of searching for connections, sure they have huge electronic interactive screens supposedly their to help but if my 25-year-old rather tech savvy self can't figure it out, how should anyone from an older generation have any luck. I had just enough juice on my phone to look up the next connection but with no gate number. The next bus wasn't leaving until 6:40AM and it held a half a mile from my hostel. The one that would've been closer left 20 minutes later. I wasn't about to wait even longer, especially when I can walk that half a mile within those 20 min. I found the gate by looking at various posters since the larger than life iPad they had standing there wasn't doing the trick. I waited in the line until the bus came. 

Once I got to Jersey, it was bright out, the streets were empty and the side walks looked clean enough for me to take my shoes off and walk to my hostel. I did precisely that. I arrived at my hostel at 7:10AM, left the club 3 hours and 10 minutes prior, had 1% left on my phone and really only saved $8 in the process compared to the cheapest hotel in Manhattan. So yea, I learned from that. I never got angry along the way. I knew I'd eventually make it and didn't have an appointment until 12 o'clock check out the next day. 

I only slept 2 hours before getting my stuff packed up and heading back to Manhattan. I met up with a friend of mine for a well needed brunch at Tick-Tock. I met Bob as a 15 year old on my trip to NYC 10 years prior and we have always stayed in touch. Afterwards, I met up with my friend who had made it to NYC. The rest of the day was spent getting some work done and a little cocktail party that night. By the time I made it to bed, I was up for almost 48 hours with only about 4 hours of sleep in between. Needless to say, I slept like a rock.

The rest of the week was filled with so many endless wonderful conversations with people we've known and a few new ones. Work was fun and I absolutely loved every minute of the week. People can be such great creatures. Especially when they are generous and kind and expect nothing in return but your presence and conversation. I didn't see much of the city itself because we spent a lot of time in the hotel for work. We made it down to the new World Trade Center and walked up through TriBeCa and SoHo one day. 

I spent Saturday morning with someone I met at the beginning of the week, taking pictures and visiting the zoo. 

I also met up with a friend from my home town. She was a senior in high school when I was a freshman. We just bonded over the years and would always meet up when I was in New York. She is a very kind soul and I'm glad I got to see her again. 

Needless to say, after the high of happiness I was on throughout the whole week, it was not easy getting on that flight back to Germany. But it had to be done. 

Some of my favorite spots in NYC when I did actually leave the hotel were:

Pazza Notte (1375 6th Ave, New York, NY 10019): Italian restaurant a block away from the Hilton Midtown we were at. Delicious food, the funghi risotto is to die for! And the prices are not insane for New York midtown standards. My coworkers also really enjoyed the all-the-time 2-for-1 martinis and 2-for-1 wine happy hour. 

Ray's Pizza (multiple throughout the city): a New York classic and my late night stop before heading to time square.

Tao Downtown (92 Ninth Ave, New York, NY 10011): we went here with a bunch of people for a fabulous dinner. It's not the cheapest place but a pretty cool one! The restaurant is ginormous and the interior design is great! The sushi looked fantastic and even vegetarians had plenty to eat :) 

Names&Faces (159 W 54th St, New York, NY 10019): a bar that is a regular hang out spot for all that attend the convention. It has some really neat artwork of famous actors hanging on the walls. Might not be as poppin as it is every week like the week the convention happens but it seems that during this week, I can always find at least one familiar face in this place. 

Tick Tock Diner NY (481 8th Ave, New York, NY 10001): fun colorful interior design and a yummy brunch menu!

New York, I can not wait to return!

Quick update on my dog Toby: he is back to being his old self. Seems as though he may have eaten something rotten and combined with the extreme heat, deteriorated quickly. Thank you a million times over to my parents for rescuing him! 



So now to my first week in hematology and oncology. 

I think I've mentioned this before, but I always feel that the first day in a new department is a little awkward. I get along with people so quickly and feel so comfortable quicker than most that I get impatient for the people to get to know me enough to feel comfortable enough to joke around with me. It took about three days until the doctors started to feel comfortable to make jokes. In the mean time, I felt a bit out of place the first day. A) I was still adjusting from my high from New York B) Monday's are usually the most hectic were everyone is running around organizing things and not really keen on having a new person to deal with and C) I was tired still trying to catch up on sleep from my rather sleepless last week. Neither of the doctors felt completely responsible for teaching me. I just looked for productive things to do. There was supposedly a shortage in nursing staff so they left the blood drawing to us students. I was not too amused but I figured it was a good way of getting to know the patients and I might as well be doing something rather than standing around. The doctor promised that I would be allowed to perform a bone marrow aspiration while I was there. I assisted a few throughout the week. 
The bags under my eyes are Chanel.

I spent the first three days on the ward helping out the doctors with blood draws, admission examinations and random things. On day two, the doctors were sharing their chocolate with me (always a good sign in my book) and by day three, they were cracking jokes and calling me Viky. I think that's fairly good progress and we should be just fine the coming three weeks. 

Today, I went on rounds with the chief to see the privately insured patients. Afterwards, we spent the rest of the day with consultations. It was an interesting day for me. I was able to see various types of cancers in various progressions and witness different stages of the process of going through cancer, from the moment the patient is informed they have cancer, to the start, middle and end of treatment and the end stage were the patient will die in the foreseeable future. It was interesting to see how every person dealt differently with the situation. Most however, were understandably worried and frightened and looked for a reason for their cancer. Many cancers can be explained by someone smoking or drinking alcohol or work exposure, others however, and those are the ones that are really unfair, are the ones that happen to people that lived a healthy life, were never seriously ill and then out of the blue develop cancer. Due to our ever aging population, cancer is a disease of old age and in many cases a chronic illnesses for patients. Due to medical advancements, patients are living longer and sometimes have two, three or even four different cancers simultaneously. It's sometimes hard to explain to a patient that although we can't cure them of their cancer, we can treat it to an extend that it is like having a chronic illness that needs to be treated for the rest of their life but only somewhat limits their normal life. This is sadly not always the case and some cancers have better prognoses than others. Then again, there are some cancers that can in fact be completely cured. Cancer is an ugly thing but it is to some extend the price we pay for living longer or in some cases the price we pay for certain life choices. You only have one life and one body, decide wisely what you do to it and if you are willing to live with the consequences. 

I'll be in the department for a total of four weeks. My main goal is to perform a few bone marrow aspirations and biopsies myself. According to the doctor, this is a doable goal. I'll believe it once I've done it. 

Stay tuned and stay healthy!


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