[image quote]: "Not only are you trying to keep your head above water, but you're trying to keep your head down...you want as few people as possible to know you have a chronic illness, because people will be looking at you as a source of failure." - Cyrena, episode 13; PhD candidate + former medical student.

[image quote]: "Not only are you trying to keep your head above water, but you're trying to keep your head down...you want as few people as possible to know you have a chronic illness, because people will be looking at you as a source of failure." - Cyrena, episode 13; PhD candidate + former medical student.

13 Why Stop at One? (episode page)
Description: In this week’s episode, Cara talks to former medical student and current PhD candidate Cyrena about her experience pursuing higher education in the biomedical sciences, other ways to pursue related interests, what it’s been like to deal with both Bipolar Disorder and Lupus along the way, and the systemic ableism and paternalism baked in to medicine and medical education.

[intro]
Hey there and welcome you to In Sickness + In Health—a podcast about chronic illness, disability, medical traumas, and everyday uncomfortable healthcare experiences. My name is Cara Gael; I’m not a doctor or medical professional, I’m just a person and a patient who really wants to talk about this stuff more.

If you’re new to the show, welcome! Nothing said on this show should be considered medical advice. If you’re experiencing a medical issue, please seek qualified medical help. I know the system sucks, but I wish you a lot of luck. Every person is different, even within disease groups, so none of my guests should be regarded as official representatives or spokespersons for their conditions. Please respect their very personal choices, and unless they ask for it, please don’t make suggestions about treatments or lifestyle changes. As will come up again and again on this show, unsolicited medical advice is almost never not annoying.

On today’s episode, we’ll be continuing the conversation about our complicated relationships with medication and redirecting our plans when life and our bodies get in the way. I talked to Cyrena about her experience pursuing an MD/PhD, while also weathering the ups and downs of both Bipolar Disorder and Lupus.

Something that has come up again and again on the show is how great it would be to have more doctors who understand from firsthand experience what it’s like to live with chronic illness. I, personally, would love to see that happen. If I didn’t hate school so much and had the stamina, I’d even pursue it myself, but it is a path that just isn’t practical for me. Cyrena found it wasn’t for her either, and was able to trade her MD/PhD track for “just” getting a PhD, which is still super impressive. She’s had a rough go of it, but is now nearing the end of her program and shares some wisdom with us based on her own experience. We certainly don’t want to discourage anyone from pursuing medical education if that is your dream, but Cyrena gets very honest about the things you might face; it won’t be easy, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up your dream altogether.

I want to preemptively apologize to my listeners in Philadelphia, I know I have a lot of you. We talk a little shit on Philly in this episode. It’s a city that both Cyrena and I lived in at a time when we both felt isolated, confused about what direction our lives were headed, and first started really getting sick. Living in any city probably sucks under those circumstances, so sorry Philly. You are a lovely city with delicious food, my favorite medical museum, and a vibrant disability community. I’ve since enjoyed it much more as a tourist, but we both had a hell of a time living there.

Cyrena will be on another upcoming episode in the new year that contains the second part of our conversation about how our bodies respond to stress, and her research in that area. She is studying inflammatory markers in adults who experienced early life stress, and we’ll be talking about how that can contribute to or exacerbate, but not cause, the development of chronic health conditions later in life.

If you stay tuned to the In Sickness + In Health blog this week, I’ll be publishing a year-end list of some of my favorite podcast episodes from this year that relate to some of what we’ve talked about so far on this show. You can find us on insicknesspod.com and on social media @insicknesspod. As always, I’ve included links in the show notes for further reading about some of the things we talk about in this episode. If you could take the time to rate and review the show on iTunes, it would help us out a lot.

I hope your 2015 didn’t suck too much, but if it did, I hope that 2016 will be a little nicer to all of us. My wish is that in the coming year, we’ll all do a better job of preserving basic human dignity in all things, but especially healthcare. For everyone involved.

So have a happy new year, and enjoy the show…

[interview]

And thank you so much for listening to this episode of In Sickness + In Health. You can find more from us at insicknesspod.com, on social media @insicknesspod. Please rate and review us on iTunes, it helps other people find the show.

And don’t forget to be excellent to yourself and each other.