My (Very Late) Introduction

Hi, I’ve been talking to some of you for quite a while, and lurking in the shadows of this site for probably even longer. That said, I suppose an introduction is long overdue. My story is long, that’s part of the reason I waited to tell it.

My name is Angela and I am mom to one school-aged child. I come from a blue-collar family who didn’t place a lot of importance on education. I grew up poor, and I was raised by a single mom who worked mostly in food service. Long story short, eventually, I dropped out of school to support myself. By 16, I was the assistant manager of the restaurant I’d been working at for a whopping total of six months. Don’t ask me how that happened, I have no idea. I did a pretty good job, but the stress was a bit much for a teenager and eventually I moved away.

At 19, I found out I was pregnant. I was engaged to her father, and we wanted a baby, so I wasn’t worried. In life, things change very fast, though. His mother had terminal cancer. She & I got along very well and she was really looking forward to being a grandparent. Unfortunately, she passed before the birth of our child. She was an amazing person with a long list of accomplishments who was very family-oriented and I miss her every day. I really hate cancer.

I had a strangely complicated pregnancy. I kept going into labor early, and was put on bed rest at the 5th month. I was the breadwinner at the time. During the last few months of my pregnancy, a strange cyst appeared on the right side of my neck. Since I was pregnant, not much could be done to investigate it. Since I wasn’t working, it was difficult to get to the doctor once I wasn’t.

Several months after my child was born, I finally got in to see someone. The doctors decided to remove the cyst surgically. It was planned as a day surgery. When I awoke some 16 hours later, my child’s father was in the room. He looked as white as a ghost and kept telling me that he wasn’t supposed to say anything. I can be pretty persuasive when necessary, and he whispered, “you have cancer” and backed away in fear. Then he walked out to get a doc to explain it to me. As it turns out, I had metastatic papillary thyroid cancer. Very treatable, as far as cancer goes. It turns out that the swollen lymph node that I had at 16 that no one would look at was malignant. By the time I was 16, my cancer had metastasized. They had removed my thyroid, parathyroids, and as many lymph nodes as possible. The treatment course was to be radioactive iodine, isotope 131. It was to start immediately.

My daughter was still nursing, so I asked (stupidly, I suppose) if I could take a few months to wean her. They told me I might not have a few months. Weaning her practically over-night wasn’t easy. The treatment was only one dose, to be given in the hospital, and required only a one week stay. The recovery, however, took a while. The father left at some point post-surgery, I can’t fully remember why. I know I wasn’t easy to be around. Additionally, I was a total zombie for at least a few years while my endocrinologist was getting my levoxyl dose right. I went to college as soon as I was able to stand, determined to have better circumstances should it return. I took a technical program at a technical college, and finished all of the program, but was excited to finally feel well enough to return to the work world. I worked for almost the entirety of my treatment, but this time, I had some college coursework under my belt and was offered a job I was interested in. I was also taken in by them telling me that they could work around my continuing my education. So, I was an extractions chemist for two years.

Several years ago, my daughter was diagnosed with asthma. We’ve done everything we are supposed to do to keep it under control, but she still has at least one truly nasty flare-up per year. I’ve gotten more comfortable with sending her out into the world on short courses of steroids, but the last time she had a flare-up (last month), she wound up with asthmatic bronchitis. I discovered that she was most likely exposed to second hand smoke at her father’s house, which is usually what causes it. She was way too sick to go to school and on a lot of medications, so I had no choice but to stay home with her. The company that I worked for had roughly 15 employees, so no FMLA. Actually, it was hard to get a day off to attend parent teacher conferences. I was laid off for missing the time to take care of her. Hence “was” an extractions chemist.

Ok, now we’re current. Despite how many things I have going against me here, I have been daydreaming about going to medical school “someday” for the last decade. I still don’t hold a single degree, and I am still working closely with a specialist in allergies, asthma and immunology to figure out how to control my daughter’s asthma. I was already enrolled in 9 credits, all online, prior to the events of last month and my major was already listed as “premed- undecided”. I have decided that working full time while trying to complete a degree in my spare time isn’t going to work. Who wants to take 8 years to earn a bachelor’s anyway??

So, from now on, I’m going to school full time and work will have to happen around it.

So, that’s basically me. I told you it was long.

P.S. I really reaLLY REALLY hate cancer.

First of all welcome to OPM. You will find the people on here friendly and honest. I have to commend you on raising a child through your difficult circumstances. I assume your cancer is in remission?

A few good things going for you, one is your age at 27. You have many years ahead of you, so take your time. Many people on here, like me, are over 40. Not that we are old, but older Another good thing is that you have been through so much and you have accomplished a lot dealing with cancer and raising a child.

From your other post you have a good GPA at your tech (3.45) but your CC grades (2.78) are bringing it down. Join the crowd, there are many people on here that were immature when they went to their first college and did not take their classes seriously. Now we are mature, and our grades have improved (let’s hope). Some of those CC grades may be replaced. Search on here for more on that.

If you are seriously interested in medical school, then plot a course for it. I heard it said before that it is not a goal until you write it down, so start writing. Look through this forum, there is a premed forum for moms that might help and give you encouragement … Here

I would say good luck, but I do not believe in luck. God is in control, so I will say Godspeed.


Hi Thomas,

Thank you for taking the time to read my introduction. I know it’s really long, but the individual parts don’t make quite as much sense by themselves.

Yes, my cancer is in remission as of April 2009, and hopefully, it will stay there.

Thank you very much for that link, the website is very informative.


The ultrasound tech who scanned me in April of 2009 didn’t really seem to understand the value of using ultrasound to look for neck masses. When the scan showed up clean, my doctor chose to opt for a radiological clinic rather than a hospital for the next scan (this year).

This year’s ultrasound (April) displayed several new (or persistent?) masses. Since this is seven years after total thyroidectomy (and neck dissection, treatment with RAI, I-131 + suppressive dose therapy from then on), it’s not very likely to be scar tissue. My thyroglobulin was low but detectable during the time of the last scan. My best guess is that it is residual, if my memory serves me (it may very well not), the lowest my tg ever got was about 5. Low, but still detectable. Most of my scans appeared mostly clean in the seven years before now, but my endo never seemed quite “sure” they were completely clean, often saying things like, “I’m absolutely sure that thyroid cancer will not kill you - TODAY”, emphasizing the importance of taking things one step at a time, and watching carefully.

Not knowing how often this will return over the course of my lifetime, or even how long the total length of this treatment course will turn out to be has me questioning whether I’d be a very good investment as a prospective medical student. I am of course, aware of the cure rates of papillary thyroid cancer; but I am also aware that mine was rather extensive (large primary tumor, heavier-than-surgical-rem oval-lymph involvement, clear evidence that it was already metastatic at age 16 - and not found until age 20), and (surprise!) it appears that it is not, in fact gone. Kind of a fork in the road, I suppose.

Still, if I’m upset, or bored or otherwise idling; I can almost always be found absorbing more information from some wiki-medical site, or an anatomy text, etc… I can’t help it, it’s absolutely fascinating. Even if I never found work or any other use for it, just to know everything that medical school would teach… Of course the ultimate goal upon entering would be to USE it - I’m just saying… medicine is absolutely THAT fascinating.

All interest aside, it looks like reality might not be working on my side right now. My mother is now pressuring me to drop out of school more than ever before… Personally, I think going to school during any necessary treatment makes far more sense than trying to function in some sort of labor job anyway, and I can’t really see her side… If you knew you had an elevated risk of death - even a very slight one, would you be going to an unfulfilling job? Or working towards something you love? My mother’s pressure would certainly ease if I were pursuing a nursing program, although I’m not completely sure why, those are also competitive. She seems to want me employed - anywhere, and in any job - ASAP. I don’t see how minimum wage in lieu of college would be very beneficial. I spent 10 years there, why would it suddenly work now? Especially while undergoing any additional cancer treatment.

This, coupled with the fact that financial aid absolutely DOES NOT cover anything resembling premedical coursework is beginning to make me rethink this. I am currently working on a B.S. in physics (still in the CC part), knowing that if I am unable to at least take the MCAT eventually, I will probably never stop wondering. My degree program as planned, does not cover the years of chemistry required, of course. Maybe I can cover that post-bacc? I considered a B.S. in chemistry, I do like chemistry… That covers less math, and a lot less physics. Having worked alongside a lot of degree holders in the chemistry field, I’m not terribly convinced of the benefits of a B.S. Chemistry as a backup plan (the BS level chemists I knew made less than $15/hr. It’s definitely not all about money, but I do need to be able to repay my loans). I suppose any science ultimately requires some level of post-grad work though, right? I think I’m thinking in circles at this point…

Maybe I’m nuts for stubbornly chasing something that seems so incongruent with my realities…

Oh, one more update-

This spring, when my daughter was sick, she actually had pertussis. I’m not really sure how that got missed during all the ER visits. After being on a long course of steroids, her O2 sat was finally up, and her asthma specialist retested for pertussis, and treated for it just in case (One of the things he gave her was spiriva to relax her airways during the coughing episodes. It seemed to me, to help prevent the coughing itself from setting off yet another asthma attack). In August, she came up with around ten times the immunity that would be gained from immunizations (thus, a highly positive result).

Had I not been let go, I have no idea how things would have turned out. She was sick for about 4 months, and so sick that I was essentially providing basic nursing services at home, and trying to keep her caught up with schoolwork at home (and me with mine). She certainly couldn’t have gone to daycare like that.


I am not sure I can offer you any advice, but I will keep you in my prayers so you can find your answers.

I hope things get easier for you.



My first bachelor’s degree was in applied physics. The “applied” part meant that some of the traditional upper-level physics courses were replaced by other, non-physics courses; in my case, the QM and relativity courses were replaced by chemistry through O-chem. If your physics department offers such an “applied physics” degree, you could better tailor your coursework to your eventual hoped-for needs.