Tuesday, 31 August 2010

As Promised…

I'm back! I'm certainly browner, calmer and happier and lots has happened since my last post. I drove to Sandhurst to watch Mr pass out to become a Second Lieutenant mr. I was so proud. The parade went really well, they were inspected by David Cameron and also present were a load of foreign dignitaries like the President of Yemen and the King of Swaziland. It did rain on my pretty dress and beautifully straightened hair, but it held off anything more than drizzling until they'd finished their parade and the horse had gone up the steps of Old College. The ball in the evening was amazing. It was held in the largest marquee tent I've ever seen. The Killer Queens played, who are a fantastic Queen tribute act. From where we were sat we couldn't see the stage, and we just thought they were just playing a CD they were that good. At midnight the officers were allowed to remove the home made covers on their shoulders to reveal their pips denoting their new ranks and mr's smile was so big, it was great to be there with him. I snuck off to his bed after that so he could carry on partying with the rest of his friends - I was absolutely shattered. The anaemia's getting better, but I'm still not 100% yet.

A couple of days later and we flew off to Mallorca to stay at a small all inclusive resort in Callas de Mallorca. It was a really touristy part of Mallorca, miles from anywhere, but there was a beautiful little sandy cove down a rocky path and crumbling steps that was gorgeous. The water was lovely and clear and warm and because it was so hard to get to it was quiet too. It was a roasting 32 degrees everyday, which is definitely my sort of temperature, dipping down to about 26 at night. After dinner we went for a walk most nights and sat and watched the bats swoop closer and closer to us - to the extent you could hear them squeaking and their wings flapping. It was lovely. We took a trip to Marineland to watch a dolphin and sealion show, Western Water Park - a water theme park and the Drach Caves. The Caves were amazingly pretty as someone has been through and dotted thousands of lights to compliment the natural structures, and at the very bottom it opens out into Europe's largest underground lake where classical concerts are held on rowing boats everyday. We were able to take a boat across the lake to get a closer view of some of the structures, and the water is so blue because of the minerals in it. It was stunning and I definitely recommend anyone to go and see it. We also took the bus to Palma for a day and had a wander round. Dotted around are various modern art sculptures - we saw an upside down house balanced on its chimney and a couple of giant granite pigeons. The old town blends seamlessly into the more modern developments and they appear to be really big on their underground developments - the bus station, major shopping area and all their rubbish bins feed into an underground system. It was rather surreal - after getting off the bus and following the crowd to a lift, when you step out of the lift you're in a public park and between the raised beds are massive frosted glass boxes, which are all lifts to the underground bus station.

Getting home was a little bit stressful as Ryanair only had one person to check in the whole plane. We weren't asked any security questions, as by the time we got to the desk we had 4 ½ minutes to get to the gate before it shut, a whole 15 minutes away. It wouldn't have been so bad but we arrived 2 hours early, as organised by the transfer company. We did make it in time, the plane was 20 minutes late leaving because of the slow check in process, yet somehow we still arrived 10 minutes early.

Waiting for me at home was a letter from my local MP saying the Student Finance Company should have written to me by now, one from Student Finance reminding me that I hadn't sent back my signature they wanted to confirm I was to be paid nothing (funny that…) and another from them telling me I had been calculated and would be getting over £5,000! Result!! Sort of. Still not getting the fee loan, and because I'm not getting that my maintenance is all loan and no grant, but at least I am actually getting something. I shall wait for confirmation from Peninsula that they are a Level 7 course and send that to SFE and hope they give me the fee loan. Next slight problem is that it says my first payment date should have been 23 August, and as yet still nothing, but I'm hoping that's because they didn't have the signature. I sent that off last week and so fingers crossed I should get money soon.

I joined the BMA at the weekend. I've never had a union before so that was exciting - in and it's all getting closer and more real now. Funny thing is, as close as it's getting, though I'm getting more and more excited, my fear level is increasing as well. With a definite case of the 'What if's'. What if I'm actually rubbish and can't do it, what if I can't learn it all, what if I don't get on with anyone in my group/flat/course, what if I get ill again, what if I fail, what if it would be better to stay at JLT, playing with my spreadsheets, coxing my guys' crew where it's safe, where I know what I'm doing and I know I'm good at it. I know I'm being silly and it's all normal anxiety - sillier still because I've done the whole fresher thing, I know I can do uni, but I still have the fear. The fear entertained mr on holiday because when I'm nervous about something I sleep talk. Apparently I make a lot of sense in my sleep.

Hope your exams results went as planned, and if they didn't, trust me - it's not the end of the world, just look at my story. It might seem devastating, but it could be a good excuse to step back, look at all your options, and you might find there's something else you're really good at to take a chance on, that had previously been forgotten because of months striving towards one goal.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Happy tinged with uncertainty

I'm not really sure how I feel at the moment: sort of happy but unbelievably sad all at once because it's all going a bit wrong. Firstly, the rubbish things I think. My anaemia got really bad last week. I wanted to go home from work but I was shaking so badly I didn't think I could drive. I got home from work, ate tea and fell asleep on the sofa at 8.30pm, half woke up at 10 to go to bed properly and slept through until 8.45 (was briefly woken at 7 when the cat decided she wanted breakfast so scrabbled on my door). Luckily I haven't felt that bad again since. I got new pills from the Dr, exactly the same as the old ones, but inexplicably they seem to be working.

Secondly, student finance. Sigh. Student Finance are taking themselves to court so they don't have to pay. They are claiming they were incompetent when they wrote the rules and so the rules are wrong. They want the independent assessor's report overturned. A grad starting PMS with me in September that I met at interview sent me a link to their student finance online calculator. She said she filled it in and used what it said to get them to fund her. It says I should get full maintenance loan (£4,950), a long course loan (£249) and the fee loan. Win! Sort of. If they're dealing with this court case they aren't going to stall as much as they can, and they still haven't given me a proper first assessment yet, so it's not like I have anything to appeal against. It's such a mess. I wrote down everything and sent it all off to my local MP half heartedly, but within hours had an email from someone in his office asking for contact details and my student finance number, which might be promising. I'd be happy with just the maintenance loan for now as that would cover fees and then they can back pay me the fee loan later. I just want to know I'm getting something, anything, and I can't get the PMS bursary if SFE don't give me anything.

Finally, it had been suggested a couple of years ago that I could continue my full time job part time working from home. I asked to take them up on this offer and was told it would be fine, they just had to make sure they had the budget for it. Now they've told me they have the budget but I can't do it because I wouldn't be coming into the office. I tried to sign up with the part time jobs agency at the uni, but can't until I get a uni email address, and I won't get that until after 19th, by which time everyone else will have one too and that scuppers my plans of getting in early to be sure of a job.

Now for the happier stuff. I saw Les Miserables at Bristol and it was amazing and I cried :) I love musicals. On a slightly stranger note, in the vein of being brutally honest and spilling what goes on inside my head - I have friends! In my home town! Friends who do stuff and want me to do it with them! I've never had that before. I went to small schools where most of my classmates lived out of town, so I never saw them outside of school. I keep myself to myself, and if I'm not asked to join someone doing something I'll assume it's because I'm not wanted and would never dream of inviting myself along.
Because I'm trying to say yes to more things to try and be a more open and friendly, happy, bouncy bean for uni, I said yes to going on my first ever girly night in with some girls from work and their friends from outside work. Now I'm much more of a boys mate than a girly girl. I don't do pink, screaming, giggling, going googoo over boys - it just grates with me, but I went and we did facemasks and played uno and drank wine and gossiped and I actually had a really good time. I went to see Inception with a couple of them, which was great and there's rumblings of going to pet civets, see Hayseed Dixie play and go camping in Padstow. I don't know if that will actually happen, but it makes me happy that there are people that want to do that sort of stuff with me. I just wish I'd met them all at the start of the year and had been able to do this all year, instead of just before going back to uni.

This weekend I'm going to watch mr passout of Sandhurst. I'm very proud of him and so pleased his beasting is over. He moves on to Stage 2 training slightly closer to me than he is now. On Tuesday we jet off to sunny Mallorca for a week, so it might be a while before my next post, but I shall endeavour to return tanned, warm and happy, and hopefully with more encouraging student finance news. I only have 15 working days left. Uni is fast approaching :)

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Wanted: Iron

Sorry for the gap between posts, last week was pretty pants. I must have called SFE about 4 times now and have been told different things each time. One bloke told me I'd put I didn't want to be income assessed - which isn't what the pdf of my original application says, but they are adamant their systems say I only want the minimum non-means tested bit. Despite that, they still say they are waiting for my parents financial information and I will be reassessed when they get that. They've reached my Dad's information now, but they still haven't recalc'd me, and they haven't even given me a maintenance loan, which is the least I should have. One bloke told me I was entitled to full funding, but when he went to check he was told I wasn't because I'm not doing an integrated med course, which would apparently mean I should have stayed at Southampton and 'topped up' my BSc to a MBBS. Seriously? And this was his supervisor telling him that's how you get a med degree.
A student at HYMS has produced a report analysing the T+C's of the student finance system, and it turns out because a med degree is technically a Masters and so a higher level than a BSc, we should get full funding including the fee loan. This has been independently assessed and verified as correct by the Business, Innovation and Skills department. Whenever this student rings up he seems to be being told they are rolling the new rule interpretations out immediately, but whenever anyone else rings up they get told its maintenance loan only. I rang Peninsula fees and finance department to see if they'd right me a letter confirming they were a level 7 course, which the medical schools council says they are. They didn't realise they were and have to ask the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth if they can up their status. So now I don't know if they are expecting me to pay fees, or if they are taking it in faith that SFE will be paying. I have sent a letter to SFE confirming I want to be means tested, Mum is a housewife, and here's a report confirming I should get funding, and so now I'm just waiting and watching the Matures student's finance thread on NMM for updates from the HYMS student.
On top of all that I found out my anaemia is back. Now I say back, I'm not really sure I ever got over it, but I def felt much better than this. I'm borderline microcytic anaemic with practically no ferritin. To cope with the lack of iron my body has overproduced tiny red blood cells, so I'm just on the lower limit of normal, but normal has a really wide range at 60-170 mcg/dL, so it's still not good to be so low. The biggest problem is my ferritin which is what your body stores excess iron as, is 3 (normal 12-300ng/mL). Your body is very good at recycling iron, so it should be a pretty closed system - cell dies, iron is stored, new cell is made from stored iron, but with no stores I can't make effective new cells - I make tiny ineffective ones.
This means my life at the moment is quite a struggle. At uni my housemate had a version (low RBC, normal ferritin), but it didn't seem to affect her in the slightest, she was still up early every morning, bright and peppy and gyming everyday. I don't seem to sit well with anaemia. When I wake up in the morning all I want to do is curl up and sleep more, no matter how early I went to bed, it's like a piece of elastic keeping me in bed. I trudge round the house in morning and as I'm climbing the five flights of stairs to get to work I can feel my legs getting heavier and heavier to the extent I feel I won't make the last flight - not that I need to sit and rest, that I want to curl up and sleep. A flight of stairs being 11 steps. Pitiful really. I am a fit athlete, I row, I'm young, I'm strong, I should not be being defeated by a set of stairs. When I look in the mirror I'm pale so I use blusher and a pale bronzer and try and get a bit of colour in me. My arm's are nice and brown from rowing, but my palms and face are pasty pasty. I have an aunt who's always telling me how pale I'm looking and I should get some more sun, so I'm a sucker for all those radiance moisturisers to try and hide it. I was teased while coxing the other day because I kept using the wrong calls - saying bow side when I meant stroke, and having to quickly correct myself. Or when I'm trying to do a process at work that I've done many times before, I get stuck thinking what to do next. I know what I want to say or do, but my head is fuzzy, like there's cotton wool in it, and the word or action I need eludes me so I say something close and hope that prompts me into remembering what it is I want to say, or sit and stare at the options and hope it comes back to me what to do next. When I came back home I didn't tell anyone I was ill. My close family know, and mr, and my Dr, but that's it. So my crew just think I'm being ditzy, or a sleepy teenager who's up too early. I take lucozade with me to rowing and I eat biscuits before I go, so I can row just fine, but I can't survive on biscuits and lucozade.
I'm annoyed really, because I can't see where my iron goes. I swapped to an iron fortified cereal, I love my steamed green veg, I eat rare steaks, I have steamed spinach every week, I take the pill with no breaks which will apparently mess with my fertility but my Dr suggested it to help get me strong before starting uni again. I just don't know what else to do. I'm back to taking iron tablets, with orange juice because the vit C helps iron take up, once in the morning and once at night, making sure it's one hour before or two hours after food or dairy so nothing can tamper with the iron uptake mechanism. It's frustrating beyond belief. I want to be better, but I've totally run out of ideas.