A Reflection on 2020

I had been planning to write a reflection on 2020 for weeks now, and I am not a natural procrastinator, but it is winter break and I have been enjoying the sheer unproductivity of the last few weeks. So here it is, on December 31st, 2020, I am going to reflect on the year 2020. 

I, like most people, will be one of the first ones to give an "f you" to 2020. In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, I faced one of my most challenging years of chronic illness yet. I spent nearly 30 days on the road and at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota this summer trying to get an answer to a health puzzle we were all perplexed by. I am so forever grateful that my family had the means for me to get care at the medical mecca of the world and that my phenomenal team of physicians helped diagnose me with Crohn's Disease - while devastating in some ways it has also felt like a long-awaited answered prayer. 

Let's run through 2020 top to bottom, shall we...

January

  • I began my second full year at UC Irvine!
  • My health continued to decline from my point of stability in Fall 2019
February
  • I officially entered my 20s!
  • On Valentines Day I had my second port-a-cath placed which ended up being one of the toughest surgeries I've had to date. There were minor complications during the procedure that led to some nerve damage and I still to this day can't feel about 5 inches of my arm around my bicep. 
March
  • Coronavirus happened...
  • College made the swift transition to online learning and while it was a difficult adjustment, I felt right at home and like I was back in high school at Connections Academy!
April
  • Did April even happen? LOL
May (shit began to hit the fan)
  • I decided to reconnect with Dr. Jones at the Mayo Clinic who had overseen my care in 2017 and is nothing short of my medical hero - she agreed that I was NOT dealing with a normal POTS flare-up and ordered a large array of blood tests and we began to arrange Mayo 2.0 for June.
  • We discovered my ferritin (iron stores) were at 5.5 and I was severely iron deficient and as my hematologist put it "weeks away from my bone marrow failing, my body shutting down, and me dying".
  • I began getting iron infusions every 3 days for a few weeks
June
  • Mayo Clinic 2.0!
  • Dad, Morty, and I drove all the way to Rochester, Minnesota and BACK - one of the best adventures of 2020
  • I had an insane 5 jam-packed days of countless procedures and appointments and... we came up empty. We left Mayo Clinic 2.0 a tad bit heartbroken, very much exhausted, and still in limbo on what was wrong with me
July (shit hit the fan AGAIN literally and figuratively)
  • Repeat bloodwork in the middle of July alarmed my hematologist so much so that he called me and said "get on a plane or get in the car and get here as soon as you can".
  • Another 5+ jam-packed days of procedures, scans, and appointments FINALLY DIAGNOSED ME WITH CROHNS! Mayo 3.0 was a success! And the Subaru logged another 4,000+ miles!
August
  • Tried to adjust to my new normal living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Decided whole-heartedly to pursue medicine and apply to postbaccalaureate programs for the summer after I graduated (Summer 2021)
September
  • Finished 20 summer school units!
  • Had a capsule endoscopy to evaluate the extent of my Crohn's (it's in my small bowel too apparently!)
  • Decided to start biologic therapy
October
  • Interviewed and GOT ACCEPTED to the University of Virginia's Post Bacc PreMed Program! 
  • Committed to attending UVA's PBPM program!
  • And the most joyous day of 2020... October 22nd... my first Stelara dose!
November
  • Traveled to Charlottesville, Virginia to tour UVA and to see what Morty and I's next adventure will look like!
December
  • Signed a lease to a perfect little house in Charlottesville where Morty will have a backyard!
2020 was a year that I experienced a lot of conflicts - medically, professionally, personally - but looking back, I also feel like all the immense hardships of 2020 brought exceptional personal growth in all areas of my life. If you told me at the end of last year that I would be getting ready to move back to the East Coast with just my Corgi, I would have thought you were crazy! This year was filled with so much grief, pain, and fear, but I also found joy and confidence in places I never imagined. Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of 2020 was finally giving myself permission to pursue my dream of becoming a physician, and of course to UVAs PBPM program for seeing my passion and my potential and giving me the honor and privilege of being a part of Cohort #16. Wahoowa!

Morty and I are so ready for the adventures 2021 will bring us. We are excited about the COVID vaccine and the hope that brings to all those around us. Wishing you all a happy and HEALTHY New Year! 

-MJ



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