Swing Dancing saves lives (or at least mine, anyway)

You may or may not know that I have an MD degree.  You may or may not know that I also suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  I am not gonna lie to you, going through med school was painful – literally and figuratively. And it took me 8 years instead of the usual 6 because some semesters I’d have to take less courses.  I also fought a few good fights against the system but that’s material for another post.  All I am saying for now is that I’ve been called a shit disturber.  I am proud of it :)

In the end, against all odds, I graduated.  Then I came to Canada only to discover my degree was not valid here.  Since I wasn’t that interested in practicing medicine I didn’t care that much.

Let me give you some background here. Even before I applied to med school, I knew that what I really wanted to do was research so since my first year I started volunteering at the immunology lab.  Some “summers” (There are no seasons in Colombia, so I am talking about the vacations between school years) I would go and do some sort of internship at some of the best institutes in the country. I did my internship in Molecular Biology, Genetics and Biotechnology.

So, naturally, when I came here I figured the best way to get into the system was to do a PhD.  I applied and was accepted into the Cellular and Molecular Medicine program at the University of Ottawa.  I got a super awesome project and a really cool lab.  I won’t go into details here but it was on Cancer research and it was pretty cool.  My life was perfect!  I was truly happy.  My dreams were finally coming through.

And then I got sick

I started having these weird neurological symptoms like breaking things and stuff.  I’ve always been rather clumsy but this was more serious.  And lab equipment, in case you didn’t know is fracking expensive.  Screwing up micropipettes that cost a grand to re-calibrate is generally frown upon.  Or breaking electrophoresis chambers, for that matter.  You get the drill.

At some point, MS was even being considered.  Thank god the MRI came back normal. In the mean time I had a nervous breakdown and became very depressed.  Eventually, I had to take a medical leave.  Since I was an A+ student, my academic advisor told me I could come back whenever I wanted, even if it took me 5 years. But my world was shattered.  My dream of becoming a professor, having my own lab and grad students became just that again, nothing more than a dream.  And I LOVE teaching.

But! Fortunately for me, I had already had that magical adventure that was my Trip to the Bookstore. Swing Dancing gave me a reason to keep going.  I was given another chance to grow, to learn, to meet wonderful people and to teach.  Sure it’s not the high thrill of the academia (I pretty much said good-bye to my aspirations to win a Nobel prize *wink* ) but it is very rewarding nonetheless.

Yeah, it’s been quite the trip. In 2007 I went on to win Silver medal with the Dynamite Girls at the Canadian Swing Championships.  And I have a few other titles under my belt.

I can’t imagine my life without dancing.  And I am sure the best is yet to come! :)

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9 thoughts on “Swing Dancing saves lives (or at least mine, anyway)

  1. Danny says:

    Wow – I never knew your the story of how you got into swing dancing. That is incredible. and next time I see you, I'm calling you Doctor. -btw, my blog is on blogger and you can use Disqus on your blogger to make commenting a bit better. I hated the old school commenting and upgraded mine just yesterday.

  2. Thomas says:

    I flipped on T.V. yesterday and caught a brief segment of Dr. Oz. They were talking about exercises for both the mind and body that can help prevent the onset of Altimeter's. His recommendation – dance. One activity that exercises both mind and body and relies on one characteristic that is unique to humans – the ability to keep rhythm. So keep on dancing! … Thomas.

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