Feeds:
Posts
Comments

It’s been almost 7 months since i found out i have a big endometriosis cyst on one of my ovaries. I know that the disease has already spread if it managed to form itself into a visible cyst and who knows for how long i have had it. Although i suspect since i was a teenager if i were to think of all the symptoms that doctors mistook for different issues along the years.

I’m still not fully aware of the gravity of the situation and i do deny quite a lot. This luxury is also permitted by the fact that the medication i was put on works quite well and most of the time i am pain free. As i have been reading from endometriosis forums, others are not that lucky. Of course, i don’t know yet how serious it is unless i have the surgery which i’m still waiting for. I can’t say i’m in a hurry to have it because right now i’m looking for a full-time job in my field and struggle with a society that fully blames me for the lost of my job and for this disease. Although i had no fault in it.

What did i learn though from this? First, not to take my health for granted. Today you might be completely well and tomorrow you might receive a horrible diagnosis. You are not invincible and human bodies are very fragile. It’s no guarantee that my disease won’t become worse over the time. I have to keep in mind that there is no treatment and no cure for it. The only few options available are not very efficient and i might say quite dangerous: hormone therapy and surgery.

I learned to accept the limits of my body and to come to terms with them. I had to stop doing any kind of harsh physical activity including my beloved fitness hobby. I can’t stand or sit too much, i can’t even do most of the house chores sometimes.  There are though some days when i can do pilates and mild core strength exercises. And there are days when i can just exist. I learned that if i don’t force my body and just let it be and live accordingly to its limitations, i get by much better. It was difficult to listen to it in the beginning when we live in a society that drives us to exhaustion by transforming us into overachieving robots but stressing my body and pushing it over the limits made things so much worse. I also realized that if i continue to ignore my body, i will also destroy my mind and this is the last thing i want right now.

This disease puts a huge toll on the mind as it is so by finding a certain harmony with the body, i’m trying as much as i can to preserve my sanity and be productive at the same time. The pace is much slow but i’d rather go that way than crumble for good.

I became used to carry a special bag full of medications with me all the time. I have five types of painkillers and i learned to know the pain very well and to medicate according to the intensity of the pain. I learned that taking Nurofen Plus (the one with codeine) for a week didn’t get me addicted as i was afraid it will. Now, i’m just glad i don’t have to take it.

I have the hospital emergency number set as app just in case my cyst bursts or i have ovarian torsion. Or i might have some other emergency related to the side-effects of the hormones. I also learned all the symptoms and revised the first-aid procedures just in case.

Eating healthy and staying fit is not totally going to protect you from diseases. Of course, i don’t want to turn into a bitter person and eat all the junk food which comes at hand. I still take care of my diet not to worsen the endometriosis. But, in many cases, lots of people will blame you. You must have eaten healthier and exercised much more. I learned not to listen to them because they are not the sick ones and automatically they don’t understand a thing. And as I later learned some of well-known fitness trainers also struggle with endometriosis.

This goes to the next lesson and i think the most important one: people will not understand you. They can have mountains and oceans of empathy, if they are not the ones dealing with this disease, they won’t understand. And this also made me realize how little society knows in general about endometriosis from the reactions i usually get. It angers me to see so much ignorance but i still try to calm myself down and understand that these people have not idea what they are talking about. Sure, they could just keep their mouth shut but not everybody knows the fine art of diplomacy.

This disease doesn’t mean the end of life. It makes it a bit more difficult but in no way i thought of giving up everything i like doing. I am able to study and work as i did go to school and held down several jobs while having this disease (i just didn’t know what i had back then), rarely missing any days. Doing something i like usually has even improved my spirit and made me more resistant to the disease, in a way, completely ignoring it. There are lots of us struggling with this but somehow we manage to live normal lives or at least as close as possible to normal.

Advertisements

If there would be just one department for the whole country, 40 places, entrance exam once in four years, would you have the courage to give it a try? I did and it was not just “give it a try”. It was: i studied very thoroughly for the entrance exams and familiarized myself with the profession years in advance.

I’m talking now about the conservation studies, an area i set my mind to go into six years before i attended the entrance exams in 2016. I didn’t write about it until now because as probably you might have guessed, i didn’t make it and i really didn’t need any judgement. The heartbreak after this very long process and the blame i took from myself were more than enough. And the feeling of failure made it even worse.

I fell in love with conservation after attending basic studies in museology while studying for my first masters’. We had a course in Museums and Collections which lasted a whole semester and we had lecturers who worked in conservation, one of them being the chief of the conservation center i volunteer at now. The field fascinated me because it is so complex and unique in the sense that it combines humanities and science in a very innovative way. Since i am a person interested in both but chose humanities because of reasons stated in an earlier post, i said to myself “this is it, i want to study this. How can i do that?”

The only place one can study conservation in Finland is at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki. There was a department for building conservation in Western Finland but it was shut down few years ago. There were only ten places for each specialization and the entrance exam once at four years, basically when one study program finished, new students were taken in. My main interest were artifacts, textile, paper or art conservation. The only problem was that the study program was only in Finnish and my language skills were not at all very good back then.

But in 2016, the university took in new students and i decided to go. That’s when the fun started with chemistry studies, as chemistry was on the exam list. Luckily, just basic chemistry was required and i was able to study that by myself while practicing color tests, drawing and folding paper. There was a color test, handicraft test, chemistry exam, interview and depending on the specialization, another exam testing your skills.

I sent my application papers in March and in May i was invited to the entrance exams which lasted for two days. I was very nervous about the chemistry exam but in the end that proved to be the easiest part. I found the handicraft exams to be so much more difficult especially the one we had in the first day where we were asked to make a coffee mug out of cardboard and paper. That was a complete disaster and i’m very sure that it was the main reason i failed. I still hate paper mugs to this very day. After the first day, we were informed who made it to the next day. My first choice was artifact conservation and failing to see my name on the list i just turned to leave barely keeping my tears. When i remembered that i put all the choices on my application list! And there i was admitted for textile conservation! Not bad but how could i manage? I mean i don’t know much about working with textiles and i was sure there were applicants who had seamstress studies behind. I was disappointed and angry but i decided to go to the final exam and interview. The exam wasn’t bad, we had to sew a small purse and we had one as a model so i did quite ok given the fact that i rarely practiced textile handicrafts.

The interview went fine until the last part when i couldn’t keep my mouth shut and i asked if one could actually transfer from textile to artifact conservation. Maybe you kind of grasped why this question might have proven to be fatal for my chances of getting in. I realized what i just done on my way back from the university and i thought i am the most stupid person on this planet. The whole experience left me with a bitter taste because i knew i could have done much better. The fact that i waited so much to attend this exam and study there, left me frozen; i got so stressed and excited that i couldn’t even focus properly on the exam. Another factor was the amount of applicants, i guess there were hundreds, which really intimidated me.

But to my surprise, i found out that i was the first on the reserve places at textile conservation. Unfortunately, nobody gave up their place so i didn’t make it. This kind of result brought two feelings: i was very glad to make it that far with so few places, with so many applicants and barely any experience in textiles (and studying chemistry on my own!) and second, it brought the huge disappointment of being so close but yet so far.

I tried not to take it as a complete failure but as an experience, learn from it and give it another try. I know that this field is very specialized, job are quite scarce and studies last for about four years full-time but i guess when you like something, you have to go after it. And be committed to it.

Halloween musings

Halloween has passed and i’m a bit late with this post but i’m trying to find the time to write about this because it’s a subject i cannot just leave behind unmentioned. I grew up in a place that didn’t celebrate Halloween but anyway we started to celebrate it in secondary school as i was attending a special class with intensive English language program. I enjoyed it a lot because we used to have so much fun dressing up and carving jack o’lanterns. I remember i dressed as Snow White, Red Riding-hood, a clown (not the scary one), witch, vampire or any other story or literary characters i happened to enjoy. This tradition was kind of forgotten when i started university, although we went with my colleagues to heavy metal gigs usually on Halloween or watched horror movies but we didn’t dress up anymore. I noticed that it’s kind of hard to keep it going when you don’t have people who are into it like you are. And unfortunately, i met lots of criticism, too, because Halloween is not a traditional celebration for our culture. Well, i never cared about that anyway, and never understood some people’s needs to ruin what you like because they have certain beliefs.

This year though Halloween was a bit more special because it basically lasted the whole October. This would be my style of celebrating it and i was also quite positively surprised that shops had more Halloween decorations, candies and the PR around the holiday was much better taken into consideration. And to my ultimate joy, i also found some people that are very into Halloween and created a whole program around this theme.  The whole “show” consisted of Facebook live streams and podcasts themed around horror movies and it goes under the name of It’s Not Human. The two guys involved in the project are Jacob Lyle and Alexander Koch, two actors living in L.A. and liking Halloween a lot, of course. And horror movies. I found out about the whole project by following one of the on Instagram. At first, i was not sure if i was going to follow the whole project, at least when it came to live streams because the time difference is about 10 hours but since i am going through a very difficult time, i thought this might be a good chance to get my mind off things.

They made a schedule with the movies they were going to watch and i saw, to my surprise, i haven’t seen some of them – to my surprise because i watch lots of horror movies and i thought I’ve seen most of them. They also had 1960’s-1980’s movies which i wasn’t familiar with. So, the whole idea was to watch the movie at the same time with them while watching the live stream. I did manage to do this for some movies, not all of them, because of the time difference but also because they did stop the live stream schedule after a while. They did mention that it was lots of work and quite tiring which i understand very well given the fact that i’m also into some projects which eat lots of time and they are also not paid (this blog being one of them). Also, i found it quite difficult to watch the movie and the live stream at the same time especially if it was the first time when watching the movie. Most of my attention went into the movie and the live stream took a secondary place together with commenting.

I managed though to watch all their movies on my own and some extra of mine at the same time and listened to their podcast which discussed the respective movies afterwards. The idea was great because it has introduced me to some classics that perhaps i wouldn’t have watched otherwise. The whole movie schedule had a different theme weekly which made it look very organized but unfortunately, i couldn’t really “digest” the serial killer week or movies involving violence against women in general. I have to mention that i hate movies like The Saw or Hostel (not on their list) and anything of the kind. I love horror movies which involve the supernatural like The Conjuring but i never find them frightening. I don’t really have horror movies that scared me, maybe Silent Hill is one worth mentioning, it gave me an unreal feeling but that’s also because the whole atmosphere in the movie is anxiety provoking. I did continue to play the game because it still remains one of the horror movies that had an impact on me although the game was by far less scary than the movie.

Going back to It’s Not Human, the podcast it’s really worth listening to because besides the interesting facts about movies, the guys also tell horror stories and have different guests on the show. It’s also interesting to hear their opinions and views on the movies, as professional actors. For me, at least it’s very informative and interesting to listen the movies discussed because otherwise i would just watch them without further information and perhaps skip on many details. Sometimes there are spoilers but i’m never disturbed by them because i don’t care about spoilers and sometimes i actually do want to watch something i haven’t because of the spoilers. Also after re-watching some movies, i saw them differently and noticed some details that skipped to me the first time.

I can say it was very easy to follow them live or listening to the podcasts because the atmosphere was very relaxed and their personalities are the same as the people i’m hanging out with, so at one point i felt i was just listening to friends. But first and foremost it was fun and it has helped me a lot to keep my sanity through this difficult time and made me smile when i thought i couldn’t even carry on though the day. I do hope the guys do continue at least somehow the project because it’s worth it and there are many of us who do appreciate it. A big thank you!

You can follow It’s Not Human on Facebook, Instagram, SoundCloud and iTunes.

How to survive an MRI

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a technique that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the organs and tissues within your body. Most MRI machines are large, tube-shaped magnets. When you lie inside an MRI machine, the magnetic field temporarily realigns hydrogen atoms in your body. Radio waves cause these aligned atoms to produce very faint signals, which are used to create cross-sectional MRI images. (Mayo Clinic)

I don’t know how many of you have seen an MRI machine in reality. I did see lots of those but only in movies. The latest that comes into my mind right now is House. I didn’t have any strong thoughts about them besides that they are cool and then i was just curious to read how they work. Of course, i couldn’t see myself in one of those, only the thought of it made me claustrophobic. I was supposed to have a knee MRI last year, but the doctor i complained to of knee pain thought i have nothing serious so he just send me home. (That’s what they also said about my endometriosis).

So, after being diagnosed with a 7 cm tumor on my right ovary, the last doctor i went to see (was it maybe the fourth one this year) sent me to an MRI to see if i have deep infiltrating endometriosis or any other tumors for that matter. I took some blood tests before and got an instruction sheet which didn’t tell me much i didn’t know already. I knew the test was lasting about an hour, i knew MRI machines are very loud, i knew about the contrast dye, and i knew i had to sit very still throughout the whole procedure. And i knew those machines give you a very claustrophobic feeling. That was the thing i was most afraid of. One hour in that thing? No way i could manage.

But things weren’t quite as I’ve expected. The preparations before the MRI took about half an hour and included making sure i have absolutely no metals on me, this was quite logical, huge magnet there. I thought i’m going directly into the MRI room but instead i had to lie down on a special bed in the preparation room and of course, change into hospital clothes. I had an IV put into my right arm for the contrast dye (that really hurt; note that i am very sensitive to pain). Then the doctor came and i was given some kind of gel in the area down there for better imaging. Now, i know why they gave me hospital clothes, because that gel started to come out from my insides – needless to tell that was very uncomfortable. Some kind of frame was also placed over my abdominal area and tied to the bed which gave me the impression i was actually tied to bed. I was also given a device so i can contact the nurses of i have issues and headphones with rock music on.

After that i was taken into the MRI room, the IV was connected to some device containing contrast dye and had to stay inside, lying on my back without moving for an hour. The only time i was taken out, was to be given an injection to calm down my guts as they were quite active and it was disturbing the image quality. That hurt very bad and it still hurts now after about three days.

I think they injected the dye only once, i didn’t feel anything. But the hardest part was being still for an hour. My back started hurting me, the air conditioning inside the MRI made my hands so cold and as much as Kurt Cobain was screaming, i still heard the MRI machine and heard it very well. I tried to close my eyes, make time go faster but i got the feeling that i was running of of breath and at one point i wanted to call the nurse but i just started to focus on my breathing and meditate (thank you pilates) so i could just get over with it. Then i noticed that keeping my eyes opened and focusing on the machine’s ceiling was much better. I tried to keep away the thoughts about the results because they gave me so much anxiety and instead think at something else.

It was an experience that i’d rather not repeat but given my situation i highly doubt so. I was though quite amazed that the tight space was not the actual problem but the standing still, needles and gel thing . With these exceptions, maybe, i can say the experience was cool in a weird way. *plays House intro*

After the procedure i was taken back to the preparation room, had my IV taken out and given some pads as that gel came out of me for about the rest of the day. I didn’t feel weird at all and continued my daily activities as if nothing happened. So in that way it was very ok.

Later on my friend texted me and she said that the way i described it to her, made it sound like i was abducted by aliens. *plays X-files intro*

Later edit: I just got the MRI results this morning and besides the cyst, which is a bit smaller than seen on the ultrasound, there is nothing suspicious. That is the best news I’ve had in a while.

19 years for a diagnosis

It took me a while when deciding to write this post but i finally decided for it because of two reasons: if there is anyone out there who won’t feel so alone with their pain, it’s a step forward, please know that you are not alone, and second, there is so much ignorance and taboo surrounding this issue that i can’t remain indifferent.

It all started when i was just 12, a kid basically. You know when girls get their periods and it’s celebrated like some kind of rite of passage. For, me it was nothing to celebrate. It was the beginning of a life of pain and nightmares. All my memories about it are blurred because i wanted to forget the horror, the pain, the misery.

I remember my dad picking me up from the floor, i fainted because of the pain. It was like a thousands of knives were shoved into my belly. Regular painkillers didn’t help me anymore and i had to take much stronger ones which made me sick. The bleeding was horrible. Two times i landed in the hospital with severe anemia. Instead of finding relief, i met horrible doctors. The first and last time i was to see a gynecologist, i got so humiliated and traumatized that for the next 14 years i would avoid them like plague.

I just learned to live with the pain because random doctors told me it’s normal: “That’s a woman’s life – get over it.” I was given random birth control pills by GP’s who didn’t even bother to send me for further tests as there was basically no test to determine what was wrong with me. I tried fours different brands; they all made me sick and the last one, Diane, send me directly to emergency room with severe stomach aches and vomiting. It took me three months to recover. I swore i would never take those things again.

I had to skip classes, couldn’t join sports activities anymore. The real reason was not accepted as a valid medical explanation so i usually came with medical certificates which stated: stomach disease. When i started university, sometimes, i had to go to the exams after a sleepless night. Because i was crying in pain waiting for the painkillers to kick in. Sometimes i had to leave the lectures because of too much pain or bad hemorrhage. But i passed all my exams and graduated with good grades.

Meanwhile, during my university years, i was told about a very good endocrinologist and i went to see her. I thought that this is useless, it won’t help me but i said let’s give it a try and so i made an appointment and told her the whole story. She sent me to all kinds of tests that would take about six months and lots of money. It was a private hospital. To my disappointment, the results were inconclusive. But at one of the last appointments she told me that i might have endometriosis. Unfortunately, because the tests were clear she couldn’t send to to surgery which is the best way to diagnose endometriosis. She gave me instead birth control pills and assured me that these one would be ok because of the low hormone dose.

I gave them a try although i was afraid the previous unhappy episodes will follow. They didn’t. Instead my pains were gone and everything started to be normal. For the first time in my life, i felt that a huge black veil has been taken off me. I knew what it meant life without pain and it was awesome. I went off and then on again on these meds and about two years ago i decided to just stop them. I wasn’t comfortable using hormones for so long and i thought, well, maybe my body has changed and it’s not that bad anymore. And yes, somehow it wasn’t that bad. Until six months ago.

It was the last day of March and i needed to go to the grocery store but i felt this weird pain in my lower belly. It got worse over the next days and i called the local health center. The nurse said to come immediately the next morning. I had some basic tests and the suspicions of ectopic pregnancy, appendicitis and urinary tract infection or any other infection for that matter were shut down. But the pain continued and soon i was able to function only with over the counter painkillers which were useless. During the following two months i completed my chemistry studies and went to work although the pain was present 24/7. In the end, i called a private hospital and made an appointment there.

I told my symptoms and the doctor nodded: “I can’t get anything concrete but let’s have an ultrasound”. A procedure they didn’t two months earlier. After few minutes i see the doctor frowning: “You have a 7 cm cyst on your right ovary”. At that point i froze, i saw the screen and that thing was huge. She continued saying it’s most likely an endometriosis cyst and i need surgery. She sent to the central hospital for further tests. I did have further tests including CA 125 for ovarian cancer which turned negative and i was given birth control pills again to manage the pain. The diagnosis was confirmed by a second doctor. I told her i want to wait and see how the meds are working. She said they won’t work and i also need to consider the small chance it might be malignant. She told me to stop any harsh physical activity because the cyst might burst or i might have ovarian torsion. I had to stop my dear fitness hobby and alter my life around this thing.

The meds though helped me to get my normal life back and in one month i was back to doing pilates. I did have though occasional cramps and the one time i took the 7 day break from the pills, hell broke loose. At this point i knew, i still had the cyst which was confirmed at the follow-up. So, right now i’m on the surgery waiting list, having more tests and trying to stay sane as this is my first major surgery and there are lots of scenarios passing through my mind.

So, it’s not 100% sure what it is but according to my symptoms it sounds very much like endometriosis. A disease whose cause is unknown, which doesn’t have any cure but very bad treatment options (hormones and surgery) and which affects lots of women. I think though that the hardest part is accepting it and learn to live with it although it has been there for long. Before it was a regular inconvenience that just passed but now it has a name.  Before, i had the mindset that this is normal and i should be ashamed for crying out. After 19 years, i learned that i lived with something which i should have never endured alone. This disease is still brushed aside, not taken seriously and patients face lots of judgement from both medical professionals and random people. But i’m tired of being silenced, judged and ashamed. So I decided to speak out.

Art history is one of the subjects i took in university for my bachelor as well as for my masters in museum studies. The courses were quite brief and although i read a lot on my own, i can say i covered just a small part of the world’s art history. Recently i borrowed the movie Seraphine (2008) directed by Martin Provost which is based on the life of French painter Séraphine de Senlis. And so, i discovered a new favorite artist.

Séraphine Louis (1864–1942) also known as Séraphine de Senlis was a French naive self-taught painter who got her inspiration mostly from her religious background, stained-glass church windows and religious art. She came from a very modest background and led a very modest life herself before being discovered by the German art collector Wilhelm Uhde. She managed to lead a better life after her paintings started to sell but unfortunately the circumstances of Great Depression and her mental illness led to her fall and eventually death.

94a10661d2f5ca644ab873ddd32ea60e.jpg

What caught my attention first was the fact that she prepared her colors by herself using exotic ingredients and i immediately thought that would it be possible nowadays to determine the content of the pigments? Wouldn’t it be necessary for conservation? I would really love to see the conservation reports on her paintings sometimes. An excerpt from the film review mentions: So extreme was her passion to paint that the laundress and maid by day would stay up all night in her tiny rented room mixing her own paints, which she made from everyday items: blood stolen from the local butcher carefully poured into a bottle, melted candle wax from votives pinched from church, what appeared to be pigments yielded from fruits and flowers, and home-made red wine. 

01e3f70a90e7722675d55743e884b66f

What i really like about her paintings is the vivid colors and fantasy like plants and flowers in which you can see quite clearly the inspiration from the stained-glass. As i have read, some of her canvas are about two meters high, i think it must be really impressive and breathtaking to admire them in the museum. At one point, the paintings also remind me of colorful handicrafts, for example, used in traditional, regional costumes or in different pieces of clothing. The whole beauty of Seraphine’s paintings come from the fact that it’s naive art, it doesn’t involve professionalism and the flowers do not depict in any way the flora of the real nature. The paintings’ individual charm lies in fantasy like forms and you can see very clearly the passion of the artist in the way she combines the colors and her minute attention to detail. The paintings have a certain repetitive pattern but the repetition lies mostly in forms rather than color and at some point, if you look long enough they seem like they are living and moving.

seraphinelouis

 

Photo source: Google images

 

 

I pressed “Register” button after some hesitation and there i was, enrolled in university level chemistry courses. There were five of them, two dealing with general chemistry, one of organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry and chemistry of the environment. I looked over the syllabus and i panicked. Just to be clear, i did have some basic level chemistry while in school but i skipped most of the classes because i was not into it at all. I didn’t see any purpose in studying chemistry when i was enrolled in a humanities class and i was planning to study in a humanities field further on.

But now i had to find a way of studying the whole five courses of high school chemistry they teach in Finland because otherwise i wouldn’t manage to get even through the first course of general chemistry. I bought the books second-hand (here new high-school books are insanely expensive) and i discovered a great channel Opetus.tv which had very detailed chemistry lessons (a big thank you to the persons who created it and put effort into it). So, during August and September, i spent most of my time watching videos, reading books, taking notes and most of all, solving chemistry problems. Things i’ve never heard of in my life became now very clear to me or at least somehow clear. The most difficult part in learning alone, was that i had nobody to ask when i was confronted with difficulties in solving the problems. Some of the solutions i found online, accompanied of good explanations, some i had to struggle to find a solution for days.

And then i had my first class which started with chemistry of the environment. I remember well up to this moment, i was so nervous about it, i had a knot in my throat and i felt like puking. I was so afraid that nothing will come out of this and i will just give up. This fear of failure made me sick although i promised myself not to come to this point because the whole experience was supposed to be educational and fun.

Then it came the first course in general chemistry, we usually had those on Friday evenings from 17 to 20 and Saturdays from 9 to 17. So, if you wonder how did most of my weekends go last year, there you have it. I’m also really grateful for my work colleagues who covered sometimes my Saturday work shifts when i needed to be in the chemistry class. Of course, it was not compulsory to attend the Friday seminars where we solved problems or Saturday lectures but for me it was crucial to be on set as i was a beginner.

After the first course in general chemistry i found out that all my colleagues had actually a strong background in sciences. I was the only one who had no background at all. All of a sudden, i felt myself so little and out of the place. And after the first lectures and seeing our first homework, i left the class…crying. Yes, i cried half of the way home and a good part at home and asked myself: what the fuck did i get myself into?!

But i didn’t give up. All my free time went into studying chemistry. I re-read the lectures, i took notes, i drew schemes and tried to solve problems. I checked online the things i didn’t understand and even if the result was not correct i tried solving the problem for hours on end and even returned to it before the seminar, trying to solve it one last time. I tried to understand the lectures by myself and most of the times i managed to. Those few times i really didn’t get something during a lecture or i didn’t understand the way one came to a result within a problem, i did ask the teacher.

And now to be honest, i was so afraid to ask the teacher because i was afraid of giving away the fact that i didn’t study chemistry before and i would ask stupid questions and i would be laughed at and not taken seriously. And the teacher would ask: what on earth are you doing here? I was wrong. He never asked me my motifs and he did answer every single of my questions, having the patience to sit with me after class and explain in detail how to solve a certain problem. I did not have the courage to ask in class because i was afraid my colleagues would laugh at me.

Besides chemistry of the environment which was mostly online work, the rest of the courses had exams and i’m proud to say i passed each of them from the very first try although sometimes it seemed impossible. Afterwards i did manage to get higher grades when i re-took some of the exams and realized that upon a second look, things were becoming more clear to me. The courses i enjoyed the most were chemistry of the environment and organic chemistry because it was not that much math involved and since i haven’t studied math in a very long time, my skills were very rusty. I did enjoy though the thermodynamics, kinetics and electrochemistry, some of the subjects i was very good at in physics while in high-school. (Yes, i did have a very passionate love affair with physics in my first year of high-school, believe it or not.)

The courses were not applied in any way to the field of conservation but the main idea was to study the basics of chemistry in order to understand more complex processes. As they were university level courses, the notions surpassed quite a lot what they teach in high-school and sometimes it felt like an impossible mission to keep the pace. High-school chemistry is not that difficult but when you have to cram all the notions in about two months by yourself, you can imagine that the basis i had was not a very strong one. I just barely scratched the surface, not being fully in control of the theory. Even now after the whole adventure, i still feel i need to revise some of the things i learned because i don’t master them completely, especially the pH problems.

What now after the whole business? Well, i can say i don’t regret a bit taking this journey and every sleepless night, effort, tear, frustration, hardship and minute invested in studying chemistry was worth it because it didn’t only teach me precious information but it has made me learn to love a science i once hated, it has opened a whole new world and taught me to think from another perspective. It has given me that precious experience only the people studying science and humanities have it and taught me multiple ways to analyze and see things. On this one i really pushed my boundaries and got way out of my comfort zone. It was very hard and very scary but in those moments i learned to think at the whole experience as a challenge not as a burden. And however difficult things got, there was always a solution, i just needed to calm down, think and find it. And i did.

Was it difficult? It was very difficult but the difficulty was not due to my mental capacities, it was because i ventured myself into university level courses without any previous studies and chemistry is not an easy subject. This was a very crazy thing to do and there were moments when i really wanted to give up and felt so stupid. But patience, work and a change of attitude when looking at things managed to lift me back on track.

Lately, at a lecture within a recent conference i attended, the lecturer talked about neuroscience and the left / right side of the brain as dealing in a very limiting way with science respectively art. Those who are familiar know that this theory categorizes people as having just one dominant side of the brain though being good only at art or science. The lectures mentioned that this theory was wrong and gave as an example well known artists who were also scientists. That was the moment, I’ve had validated my personal thought that being interested in both it’s not impossible. I grew up, and probably many of us did, with the idea that art and science exclude each other and you can study only one at a time. I do think strongly that this is not the case and i would only hope to see in the future humanities degrees combined with science and the other way round.

Where there is will and passion, there are no boundaries.