Breast Cancer Awareness Month ๐ŸŽ€

Breast Cancer, you’ve heard of it, but how much do you really know about it? October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and with it being the most prevalent type of cancer in women in both the UK and Bulgaria, I think it’s definitely worth a mention.

The facts:

  • Breast Cancer is a disease in which malignant cancer cells develop in the tissue of the breast.
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) states breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide.
  • Breast cancer is more common in women, however, men can also be diagnosed with it.
  • The warning signs for breast cancer are not the same in everyone, they vary rom one individual to the next.
  • The likelihood of getting breast cancer increases with age, although it is possible to be diagnosed at any age.

What to look for in women:

The most common signs are:

  • ย A change in the look or feel of the breast
  • A change in the look or feel of the nipple
  • Nipple discharge

What to look for in men:

  • Lump, hard knot or thickening in the breast, chest or underarm area (usually painless, but may be tender)ย 
  • Change in the size or shape of the breastย 
  • Dimpling, puckering or redness of the skin of the breastย 
  • Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nippleย 
  • Pulling in of the nipple (inverted nipple) or other parts of the breast

It is not necessary to have all of the above, it is possible to have only one of the above symptoms. In either case, it is crucial to visit your GP. In the UK, all women from the age of 50 to 71 are invited for breast cancer screening, every three years.

The earlier that breast cancer is detected, the better the prognosis. This is precisely why it is essential that if we notice any changes, we address them and don’t ignore them. Often people use the excuse of feeling too embarrassed to visit their GP, or they dismiss their suspicions on the basis that they are probably wrong. If you ever find yourself in either of these situations, please remember, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

For more detail on any of the aforementioned, you can visit https://www.breastcancer.org

Plovdiv: A Photo Diary ๐Ÿ“ท

This weekend, me and a friend decided to explore the second largest city in Bulgaria, known as Plovdiv. Plovdiv has been awarded the 2019 European Capital of Culture, and we wanted to see if it really did live up to this title. In 1878 the Russian army liberated Plovdiv of the Ottoman rule, however, having been under its rule since 1364 it’s architecture is heavily influenced by the Ottoman Empire.

Plovdiv is in the South of Bulgaria, and is also known as the city of seven hills. It is situated on the two banks of the Maritsa River. Nowadays, Plovdiv can be roughly divided into the Old Town and New Town. Each area has so much to offer.

As with any Bulgarian city, Plovdiv was not costly to visit. It is well connected to other Bulgarian cities by public transport such as train and coach. During our time in Plovdiv we came across two large Tourist Information centres, whilst clear signs directed us to all the main attractions. What we found quite interesting was that a number of streets had signs with a description beneath them in English, shedding some light on the history and relevance of the street, if any.

We would definitely recommend taking a visit, here are some pictures what we took, enjoy!

The Ancient theatre of Philipoppolย is one of the best-preserved ancient theatres in the World.
Holy Assumption Cathedral Church – During the Ottoman invasion in Bulgarian lands and after the conquest of the city in 1371, the monastery near the church was demolished and completely destroyed.
Hisar Kapia – It is one of the three entrances to the acropolis of ancient Plovdiv. The gate was built in the 11th century AD over the foundations of a gate from Roman times
Ulitsa Glavna – This is the main shopping street in Plovdiv stretching 2KM, with a mixture of mainstream and Bulgarian own brand shops.
Kapana – is the creative district of Plovdiv, full of quirky cafes and shops selling unique handcrafted items.
The Ottoman influenced architecture is clearly seen in Old Town Plovdiv.

A day in the life: StudyinginBulgaria ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ

I thought it would be quite interesting to share with you guys what my typical day involves. As some of you might know, I am now in my 5th year of studying Medicine in Bulgaria. The fifth year of my six year Medical course, involves the final year of theoretical study. In your 6th year you work as an FY1 Doctor in Bulgaria. So here it is, my typical day:

06:30 AM

My first alarm sounds, and I instinctively hit snooze. After 5 minutes or more of denial, I get out of bed and head into the shower, my first lesson is at the hospital a hour from now.

07:00 AM

I quickly throw on my scrubs, throw a breakfast bar in my bag and head out. When possible I like to use public transport to get to the hospitals, its quick, easy and super convenient as it drops me 5 minutes away from the block I need to be in.

07:30 AM

Its an Infectious Diseases practical, so that means I need to go straight to the changing room, put on a scrub apron, wear my mask and head into the ward. Here, my professor is waiting for me and others in my class, todays topic is Diarrhoea. We’re quizzed on the theory and I take down some notes on points that I’m unfamiliar with, now its times to visit the patients. We observe a patient, trying to put the theory into practice and suddenly its time for the next practical.

09:00 AM

There’s just enough time to make it back to the main campus for an Endocrinology lesson, this is usually around the time that I’ll quickly eat my breakfast bar, thats the most important meal of the day done. Whilst eating, I briskly walk with some friends, discussing one Netflix series or another.

09:20 AM

The lesson starts, and its a mad rush to take down every word coming out the professors mouth. His words are gold. We’re interrupted now and then by him throwing the odd question at us, but once again, its the end of the practical.

11:20 AM

Now we have a lengthy break, time to catch our breath and recover before the next and final hospital practical. We head over to the mall, the nearest food court to us. Here, we grab some food and complain about our day.

1:00 PM

The final practical is Anaesthesiology. Once again, we wear shoe covers, a scrub apron, a mask and hair cap and finally we enter the ICU. Here we are shown some patients in critical condition, we discuss their cases and the professor asks us what we might consider to be the diagnosis given the history. After this we go on to discuss the complications and associated risks. Often we might also be asked to suggest a treatment plan.

02:30 PM

This practical draws to an end and its time to walk home.

3:00 PM

I quickly rush around and get changed out of my scrubs into my gym clothes and then once again, I’m out of the door. The gym is walking distance and I use this walk to unwind from the day.

3:30 PM

An intense gym session is the best way to feel rejuvenated for the rest of the day. So after a hour and a half in the gym its time to head home.

5:00 PM

After a long day, its time to shower and then refuel. I usually eat something that makes me question why I go to the gym, and watch the next episode of whatever I’m addicted to on Netflix at that moment in time.

07:00 PM

I have 3 practicals again the next day and I need to prepare for all of them. I usually play some music in the background and get started on making my notes. I don’t like to work for longer than 2 hours on a weekday as I am already exhausted from the day. This means that any more time spent studying would probably result in procrastination, and be entirely counterproductive – my mind needs a break.

09:00 PM

I have a hour and a half until I would ideally like to be in bed. This time is mine to do whatever I like, so I’ll usually call home, watch some more TV or write a blog post.

11:00 PM

Before I know it, I’ve already missed my ideal sleeping slot. I then quickly rush into bed and get ready for another early morning start!

Mental Health Awareness Week

That smile you see, those shoulders raised,

the confidence she exudes in all of her ways,

you envy it.

her echoing laughter and endless chatter,

her quick wit and generous manner,

you envy it.

but didn’t you know?

didn’t you care to take a look inside?

have you ever asked her what’s really on her mind?

she would say,

oh dear how silly you are,

my minds a mess, really, you’d be appalled,

i’m full of self doubt, broken and torn,

you see the highs, not the late night cries,

you see the laughter, but don’t you see it only a distraction,

you see my confidence, but not my incompetence,

to deal with my demons and underlying reasons,

so next time think twice, my dear its really just my disguise.

5 things I didn’t know before I started studying Medicine ๐Ÿ“š

Before coming to Bulgaria to study Medicine I was fairly certain that I knew what to expect from the medical course. In hindsight, there is so much more that you take away from your course than you expect that you will! Here are five lessons that I have learnt.

  1. Your body is surprisingly resilient – Perhaps I was naive, but prior to studying medicine I was convinced that after a few years, around 2 or 3 of a consistently poor diet would result in serious health problems. Whether we are talking about a diet composed mostly of fat laden fast food or a diet lacking in most essential nutrients. However, I was wrong. Our bodies, are made up of a number of intricate systems which work together to counteract any abnormalities and keep us working as seamlessly as possible, for as long as possible. This is not to say that we should abuse our bodies by any means.
  2. You can never know it all – Another assumption I was quick to make was that upon graduating from medical school I would be full of all the answers. Ask me any medical question, about a child, adult, elderly patient, about their heart, lungs, kidneys, or absolutely anything else and I would be able to give it to you – just like that. Oh boy was I wrong! The reality is very different to this, as with any profession you’re always learning, medicine is constantly evolving and so are our patients, every case is unique and so is the answer.
  3. The natural solution is always better than the artificial approach – It is easy to believe that if your ill, perhaps a slight flu, toothache, period pain you should take a quick Paracetamol and be done with it. I was also guilty of this! It is only now that I realise that if we just brave it out this is the better solution, but why? This is because by using these chemicals we are weakening our immune systems, instead of letting it deal with it, which is its primary function, we throw artificial pills into the loop. Many of the drugs we take have side effects which we may not even realise, but in the long term can be harmful to our bodies, therefore it is best to avoid using drugs unless it is absolutely necessary.
  4. Doctors are humans too – All to often we visit our Doctors with the belief that they will have us better in no time. It is crucial however to remember that beyond the scrubs and stethoscope is just a human, like me and you. Ultimately, they are not perfect, and despite their best efforts they too can make mistakes. This is not because they do not care, but often because hospitals are understaffed and the doctors who are working are sleep-deprived and over worked. So instead of losing your cool, which I have seen multiple times, please stop and think.
  5. Don’t be embarrassed to seek help – We sometimes stop ourselves from getting the help that we need by convincing ourselves that we will look ridiculous if we go to our doctors with this or that problem. This is a mistake. Often, those who come forward are quite right to, they are able to get themselves that they require at a much earlier stage saving themselves from a much more complicated and severe form of illness. Another thing is that doctors meet all kinds of people, all kinds of cases with all sorts of weird and unique symptoms – so never feel too embarrassed visit your doctor!