Growing Up Eventually

Ruth - Leaburg, Oregon
Entered on April 20, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65

I believe you can be anything you want to be when you grow up, no matter how old you are. I believe this because I am nearing the finish line of a quest started more than 10 years ago.

One Saturday at the baseball field another mom discussed her upcoming graduation from pharmacy school. Given my growing interest in the health field, this mom’s journey was both inspiring and scary. I talked about going back to school until finally my teenage children dragged me to the community college, gave me some pointers about test-taking, and waited 2 hours while I finished a math placement test. Somehow I squeaked over the line for acceptance into calculus. First, though, my daughter had to use the test score to convince the woman at the registration desk that her mom qualified to register for the course.

OK. I was off. Oops! Scientific graphing calculators were required, and I, unlike my classmates, didn’t know how to use one. I added a calculator class on Saturdays.

The challenges were just beginning. Organic chemistry was known for modifying career aspirations. It turned out to be fascinating to me, as was physics and biochemistry.

Six years after starting night school, I applied to the state’s pharmacy school and, out of nearly 1000 applicants, was granted an interview. With the dean.

When my letter of acceptance came, I was surprised. I was sure he’d made a mistake.

I was in for more surprises. The required internship at the end of our first year was in a retail pharmacy. I loved the patient counseling. That is, until I discovered patients were completely unpredictable. We had been taught the Seven Attributes of a Symptom. These were supposed to lead us effortlessly and flawlessly through patient interviews. We would ask about the location, setting, quality, quantity, timing, associated symptoms and meaning to the patient and voila! Out popped a good recommendation. A woman came to the pharmacy and asked for something for a rash under her breasts. Things were progressing nicely until I asked her what the rash looked like. She showed me, right there in the counseling window. This had NOT been covered in lecture. I learned. When a gentleman came in with a rash in the groin area, I guided him to comment instead of showing.

Night school, two full-time years, four intensive years in pharmacy school. Along the way I’ve gathered enough information to help most patients. None have returned yet to chastise me for misleading them. Many, however, have returned to thank me. And that’s what makes this quest all worthwhile.

Despite doubts, I found my second wind. I coaxed aging neurons to perform. I was perhaps too old to pull all-nighters, but still I made it. Now I finally get to be what I always wanted to be.

In June I will receive a doctoral degree in pharmacy. God, that will feel good.

One month later, I will celebrate my 58th birthday. That will feel even better.