Sometimes Down But Never Out

St James Medical Student Stands in front of school

If there is a group of people that can speak about how life can throw us around like a rag-doll, it’s med students. Kendra tells her inspiring story of how though life sometimes brought her down, but never out.  

For me becoming a doctor was not something I dreamed about as a child. I never really knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I finally saw the light when I lost my twin boys due to preterm delivery. After that situation occurred, I decided to go and become a medical assistant. There was something in the way the nurses in the NICU took care of me and my twins that drew me in. After that, I told myself that I wanted to do what they were doing and take care of women who experienced loss and became new moms. I felt that I would be able to empathize with them and would be able to help guide them through their pain and share in their happiness. 

Who am I?

Hello, my name is Kendra Cruickshank. I am 36 years old, and I was born on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. However, I grew up in Brooklyn, NY. I am a single mother of four sons and a self-published author of the book “Phases of a Shattered Woman: The Ups, Downs, and In Between.” I graduated with a BS in Psychology and am currently working simultaneously on my Master of Science in Psychology with a Concentration in Health Psychology, Master of Business Administration with a Concentration in Health Administration, and Doctor of Medicine degrees. 

Student Dr Kendra

Before attending medical school, I was a Medical Assistant for fourteen years, mainly in OB/GYN. I also worked as a Pharmacy Technician, Adjunct Medical Assistant Instructor at the college level, and a Medical Scribe. However, while working as a medical assistant, many medical students and patients would always tell me that I should become a doctor because I had the knowledge and excellent bedside manner. Even though many people saw this in me, I didn’t see it in myself. It wasn’t until several years later that my eyes were opened, and I decided to apply. 

There was one doctor that I worked with for four years who I saw as a mother figure. She is down-to-earth, caring, kind, knowledgeable, loved, and cherished by everyone around her. Her patients love her and are loyal to her and I aspired to become the type of physician, mother, and human being she was. She taught me a lot of life lessons as well as enhanced my medical knowledge. For that, I will be forever grateful. 

My Body’s Betrayal

In getting to medical school, however, there wasn’t just one hurdle I had to jump through; I had countless limitations and a mountain. About ten plus years ago, I was in an accident where I sustained a head injury. The accident left me with a brain bleed and a concussion. Several years after my accident, I started to have constant palpitations and dizziness while lying still. As the years progressed, I started experiencing more symptoms. I had constant migraines, body pain, brain fog, exercise intolerance, blood pooling in my legs, hot and cold intolerance, and memory loss to name a few.

My cardiologist could not figure out what was wrong with me until the day I mentioned that I had a car accident and sustained a brain injury. He later diagnosed me with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS). Living with POTS has been a roller coaster. My symptoms exacerbate every time I am stressed. I have good days where I can get up and feel “normal,” and then there are days when I feel as though my world is caving in (all my symptoms are active). We were able to figure out a medical therapy that worked best with me, and by the time I entered medical school, things were great, at least for the first two weeks. I started experiencing blood pooling in my legs after sitting in 2-hour long lectures, then I ended up leaving school in the middle of my second semester because I could not pay tuition. 

Financial Troubles

Many might ask why I wasn’t prepared before I went to medical school or why I didn’t take out a loan, but I did not want any debt coming out of medical school because I already acquired enough debt in undergrad. Plus, the school I got into was on the lower end of tuition.

Knowing that I had to leave school during the middle of a semester was heartbreaking, embarrassing at first, and discouraging. I decided to announce it to my classmates to make sure they heard what was going on from me and not from word of mouth. I let them know what happened, and everyone wished me well. Even though I said I would be back, no one believed me, and so everyone moved on without me. I went into a depression and stayed on the island for the remainder of the semester and just gathered my thoughts, planned, and then set out to accomplish it. I went back to the states with one goal in mind, GET BACK INTO SCHOOL. That is exactly what I did. I found a job in an Urgent Care facility and worked my butt off. 

COVID strikes

During my first two weeks of working, I had COVID. It was the worst I have ever felt. After about two weeks of anosmia, gastritis, malaise, and fatigue, I was able to recover. When I was well enough to go back to work, I was pulling 100 plus hours in almost a two-week timeframe. At this point, I was already out of school for two, almost three semesters until COVID hit. Once Covid came along and school was put online I was able to complete MD2-MD4 online while working and saving.

I kept going through my exhaustion. There was a night where I fell asleep fully clothed with my books and computer still on my lap. My coworkers were great in supporting me and keeping me on my toes. Finally, I was able to stop working and refocus on my studies, and here I am today, an MD5 student who has passed the basic sciences and is studying for Step 1. 

What it really takes

Going to medical school is not for individuals whose passion is not medicine. There are tons of concepts to remember and tons of information to memorize. You are what I like to call “a forever student”. This process, for me, was what I expected when I entered. It makes you second guess how smart you are. There were countless times where I wanted to quit, where I cried, where I felt like I wasn’t good enough. All-in-all though, I got back up and continued to press on.

Many do not understand that this process is a psychological, emotional, and physical test. The countless 5-8 hours exams and countless quizzes you take to assure that you comprehend the complex concepts test your stamina. However, though this may be a test of your agility, so many rewards come from it. Even though the road may be rough, you possess the strength to continue. You attain your goals and will become a doctor. You also develop a network of friends that share the same goals you have. Some of those friendships last forever, and some are for a season. 

Medical Student down but not out

You can do it, too!

My goal as a future physician is to treat and educate individuals who cannot afford medical care, whether that takes me to another country or if it’s on the home front. I believe that knowledge is power, and I also think that the way you explain to a patient their condition determines whether they will listen to you are not. From living in the Caribbean for almost two years I have had the opportunity to see what their healthcare system is like. Many people suffered from losing limbs related to peripheral neuropathy secondary to uncontrolled diabetes. Also, the prevalence of hypertension was high. From being in this environment my focus has become clearer. Through education about these specific diseases, I believe that the prevalence will decrease tremendously.  

I would love my bad and good experiences to inspire others to attain their goals no matter what goes on in their lives- whether they have support on their journey or not. No matter what occurs during the process, DO NOT GIVE UP. You may be down, but never out. Those who are looking for someone to speak to that is non-judgmental, will hold you accountable for your goals and guide you to becoming the best you, I am here. I am always here to lend a hand or just to be a listening ear. For anyone seeking a mentor, I have started a mentoring program named “Knowledge is Power Mentoring” and can be contacted at [email protected]

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We thank Kendra for sharing her inspiring story with us- life may bring us down, but never out! Feel free to make contact with her through her email or follow her on Instagram @dr.kcp. You can read more of her inspiring story here.

Are you a med student overcomer? Let us know how life may sometimes have you down but never out in the comments. Feel free to learn about more #medstories here on our blog and on instagram @medcuteonline

Kendra Cruickshank

Kendra Cruickshank is a medical student at the St James Medical School in St Vincent and the Grenadines, a mother of four sons and a self-published author of the book “Phases of a Shattered Woman: The Ups, Downs, and In Between.” She holds a BS in Psychology and is currently working on her Master of Science in Psychology with a Concentration in Health Psychology, Master of Business Administration with a Concentration in Health Administration, and Doctor of Medicine degrees.

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