Teenage years into early adulthood

We moved to Bradstow Way in Broadstairs at the beginning of the school year in 1983. I clearly remember my first day at Dane Court (Dane Court Grammar School, that is) I felt such a clip with my broken arm and it seemed to have been pre-advertised also that I had diabetes…

Apparently I turned up in a short tight black skirt, although I don’t particularly remember this; it just happened to have been my previous school uniform skirt and we hadn’t got the right kit in time. Two days later I was adorned in the correct outfit from the School Shop.

I coped better with being “the new girl” second time around; this was the fourth school I had been to, and events of the previous 3 years or so had had a maturing effect on me. I seemed to have been through more than the average 13 year old at this time. (At the same time, in many respects I felt that I had lived quite a sheltered childhood, however it was only later that I would really dwell on such matters…)

My teenage years were punctuated with occasional days and longer periods of undefined “ill health”; time off school was not unusual, although I managed to keep up academically. Since much of my malady seemed to be quite non-specific it was frequently assumed to be related to having diabetes, although mostly this wasn’t actually the case. I did have undiagnosed psychological problems though – depression, problems relating to self-image including a mild version of anorexia and low self-esteem. The knock-on efect was perhaps reduced physical health. The old problems that I experienced in my early childhoo also resurfaced from time to time, and this I always felt was a physical malady with knock-on psychological effects.

It was unfortunate that I had a broken arm when I arrived in Broadstairs. I didn’t pick up my violin playing again, nor the swimming. I did play badminton, “as and when”, but I had abandoned my two favourite pasttimes.

Nevertheless, although I was not as happy as I could have been had things been different, my teenage school years were not unenjoyable. I took ‘O’ level maths and english a year early, (along with numerous others, it should be noted, I hadn’t been singled out), and then I took another 8 ‘O’ levels and ‘O/A’ maths the following year. I didn’t fare so well with ‘A’ levels. I really should have got straight ‘A’s, but scraped a ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’. Not to worry! I was able to go off to the University of Surrey (Guildford) and do the course I was most interested in – Biochemistry, specialising in Medical Biochemistry.

By chance (fate?) my closest friend during school years went to Guildford too. I remember we filled in our residence forms together in my bedroom, making sure to post them in the same post box, at the same time… It was lovely to find that we had been allocated a room to share! We were also essentailly doing the same course (although not the same speciality). The friendship continued from strength to strength and has been a life-giving source of support and motivation. It is fair to say that I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for Sam.

I struggled at University. However, my champion friend was always there, encouraging me, supporting me, carrying me sometimes – and I came through.

Of particular significance was the year out that I spent in Carlisle at Cumberland Infirmary in the Biochemistry Lab. This had to rate as “the best time of my life” and it was certainly a significant turning point at the time. I enjoyed what I was doing, I was good at it, and for the first time I felt like a successful and independent individual (albeit only a young one!)

My first job after graduating proved to be less successful. In essence it seemed that I didn’t thrive on a personal level in that particular environment. Eventually I had to learn from the experience and move on. I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge during my time working in “The Todd Lab”, as it was known, but less personal satisfaction. However, I did enjoy the friendship of many people, and the close relationships have continued to this day. Round about the time of leaving the Todd Lab, one particular friendship blossomed into an unexpected romance, and by Easter 1994 I was engaged to be married.

After a few months of unsuccessful job hunting, I finally landed a Research Scientist’s job at a start-up company – Oxford Bioresearch. And here, I really thrived. There is more on my clinical and research experiences in the section, ‘Clinical Biochemist and Research Scientist’.

After completing his PhD at Todd Lab, Peter Reed was ready to embark on his own distinguished career specialising in genetic technologies… and the next thing I knew we were off to Cambridge…

We chose the country life this time, and settled into the village of Haddenham, near Ely. We commuted into Cambridge – well, as far as the Science Park, anyway. I worked for a short while in the Clinical Supplies department of the pharmaceurical company, NAPP. It was a mundane job, with little room for personal development or opportunity to potential explore talents. Thus, when the short-term contract expired (I was only covering for someone on maternity leave), although I was offered another contract, I chose to leave.

I enjoyed a sunny summer in 1997, planning my future as a wife, and as a medical writer. It was time to move on. I began working on the original “Learn More About Diabetes” web site, and drafted some text for a book on diabetes (which I will finish one day!). I married Peter on September 13th 1997, and became known as Karen Reed. The following 3 years were consumed by a desire to be someone that I was not ready to be. However, I did embark upon a successful career as a medical writer.

Then, in September 2001, our first baby was conceived. Suddenly, the pace of my rollercoaster life accelerated several-fold…

MANY PEOPLE HAVE HELPED ME ON MY WAY

Throughout my life, my mother has been my rock. This was especially the case during dodgy periods of my childhood, when nothing else around me seemed stable, or reliable – including my own existance.

A true account of my early life would be incomplete without mentioning that a number of people have either supported me when I was weak, or taught me something significant that would reveal itself later, and help me through a particularly difficult time.

Most people that have played a significant role in my life will be well aware of it. However, numerous people have influenced me in ways that became evident only in later life and so there are many acknowledgements that were never made.

The special relationships continue to this day.

And as for those people that I have lost touch with over the years – well I truly hope that eventually those friendships will be renewed.

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