Well it has been over a year since my last blog post. “Why so long?” you ask. Well it was mainly because I can now say that I am a breast cancer survivor (or at least in remission – not sure on that technicality). Where do I begin – beware – this might get long.
Last year started out great. I was teaching my sons classmates, started implementing INB, was going to teach college stats for the first time second semester and then one Friday in September after school I felt a lump! What seemed like a million years and 2 million appointments later I was told that I had invasive ductal carcinoma aka breast cancer. The doctor that told me (not an oncologist) told me that I probably wouldn’t be able to continue teaching through treatments and I was devastated! I made an appointment to meet with an oncologist for 3 days later and I was scared you know what. Breast cancer doesn’t run in my family and in fact cancer in general doesn’t. So I didn’t have a clue. I assumed they would start treatments right away. So the next day I told administration and the next day after that I wanted to tell my students because in my mind I thought it was going to be my last day. You think teaching is hard….try telling them that you have cancer and you might not be back. Hardest thing ever…but I respected them enough for me to be the one to tell them.
Well I survived that day (barely and tears were definitely shed) but I am so grateful to say that my oncologist said he saw no reason for me to stop teaching as long as I was feeling up to it (maintain normal as much as possible – obviously he doesn’t know me because people say I’m anything but normal haha) In fact the only time I cried in that initial appointment with him was when we started talking about me and teaching (I do love my job and kids). So course of action was developed that day. 8 rounds of chemo first.
(Going to summarize the rest of the year fairly quickly and get to what I learned from this experience). Finished chemo up only missing 3 additional days (other than appointments obviously). I’m so proud of this fact but also thankful…I don’t know what I would have done had I not had something to look forward to in the morning. Funny enough…one of those days was flu clinic day at school – apparently the mist is a live virus and my oncologist didn’t want me around that with my weekend immune system. The other 2 days I was just exhausted.
Then did a lumpectomy – and I am happy to report that no cancer cells were found from the cells they removed – so chemo did it’s job. But since I had the lumpectomy over mastectomy I had to do 33 radiation treatments daily Mon through Friday. Now I live 40 miles from the nearest hospital that does radiation so would have to travel that daily for a 10 min appointment. Thankfully they had appointment times late in the afternoon so I didn’t have to miss school, but man that made for a long day. But you know what…I made it through just fine.
Fast forward to today….just did a 6 month check up scan and everything looked great! I do have 2 appointments scheduled this year already. One is for my port removal (very excited about this one – I hate that thing) and the other one isn’t until FEBRUARY!!!!!!!!!!!!
So what did I learn from all this craziness – I’ll start with the personal stuff. Here are the four things I had to keep in my mind through this process (and I will continue to keep in mind with all other things life throws at me)
1) Worrying about tomorrow only takes away today’s peace! With anything medical the unknown and not having a plan is horrible. But worrying about it doesn’t help. Put trust in the doctors that you have and the support system around you of the people you love and everything will seem ok. One day at a time.
2). It could always be worse! The cancer could have spread, I could have had to travel 2 hours to appointments, my kids (sons) could have be younger and needed my attention more, I might not have been able to continue to teach….you get the idea. It could always be worse.
3) It’s ok to have bad days (and this is true no matter what is happening in life). But just have a good cry, remember 1 and 2, and pick yourself up with the help of loved ones.
4) I have amazing family, friends, colleagues, students and live in an amazing community. I have never felt so much love and support as I did this past year. From kind words, flowers from past students, a simple card in the mail, meals prepared for our family (colleagues set up a schedule on the TakeThemAMeal website and got 4 a week during chemo). Amazing!
What have a learned as a teacher?
1) Students are amazing! They cried with me when I told them, they cheered with me when I was done with chemo. They were ok if I wasn’t at the top of my game and had to sit down sometimes in the front of the room. They told me the loved the highlights I got in my hair when it was my wig after I shaved my head since the hair was falling out. They kept me going.
2) Be open with your students – they are capable of handling more than you think and are thankful for your honesty. Now obviously I treated my seniors differently than my 8th graders. But if they had questions I would answer them. As much as they can be a pain some days, they most definitely can be caring, giving, and compassionate humans as well. Here’s what I believe – I believe I not only taught them math….but I also taught them a lot about life and (I hope) how to handle adversity with strength and class.
3) It’s also ok to take a break from trying to be amazing. Did I miss learning some things by not reflecting and sharing on my blog, not reading blogs, not participating in the Global Math Departments amazingness, and in not following unbelievable PD on twitter? Sure. Is that ok? Yes it is. And here’s why….I’m back now!!!!!
Sorry this got long – and I’m sure there is more I wanted to say (I’ve been formulating this post is my mind for awhile now) but this is me, today, what I’ve got. :). If you made it this far…thanks for reading and I wish you an AMAZING school year.
P.s. Thanks you know who for
forcing encouraging me to start blogging again. More to come soon! Haha