Friday, March 6, 2015

The Cancer Card

So I was wide awake at 5:30am this morning, and my brain was already blogging.  I've got a good one for you today!

It was a humorous morning.  I didn't have to be at work until later due to parent teacher conferences today, so I enjoyed the quiet time until Superman's alarm went off.  When he started to stir, I turned my unusual early morning cheerfulness full-blown onto him.  Anyone who knows me, its UNHEARD of for me to be in a good mood before 8am.  However, I haven't taken any Tylenol in almost 24 hours.  My port site hasn't produced stabbing pain in a few days.  My achiness has subsided.  I'm in a GOOD MOOD!!!  Superman is NOT IN A GOOD MOOD!!!  He was up late doing pep band last night and was super tired.  So, it was a funny morning, irritating my husband with unfailing cheerfulness.  Excerpts from the morning: "Leave me alone!"  "Don't you have work today?"  "Why are you so cheerful?"  "You don't love me.  Stop lying."   "Get your cancer off of me!"   This is, of course, in good fun.  My husband is not actually emotionally abusive, even if I will declare he is at the top of my lungs.  I can imagine how ANNOYING I was with my intermittent giggling before 6:30am on a work day.

Although I feel great right now, its been like a waiting game with these side effects.  The nausea and achiness showed up right away.  Then earlier this week, I was feeling some peripheral neuropathy.  That's described as feeling numbness or tingling in the hands or feet.  I haven't been tingling so much, but I have felt weird and my hands and up my arms have felt "cold".  That's the best way to describe it.  Superman called the nurse about it, and they were unconcerned, but said to discuss it at my next oncologist appointment and that they can make adjustments to my meds and the treatment cocktail to help with that.
Another side effect started out as a weird prickling in the back of my throat.  Then it started to feel weird when I would swallow cold liquid.  Not so much a sore throat, but definitely some inflammation of some sort.  My gums are starting to feel weird, and I have a couple sore spots in my mouth now.  The nurses told me at the beginning of this that I need to gargle salt water 3x a day to prevent mouth sores.  Superman bought me some awesome toothpaste and alcohol-free mouthwash for dry mouth.  I have been using this, but I wasn't gargling the salt water consistently.  Follow the doctor's orders STUPID.  So I'm doing the salt water now.
I'm on a prescription anti-acid that I'm supposed to take twice a day.  I've realized that first thing in the morning and last thing at night isn't the best regimen.  I've realized that I need to take my second one before dinner time for maximum effect.  I was having a lot of evenings in a row that I just didn't feel good after dinner.  After I switched the timing, I have been fine.
I've also had a weird burning in on my face, below my nose.  Just started yesterday.  I don't know what that's all about.
And then I've had some internal plumbing issues too, but I won't elaborate on those anymore.  I've reached my limit in this blog already for poop-related humor.  haha.
And lastly, waiting for the big one.  The hair to fall out.  Hasn't started yet, but it should before the end of the month.  waiting, waiting, waiting.

So I've been repeating this question in my mind over and over again.  Why do I have cancer?  Ok people.
I'm 32 years old.
I have no history of cancer in my family, that I know about.
I am...well optimal health.
I rarely ever have any health complications or illnesses. (aside from a couple freakshow things like having a super-sweaty hands and feet condition called hyperhydrosis.  And having a thing where air leaks out my nose when I play the clarinet too long.  Its called stress velopharyngeal insufficiency.  I did a research project on it in college.  It was an impressive piece of research.)
I eat well.
I drink only moderately.
I exercise, not consistently, but I do it.  I'm also very active during the day.
I make adequate sleep a priority.
I drink green tea daily, and make considerable effort to consume power foods and antioxidants on a regular basis.

So why do I have cancer??

My oncologist said that they have been noticing a trend with more and more young women getting breast cancer and there is not an explanation for it.  So why is it happening???  There's one thing in my life that I haven't handled well.  Work-related stress.  Does stress feed cancer?  Here's something that a simple google search came up with:

One of the medications I take now has nausea, anxiety and insomnia wrapped up into one.  Its amazing, by the way.  When I wake up in the morning, its like my brain has been wiped clean.  I know what day it is, and that I have to go to work today, but beyond that, nothing.  This week would regularly be a fairly stressful week for me with my two festival trips.  My mind would be overflowing with to-do lists.  I would be walking mentally through every aspect of the day, making sure that I've got everything under control, and even if I do, I will be worrying about every bit of it.

But not this week.  Basically, I just showed up and winged it.  I DON'T DO THAT!  I don't wing anything.  I challenge you to find another teacher who writes more thorough lesson plans than I do.  I basically write my lesson plans so that if I wake up with amnesia one morning, I will still be able to teach my classes.  Its ridiculous.  Superman tells me all the time that I plan too much.  But I HAVE to.  Its how I function.  And although I will never change that, I do know for a fact that I have an anxiety problem.  Its become clear to me.

The past 8 years of my life have been dedicated whole-heartedly and whole-bodily to education and being the best teacher on the freakin' planet.  And here's where my cancer card is going to come in.

I've decided to write a book.  And I'm going to use cancer to get it published and out into the world.

The book isn't actually about cancer.  Its going to be on the topic of educational reform. And the way that cancer has changed how I think and how I teach.  And that changes are needed.  I've been saying for years that I hope in my lifetime, I see a big positive change in education.  But, as you know, I have been faced with the thought of my own limited mortality, and what the hell am I waiting for.  I'll just do it myself.

To be more specific, my book is going to be about how we can't serve our students until we take care of the teachers/staff that interact with them.  Students are our clients.  Without adequate time and resources, we are not able to meet our clients needs.  In just 3 weeks of my journey, I have become a better and compassionate teacher.  Because I HAVE to take care of myself.  Its not optional.  I have always put education before myself and my family, and now I'm not anymore, and the results have already been beginning.  Cancer is the reason I've realized this.

So I'm writing a book.  I'm going to take it and give personal copies to all the people who have never worked in a classroom but are in charge of making educational decisions.  And I'm going to use the cancer card to get there.

"Hi, I'm a cancer survivor.  I need to see the legislator.  Now."

Educators are continually being given impossible tasks, and because we love children, we continue to jump through the endless hoops.  At some point, we need to STOP.  The general public, I have seen, are very prickly about teachers and the details of our jobs.  For example:  the misconception that we have paid summers off.  Nope.  Let's call it what it is.  Its an annual teacher LAY-OFF.

Another example:  Substitute teachers are not real teachers.  omg.  One of my sweetest students the other day referred to one of my subs as "not a teacher".  I had to breathe for 10 seconds before replying.  And then we discussed it.  We came to the conclusion, that yes, the substitute teacher was not a music specialist, but They.  Are.  A.  Real.  Teacher.

So many things.  There's so many topics I can write about.  Have you ever read an education article in an online newspaper and then browsed through the comment section?  There's where you hear the truth of how our citizens feel about education and teachers in particular.  Its saddening.  And its also IGNORANCE.

Also, I've been thinking about fertility issues, ya know, recently.  The top reason why I haven't had a child yet is because, WHEN the heck am I going to take care of a child??  I'm too busy taking care of everyone else's child.  And I come home exhausted after it.  And then I spend 3 hours doing lesson plans and neglect my husband and my health and happiness in the process.  All for education.  Educators are so overloaded and our world takes advantage of us because we care so much.  When is it going to stop and when are we going to make changes and who is going to stand up and get the ball rolling on it????

Book.  I've always wanted to write a book.  But I've never had anything good to say or write about.  I think now is the time.  So if anyone has any ideas, resources, articles, thoughts to share, please feel free to comment below or to email at my personal email address.

I'm doing this.

I will close today with two things: a fun cute picture a friend sent me.  And one of my FAVORITE VIDEOS OF ALL TIME.  I've noticed that a newer version has popped back up in social media recently.  I fell in love with the original version about 10 years ago.  But the one I'm going to show you has some cool graphics in it, and its clean.  The original has some obscene gestures and profanity in it (appropriate to the topic, but this is a public blog, so keepin' it clean).  I hope it fires you up as much as it does me!

Get those puppies checked!


  1. Thank you!

    When I found out the district was going to start charging a higher insurance premium to people who didn't do the "optional" biometric screening (which I won't get started on how inaccurate THAT is) or not meeting the "goals," my stress level shot through the roof. I can't do their approved activities and I'm under a doctor's care, why is that not enough? I already have so many medical bills and I can't afford a higher insurance cost.

    I did write the union and gave them permission to share my words. If the district really cares about its students, it needs to care about its teachers too. Buildings should not be run down with water leaks, mold-that's-not-mold, equipment that is so old it's dangerous, etc. The stress of the job is bad enough, especially in this state.

    Like you said, the decent ones are the ones sticking it out and putting up with it because we care about the kids...but at some point we will break if we don't put our foot down. Like you, my health is what taught me that lesson. It's why, as you could probably tell this evening, I can't stand petty drama or favoritism or any of that. It's just not worth the time.

    Don't get me wrong, I truly don't wish anyone ill even if I want to smack them, but when you add that to the stress of all the scheduling issues, extra paper work, collecting fees, marzano scales, word walls, lesson plans, agendas on the board, pointless meetings, etc makes me want to scream.

    Why are we here? I specifically chose a lower income area not because I wanted to make myself look good, not because I wanted to do paper work, not because I wanted to deal with the public...but because I wanted to CHANGE LIVES. Or at least improve them. Instead we are so busy chasing the newest regurgitated strategy or trying to do what is required for our evaluation or document the crap to prove we do our job that some days I'm frankly surprised students learn at all. It's very sad.

    I've been told that I put a lot of this stress on myself; that it's not (fill in the blank) that's adding pressure. I also hear my expectations are too high a lot too. I decided yesterday that in part, they are correct--because I know what my students are capable of and believe in them. It is very demoralizing to realize that sometimes we are the minority in that.

    I commend you for this new path and I hope if it doesn't change their hearts you can smack them upside the head with it and knock some sense into them! ;)

    1. Love this comment!!! Health insurance difficulties is not an angle I had even thought of yet (because i'm only beginning my experiences on that). I need to start making an outline. This is going in there.
      I love that you comment on your high expectations too. Students will meet the line we set for them. Legislators think that works with educators too. But there is a very very big difference. Another point I need to explore for my bad ass book.