Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A response: Are teacher's bleeding hearts the real reason for public education's decline?

I was tagged on Social Media by a friend and co-worker in her posting of this article:

Why Teachers Can't Have Normal Lives

And I couldn't stop thinking about it. My brain started blogging immediately. So forewarning, the rest of this post will be rather preachy and contain the words injustice. I know there's tons of greater injustices going on in our world right now.   But I feel very strongly about this subject. My health journey has made me realize many things about balancing work and doing what you can and letting go the rest. So here goes...

Everything written in the linked article is TRUTH, and I agree whole-heartedly with all of it.  But I also think to myself. "UGH.  BLEH.  This IS the root of our problem.  This is why children aren't getting the education they need."

I'd like to explain further by writing a response to the article and its many points.

Red = article
Black = my responses

I’m not entirely sure what a normal life is, but the author of this post says they aren’t in the cards for teachers.

I'm not sure what a normal life is either.  Do police officers have a normal life?  Do doctors have a normal life?  Do coal miners have a normal life?   My reason for these questions is that there is no normal, and each occupation has its own set of demands, expectations, and frustrations.  I would like to discuss further the rising injustice that teachers are experiencing in their set of demands later in this post.

“Oh you are a teacher? It must be so nice to have two months off. I just have a normal job with only two weeks’ vacation.”
We have all heard it — and to be honest, we are sick of it. Sure, we get summers “off.” I should not need to mention that during that time we attend workshops, plan lessons and rewrite curriculum we rework to meet changing standards, but, apparently, I do. Here are some things people may not realize about the lives of teachers.
Let's be clear.  Teacher's are LAID OFF for the summer.  FORCED WITHOUT PAY. (*more clarification on this concept at the end of the paragraph)  Yes, many teachers, myself included, rewrite curriculum and attend workshops, BECAUSE WE CHOOSE TO. Not because we are on a paid vacation.  And to clarify on that without pay part, its standard procedure that our employers take our 9 month salary and spread it across 12 months for the sake of convenience and money management.   It has many benefits, but one of them is not the snide comments from "normal people" who are disgruntled and unaware of the math.
Free time.  Our free time is spent grading papers, planning lessons, and researching new ways to teach concepts. The majority of us are more than teachers; we are tutors, coaches, and sponsors. We spend time after school helping develop talents and skills, for no extra pay. We give up time with our families to help mold your child.
Yes, yes, yes.  All of the above is true.  Our free time, a.k.a. non-contractual time is often spent doing work.  Much like teachers will give students time in class to do work and when they don't finish it, they are expected to take it home as homework. Teachers are expected to take "homework" home as well.  What's the data on other professions where the employees are expected to work overtime without pay?  I can't give a researched response on that question at this time.  But I will say this.  It is widely accepted by our American public school culture that this is just WHAT TEACHERS DO.
This is how teachers feel about that.
At my school, we are contracted to work from 7:30 - 3:30, a.k.a. given a salary based on 8 hrs a day, five days a week, 40 hour work week.   Teachers teach 6 class periods out of their 8 hour day, have a collaborative team meeting or lunch duty, a 25 min work-free lunch, one personal planning & prep period, and about 30 mins of miscellaneous work time before or after school, often times dominated by students who need extra help or tutoring.

Reality: 75% teaching.  25% everything else we can possibly fit in.  The teachers with bleeding hearts (most of us) stay late or take home the rest, sacrificing time with family, health, mental wellbeing, leisure, sleep, and spirituality.  This takes its tole on our resiliency, our most needed quality.  Any of you teach middle school out there??  Oh yes.....RESILIENCY is a very important quality.
I live in a state where the current Governor doesn't know how to balance his budget.  And education is taking the fall.  So teachers jobs are getting harder, more overwhelming, more time consuming, more expectations to produce high results.  
So what I am suggesting, and I can't take ownership for this idea.   I read it in an article or a blog somewhere and can't remember where it was to reference it.  The idea of teachers working their PROPER DUTY DAY.   Do the best you can within the allotted time you have been given/paid for.   Then leave. If every teacher does this, watch what becomes abundantly clear about education.  Its broken.  And it starts with the teachers time and resources. That thought hurts my soul. I personally would rather sacrifice my time than my work ethic.  But when are the punches going to stop?
Emotional distress. Being a teacher is an emotional roller coaster. We cannot “leave it at work or leave it at home.” We deal with children,  and we care about all of them. In many cases, teachers spend more time with students than their parents do.
Why can't we leave it at work?  Well, because our hearts are bleeding for the students.  Our caring is our Kryptonite.  And it is exploited by politicians and misunderstood by citizens.
We must take care of the teachers first.  Not until we do that, can we effectively take care of the really important stuff:  THE STUDENTS.  Not until teachers are given more time, more resources, the courtesy of enforcing our proper duty day, encouraged and expected to go home on time to be with our families, and renew ourselves for the next day.  (To clarify, I have great administrators that actually DO this. I'm referring to a collective whole.) Emotionally resilient teachers create the daily, sunny, productive weather in their classroom.  Teachers that are strung out create the daily stormy weather that frustrates students, teachers, parents, school board members, and politicians alike.
The bleeding hearts of our teachers have to do this together though.  WORK YOUR PROPER DUTY DAY.  Only when we take care of ourselves first can we best serve our students.  THE PROPER DUTY DAY, as it stands, is not distributed properly.  Changes need to be made.  In education, its never enough.  But we can make it better.  It will be excruciating.  In my entire career of teaching, I have RARELY stopped what I was doing at 3:30 and said, ok, time to clock out.  I haven't finished setting up my students to succeed tomorrow.  But you have to walk out that door, and we all have to do it TOGETHER.  Or else we individually portray that we are incompetent.  But if we all do it, we portray a message.  A collective commitment to ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.  Our students deserve more.  Teachers need to be served first.  And then we can serve our clients, the students.  
I think I'm suggesting somewhat of a strike, in a way.  We arrive at contract time.  Kick total ass, as much as we can, with our bleeding hearts for our students that we love so much.  And then at the end of the contract day, WE LEAVE.  ALL OF US.  GOVERMENT BUILDING CLOSES DOWN.  Unless a staff member is being paid to sponsor an after-school activity, you leave.  There's only so much we can do given the resources that we have.  And those resources are continually being taken away, and expected to do more with less. 
Policy-makers have not a clue what the real issues are.  We do whatever it takes to help our students because we love them and we are committed to our ideals.  And its our biggest weakness.  Is it ultimately OUR FAULT that cuts to education continue because we quietly adjust and run ourselves into the ground?
We need to find strength in this:  #workyourproperdutyday  #gohome  #fortheteachersandultimatelythechildren  #theydeserveit
We save the world. It is not all bad. We save and guide our students’ lives. Teachers help choose majors, guide interests, and build confidence. We inspire and redirect. We don’t have superpowers, but we do have impact. And when things go well, we are thanked, years later. Our students remember us when they get older. They are at class reunions and say, ‘Remember when Ms. So and So said that? She changed my life.’
That is why we cannot live a “normal” life. We are not “normal” people.
In reference to "normal", what our society accepts and expects a teacher to be and do.  Its injustice.  You want to fix education?  Produce results on tests?  Fix the injustice.  Adjust how we use our 40 hour work week.  If you haven't set aside time during the PROPER DUTY DAY for teachers to grade papers and tests, don't expect graded papers and tests.  If you haven't set aside time for teachers IN THE PROPER DUTY DAY to make phone calls, don't expect your teachers to contact home, ever.  If you haven't set aside time for teachers IN THE PROPER DUTY DAY, to address and document discipline issues, don't expect students, your child or others, to receive appropriate consequences for bad behavior.  If you haven't set aside time for teachers IN THE PROPER DUTY DAY to plan, prep, and create authentically engaging, differentiated, collaborative, student-centered, well-planned lessons, don't expect the magic to happen.  Because, its gonna take magic to fix this mess called American public education.
Work the proper duty day.  Because, we teachers are bleeding all the way out.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Chemo #6

Today went very well.

My chemo infusion went swimmingly with no complications.  I did, however, have a strange thing happen when they took my blood for labs check beforehand.  My left arm has an extremely trusty vein in it that has worked EVERY SINGLE TIME.  But not today.  It said, no thank you.  So they had to go to my right arm, which was reluctant but eventually gave us what we needed.  Very strange.  Hopefully by next week, my left arm's trusty vein will be back in business.  Everyone needs a day off, I guess!

I had a nurse today that I haven't had before and through random conversation we figured out that she knows some of my family from Abilene!  That was super fun.  :)

When we came home, I didn't take a nap today.  I wasn't sleepy.  They didn't give me the super strong and sleepy allergy medicine this time, since it was confirmed last week that I'm likely not allergic to the Taxol.  Instead, I took a plain old Allegra which is non-drowsy.

Then this evening, I got noticeably grouchy and tired around 8:30pm.  But not sleepy tired.  Just exhausted tired.  Way down at the cellular level, I'm sure.  And as a result, I cried a little bit, like a toddler, who is just plain tired and needs to cry it out.  For no reason, in particular.  I wasn't sad, or angry, or depressed.  Just needed to cry a little bit.  Sigh...

I went to bed, took some tylenol because I'm a little achy, maybe a little bit more than last week but still bearable.  I laid in bed for about 45 minutes and decided to move to the couch.  I took some of my insomnia medicine, and hopefully I'll fall asleep here in a little bit.  But I decided to update the blog in the meantime.

So, all-in-all, good day.  I'm staying home tomorrow too, to rest up for the remainder of the work week!

Acceptance, Gratitude, and Healing!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sun-and-retro-cocktail-hour therapy

The sun finally came out this weekend.  So I promptly parked myself on the back porch (in the shade though.  Chemo = stay out of the direct sun), with the dogs, my computer, the retro cocktail hour streaming online, and some water.

This weekend has mostly been comprised of couch time, but I did take Charlie-dog for a walk and did a little bit of house-cleaning.  Boy-o, do I get tired quickly though.  How annoying.

I've fallen behind on documenting gifts I've received lately.  So I'll catch up here:

From Grandma (sent in different installments):

a HUGE basket of awesome cancer-fighting stuff and general fun from Army friends, including a self-created board game. :)

From a student and his mom:

A hat/scarf from a co-worker:

I'm so lucky to have awesome people in my life thinking of me.  I can't help but notice that having cancer means more gifts than birthdays or christmas!  haha.  And its not just gifts... Offers of help.  Hugs.  Emails. Voicemails.  Texts.  It has all been valuable in keeping my spirits up.  I feel I have done a fairly good job at staying happy, positive, and upbeat, but I definitely have my sad moments/days.  

I've been reading a couple blogs recently from two authors of a book called "100 perks of having cancer and 100 health tips for surviving it".  Basically, these two women had breast cancer and blogged about their experiences, met each other through the blogs, and then decided to team up and publish a book of their writings.   I will be ordering this book.  But in the meantime, I've been perusing the blogs.
They are both very invested in the mind-body-spirit connection and assisting cancer recovery and preventing recurrence through that.  What's really neat is that the two of them didn't actually meet in person until after the book was published.  Transcontinental friendship because of cancer survivorship.  Very uplifting.

Another bit of valuable reading material. 

We did a staff development activity this week on developing emotional resiliency in teachers.  #itsmydailymoodthatmakestheweather
The transfer of the ideas in this article from my teaching life to my healthy life was astounding.  It was embarrassing actually when I was reading it.  I started to tear up a little bit, just because it was so relevant to my life right now. of the side effects of chemo is extra teary eyes, and extra runny nose.  So getting, what normally would've been, a little watery eyed turned into MAJOR WATER WORKS.  So people are noticing it and feeling compelled to hug me and be sympathetic, and I'm like, I'M FINE!  I know I don't look it.  Its the stupid chemo's fault!  I'm not having a meltdown, I promise.  

And more on that runny nose bit.  At any given moment, a dribble of snot will come racing out my nose.  Unexpectedly and without warning.  Its super annoying!  It hasn't happened in the middle of teaching a class yet, but I'm just waiting for it, and having to say: "Welp.  That happened.  Sorry guys.  Grossssssssssss."

Well, this week is onto Chemo #6.  I'm so thankful to be able to take 2 days off each week to rest.  Something I look forward to, with this part of treatment being easier, is coming out of survival-mode in regards to work and doing my job well again.  Many things have suffered.  I have been focused so much on setting myself up to survive each day and LEAVE to go heal and rest and less on producing results with my students.  Friday was definitely a rough day, mainly because my lesson-planning was poop!   However, one of the big takeaways from this experience will be that work will always be there, with an endless to-do lists of things that need to be done.  But what's most important day-to-day is being healthy, balanced, and happy.  Emotionally resilient.  :)  Work will be just fine.

Gratitude, acceptance, and healing!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Post Taxol report

I've fallen behind on updating, so here is a quick note on my status. 


My favorite improvement - No stomach/intestinal issues. 

I'm still super tired, but in a different way.  I didn't realize how hard AC was until it was over. 

My taste buds are different.  Things don't taste the same, or I can barely taste them at all. 

I've been achy too. Not in an active way like AC was.  Just body soreness when I... Well....move. Haha. But its manageable. The worst achy time was thursday night, day 3 after treatment. I read that days 3 and 4 are the hardest. 

We will be watching for numbness in hands and feet, neuropathy. No changes there yet. 

Aside from that, I'm handling it like a champ, if I do say so myself!

Happy saturday morning!  Devoting my attentions to coffee and a book. :) 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Chemo #5 (Taxol #1)

I completed my first Taxol chemotherapy treatment today. As with most things, the thinking and the worrying beforehand was the worst part. I was anxious about the possibility of a severe allergic reaction. They pump me full of all kinds of allergy meds before they start the Taxol. It was actually the allergy med that affected me the most:  extremely heavy eyes and my brain just shut down for coherent thought for about 10 mins. After that it was better, but I had trouble walking in a straight line to the bathroom and my body was very heavy. Superman commented "are you drunk??"  Drunk on allergy medicine. 
I'm still a little nervous in this waiting game of a new set of side effects.  So far I've noticed:
1. Altered taste buds
2.  Aches
3. Continued hot flashes
4. Tired

But I already feel tons better than after the AC treatments. Fingers crossed it stays that way!!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Composting: Giving back to the Earth

This morning, after several weeks of contemplating it, I went to my yoga studio for a class called “Sacred Space” advertised as a free meditation class with a guest teacher.  I had no idea what this was going to be like, but I named it “yoga church” in my head. 

Well, it was basically a group therapy session.  A very nice lady, don’t remember her name, who is a massage therapist and also using this Sacred Space class to conduct research, officially or unofficially, I’m not sure.  Her goal is to figure out how to help people reach their natural state and potential without having to wait until their next yoga or meditation class.  Give them the tools to connect and recharge in any given needed moment.

It was pretty out there and uncomfortable.  She proposed different seemingly random ideas and asked for comments, questions, and input from those of us in attendance:  one regular attendee, a woman who was expecting a yoga class, myself, and a man hoping to address his issues with athletic health.

We all introduced ourselves and stated our reason for being there.  My reason was, I’m a breast cancer patient and the description of meditation attracted me to the class because I've read that meditation is useful in breast cancer recovery.

And that’s what happened for the entirety of the hour.   Uncomfortable group therapy with a group of strangers who mostly had no idea what it was going to be.  

The introvert in me was like:  Strangers.  No talkie.  

But I have so many thoughts to share.  But they are all about cancer.  And I don’t want to make people uncomfortable while they talk about all their normal people struggles.  I left the studio very very sweaty.  As sweaty as the yogi’s who attend the hot yoga classes.  Ha!

Despite the uncomfortable and unexpectedness of the session, I came out of there with very valuable ideas.

Composting.  Taking your trash and giving it back to the earth.  And the earth welcomes it, and turns it into new growth.    1-2-3 Let it go.  All the icky stuff, the barriers, the rigidity, the baggage of others that is projected onto you, the compassion that makes you feel sad about the world, the every day fails, etc.  Let the earth take it and turn it into something useful and healing.  What an amazing concept.

Something I've been struggling with this week is my viewpoint of the future.  My thoughts have been primarily focused on the present and the immediate next step in my treatment.  Until the next Star Wars Trailer came out.  Totally awesome.  Totally excited about it.  And then the final screen: December 2015.

What is my life going to be like in December?  There's two possible paths.  The road to recovery.  Or the alternative.  And I got very scared.  I started thinking irrational thoughts like, what if I leave this earth before I get a chance to see that Star Wars movie.  How tragic!!! I'm being kind of funny here, but at the same time serious.  There's no reason for me to be thinking this way.  But its there.  

When we did our 1-2-3 Let it go - compost.  This is the poisonous thought I put down out my fingertips.

Sacred Space.  I don’t know if I will go back.  My introverted self is like NO WAY.  But I came out of there with incredibly valuable ideas in assisting my recovery, and just coping with life in general.  So perhaps I should…

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Celebrations!!! :)

1.  I feel close to human again today.
Whew...that 4th round of AC was tough.  I'm looking forward to a great weekend ahead though, feeling like a real person.  (three day weekend! Friday off from school! Woohoo!)

2.  Sick leave bank was approved!!
I received the call from HR this afternoon.  It was obviously quite complicated, and it will be closely monitored.  I can't enter the dates myself anymore.  I have to call an HR rep directly and they will enter my days for me.  I will also be docked 3 days before it all goes into effect.  Which I knew about.  But I'm so glad that I will be able to continue working, and not be stressed out about missing days and being penalized on my paycheck.   Now I can heal when I need to and continue to be balanced with real life and remain active.  Right now, I am entered to miss Tuesdays and Wednesdays until the end of the school year.  Hopefully, that will be all I need, but if I feel really sick one day and need to call in, I know what to do.  No worries.  Acceptance, Gratitude, Healing.

3.  My surgeon did my ultra-sound.  She compared the pictures from today side-by-side with 8 weeks ago.  HUGE DIFFERENCE!!!!
It was measuring from 1.9 to 2.1 cm today depending on the angle.  That's way down from 3.5 to 4 cm.  So its official.  The chemo is doing its job.

She said, if this thing continues to melt away, I will definitely be eligible for a lumpectomy, if that is what I've chosen.

I haven't really taken the time to think much about my surgery options yet.  My top choice is the lumpectomy, if I'm eligible for it.  I want to keep my body as natural as possible.  Lumpectomy recovery is much much easier.  I'm not concerned about a scar or anything.  I just want my body to be whole and natural.  Also, the data shows that there is no difference in chance of recurrence with lumpectomy vs. mastectomy.  So there is no need to make decisions out of fear.  The question is, what happens if a lumpectomy is not an option?  What do I do?

So, if I have to get a mastectomy, my options are
1.  take one off.
2.  take both off.
3.  reconstruct, at the time of surgery, or later.
4.  I think there's a "partial" option in there as well.  I'm not sure.

Back to that phrase - whole and natural -  it might not be a bad idea to just take them both off, so I'm not lopsided, and leave it alone, no reconstruction.  Not whole, but natural.  I don't know.  I've really not thought it through until this afternoon when I realized the possibility of mastectomy is reality.

We also asked about the next step for lymph nodes.  At the time of diagnosis, there was no reason to be suspicious of lymph node involvement, so they did not take the time to biopsy.  That information was not relevant to the next step.  However, at the time of surgery, they will definitely do a sentinel node biopsy, so we have that information.  I guess that would affect whether I continue to do more chemo treatment after surgery or not.  So many things to think about.  Another thing is, if I do a lumpectomy, I'll need radiation therapy.  If I do a mastectomy, radiation probably won't be recommended.

But the bottom line is, things are going VERY WELL.  I am feeling GOOD TODAY, and will continue to feel better throughout the week.  I was experiencing a lot of scared, sad, and sick feelings the past few days, but I have many reasons to celebrate TODAY.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Wednesday is a big day

I have my appointment with my surgeon to formally measure my progress so far on ultrasound.  (Which i'm feeling very positive about!)

I hear back on the sick leave situation from HR. (Which i am at peace with either way. Its gonna be whats its gonna be.)

I made it through my sunday sadness hurdle today, with help from steroid adjustments and love & hugs from Superman. 


Wednesday wednesday wednesday. 


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Update on sick leave

So, the update on this frustrating sick leave bank policy:

HR is meeting on Tuesday afternoon to discuss my "case" and I should hear back on Wednesday on their decision. They are worried about the wording of their policy, and consistency. But they understand my situation. I have at least 2 important people outside and inside HR pushing for "the right thing".  So incredibly grateful.  Yea, this whole policy thing is upsetting and irritating, but it's made me further realize how lucky I am to have such a great job and employer. (And compassionate bosses and co-workers.)

Otherwise, feeling as expected. Keep on swimming. Thankful for the weekend to rest!!

I forgot to post two gifts received recently. The beanie hat knitted by the mother of a good friend. And the bracelet given to me by a woman my sister works with. Someone I've never met!  

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Post-Chemo report and work-related roadblocks

So I went to bed at 8pm.  Now I'm up at 4am.  ha!  My body only takes the sleep it needs.

Yesterday's nausea was very mild, even more so than the last 3 rounds.  This morning, I feel pretty good.  Probably going to eat some breakfast soon.  However, if I get up from the couch to get breakfast (which I moved to a few minutes ago, so as not to disturb Superman), then the dogs will have to get up and get breakfast.  Its a delicate balance in this house. :)

8 weeks overall:  successfully completed 4 rounds of AC with very little complications.  Mild-ish side effects, with the help of medication.  One instance of Shingles.  Just a few super sad days or break down moments.  Onward to the next things!  AC, you were kind to me and produced some good results: reduction of 1 cm of the tumor at least.  More concrete results when I see my surgeon for a ultrasound in a week and a half.  Now I shall make friends with Taxol.  Thank you, AC, I'm eternally grateful for your service (and hope we don't meet again.  And I'm sure we won't...there's a lifetime limit on that POtEnT stuff.)

I did come upon a work-related roadblock.  So I turned in my FMLA papers which was approved, stating that I have 60 days of health leave days before any loss of job penalties.  Awesome.  But as soon as I run out of sick leave, I'm being put on UNPAID health leave.  So on to step 2, figuring out if I'm eligible to draw from the sick leave bank, of which I am enrolled because I donated days to it a few years ago.  I thought I would be a shoe-in for this.

Well, I received a response and the answer was basically "No.  Sick leave bank is only for those employees that are on consecutive leave." (not intermittent leave, like myself)  This is evidently board policy and can not be changed until there is a new negotiated contract.

Are you serious?!?!?

So I've turned to Superboss in hopes that there is something to be done.

I had this ALL PLANNED OUT.  I'm officially out of my accrued sick days by the middle of this month.

I have operated under the assumption that I would have access to the sick leave bank, because I have cancer and I have doctor documentation of my needs.
I was going to finish out the year working approximately 3 days a week and having a consistent sub the other two days on my treatment day and a recovery day.  This sub was somebody I proactively arranged myself (with help from a few others).  She has so far been amazing.  The goal was to provide consistency for the kids and in the best interest of the classroom, as well as balancing my own needs of a couple days of rest.  My sub was motivated to take my jobs because of her shared vision of providing consistency for my kids.  IT WAS ALL WORKED OUT.

HR explained the board policy.  Its to provide consistency for the kids and in the best interest of the classroom to have one teacher for the duration of the leave.  I totally get this.  It serves many teacher's needs.  (heart attacks, accident hospitalizations, etc, etc.)  But it does NOT SERVE mine.

The board and myself have the exact same vision.  But because of the word "consecutive", I'm ineligible.

So here are my options:

"My Original Plan" would've resulted in drawing about 15 days from the sick leave bank between now and June 13.

1.  I can be docked without pay for the days I don't work.  So I will lose 2/5ths of my income, if I do what's best for my classroom.  This also results in a significant pay cut for my family, while we are in the middle of juggling a 1 million dollar cancer fight (with insurance THANK GOD!)

2.  I have my doctor write a letter revising the situation and stating I need to take the rest of the school year off for my treatments.  This results in drawing about 40 days from the sick leave bank between now and June 13.  40 days, that I believe I do not need, and will be taking away from others who do.  And keep 100% of my income.

So frustrated.  When I'm frustrated, I cry.  I was receiving my last day of A/C, a CELEBRATION, however crying while my husband made some calls to HR for me to get more information.  Because he is Superman.

I know, in the scheme of things, this is small potatoes. BUT THIS WAS NOT THE PLAN.  I'M A PLANNER!!!   I don't appreciate board policies getting in the way of what's best for my students and best for my balancing act with this cancer recovery.  I understand the policy is in place because someone has abused intermittent sick leave bank benefits in the past.  I AM NOT THAT PERSON.

I'm having a hard time not fixating on the unfairness of the situation.

Yesterday during chemo, my husband looked at me and said, "what are you thinking?"

I told him "I'm making a list of everything I should be grateful for in this moment, and trying not to be mad about the sick leave bank."  I made it to about 17.  All in all, life is good.

1.  Superman and his fix-it personality.  His tolerance.  His love.
2.  Superkids.  Their humor.  Their laughter.  Their questions.   Their normalcy.
3.  My family.  They're always looking for a job to do.  Sending me positive messages and gifts.
4.  My oncologist/nurses/hospital desk staff and their humorous tolerance of myself and superman at my treatments.  We talk a lot.  We tell them more information than they probably want to know.  And they are friendly and awesome through every bit of it.
5.  Friends constantly sending messages of love, and support.  sometimes in the form of music videos!
6.  My bosses.  Endlessly supportive and helpful.
7.  My co-workers:  hugs, smiles, emails, notes, couches, check-ins.
8.  My students:  my purpose and inspiration. smiles. well-wishes. secret surprise get-well parties.  hugs.
9.  My dogs.  Best get well arsenal ever.  Wonderful outlet for gentle exercise, going on walks.
10.  Yoga.
11.  Spring.
12.  Books and television.  Cancer information outlet.
13.  Books and television.  Non-cancer entertainment.
14.  Blankets.  Fuzzy Socks.  Pajama pants.  Head coverings.
15.  Look Good Feel Good program.  Gave me a stash of products to help me look normal. (like $200 worth of free stuff!!)
16.  NAPS
17.  Food:  fruits - bananas, berries, avocado, tomato; yogurt; smooothies; peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; macaroni and cheese; grilled cheese sandwiches; spinach; peppers; carrots and ranch; hummus; lentil soup; egg sandwiches; omelets

Acceptance, Gratitude, Healing.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Pre-chemo #4

I had my oncologist appointment this afternoon.  No big changes.  The tumor was measuring about the same as two weeks ago, but she said its becoming "nondescript" - The edges are less defined and harder to measure.  Which I agree, its definitely getting softer and closer to when I first discovered it and was unsure if there was actually something weird there or not.  I'll be meeting with my surgeon for an ultrasound in a couple weeks to get more clear information on its progress.

We also discussed my Sunday-Sad-Day a few weeks ago and she said it was a result of "steroid crash".  I take steroids for two days after each treatment.  She decided to extend (but not increase) the steroids to taper off the dose so I wouldn't experience the crash as much.  Ween me gently.

TOMORROW IS MY LAST A/C CHEMO.  YEAY!  But I'm also anxious about this end, and the new beginning with Taxol.  I was becoming used to A/C and comforted by the predictability of its side effects.  Now I have to get used to a new type.... sigh.  I want to be friends with my healing materials.

I submitted my FMLA papers to work and it was officially approved today.  That means that I can miss work for up to 60 days without penalty of losing my job.  Woohoo!  Yeay, for keeping my job.

Something strange that the nurses and doctors keep asking me:  "You still going to work?"  Like, at some point, they expect me to stop going.  I plan to continue working as long as I feel able.  The question just makes me feel weird, as if they expect me not to.  I really hope that's not in my future.  Anyway, I think its the best thing for me.  Keeps me feeling somewhat normal, and moderate exercise is good for healing and treatment.  I just need to make sure I maintain a balance between staying active and not working TOO much and hindering my healing.  I do feel like I'm staying balanced, however.  Last Monday, I went home after lunch, and after a super looooong nap, it became abundantly clear that the extra bit of rest benefitted me the whole rest of the week.

So a BIG HUMONGOUS BOX showed up on my doorstep today.  :)  My cousin and her family sent us a bunch of awesome stuff:  healthy snacks for me, not so healthy snacks for superman and superkids, elephant paraphernalia, superman paraphernalia, and other miscellaneous gifts.

And I received this cross in the mail from my aunt a few weeks ago as well.

Gratitude, acceptance, and healing!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Science-y goodness

This week has been really good. Another full work week. Except for Monday. I was nice to myself and went home after lunch and took a 3 hour nap. Good move. Because that evening and Tuesday, I noticably had more energy. I decided I would do that again the next Monday after treatment and then I realized I HaVE AN ORChEsTra CONcErT ThAT NighT. Ug. So, I'm going to take the morning off instead of the afternoon. There's no way I will be able to put in a full work day AND do a concert that night. So instead, I'll teach two classes, take a nap, put on a concert (I have help, and only one of the groups is mine) and survive the day. :)

After last Sunday-Sad-Day, I decided I needed a break from cancer. I put aside my books and banned myself from cancer-related internet searches.  It was very needed and welcome. Not until this morning did I do any research:  I looked up my next type of cancer treatment, Taxol. I'm anxious to get that one started (but not for another 3 weeks, still have one more round of A/C to go).  I was reading about cell division cycles, cell death, inhibiting DNA and RNA, cancer medicines that come from PLANTS -many of them, and it was all very interesting.  And then I compared it to A/C which I had never actually researched and read up on. The different types are targeting the cells at different times in their cycles. Division. Resting. And basically, if they are not dividing, then they die. That's when tumors melt away. This is exciting. And normal cells are different. They reproduce and replenish themselves despite the chemo that targets them.  So, the cancer cells, if you interrupt their division, they go to the cell death phase. And the more aggressive the cancer cells are, the easier it is to acheive that. Mine are grade 2, moderately aggressive, which is good for treatment purposes.  All very science-y and interesting. Again, very grateful to all those medical professionals where science is their thing.  (not mine! Its all very interesting, but I have never ever had a science-y brain!)

In fact, there is a story that broke recently that Superman told me about and then I've seen on the social media where they (Duke University) have been experimenting with using polio to treat brain cancer.  POLIO!  Basically, they inject the cancer tumor with polio and the body's immune system takes care of the rest on its own.  Its a type of immunotherapy.  It has been producing GrOuNdbREakING results. They are still getting the dosage right, among other things, but it has CURED (well put into remission. The cure-word is very lightly thrown around in cancer world) something like 15 people of brain cancer so far.  A 22 year old girl was told that there was NOTHING they could do for her.  Incurable brain cancer with three months left to live. So she signed up for "put-polio-in-my-brain" and IT WORKED.

Again.  Thank you science-y people. You are awesome.  I'll continue to teach music and unlock the brains of future-science-y-greatness in the meantime. :)   That will be my contribution to "curing" cancer.

Now I'm doing my usual saturday morning lay-and-read in bed. We have some good friends coming in from out of town and I'm looking forward to some fun times today.  I plan to mostly rest and chill out tomorrow.  Sunday-Happy-Day this time. :)  Then chemo #4 this week.  The LAST one for Phase 1, then onto Phase 2:  A different type of plant cocktail to interrupt cell division and induce cancer cell meltage. YES!

Gratitude. Acceptance. Healing.