Last night I graduated with my master’s degree. I posted on Facebook that last night was a night that cancer didn’t get to win. And, it didn’t.
Yesterday, I felt normal. No side effects. No nothing. I went to work, taught my classes, laughed with my students, bowed to their applause when they remembered I was graduating later that night, and reminded them to be at the study session bright and early the next morning (today). When the moans and groans started, I reminded them that if I could get up and be at school by 7:00 am on a Saturday after being out at graduation late Friday night, so could they. And, to my surprise, all but about 10 of my students showed up this morning, bright and early, ready for six hours of intensive study sessions.
I know I’m not always going to feel as good as I did yesterday, or even as good as I feel today despite not sleeping much Friday night. But, it’s nice to have a few days where I feel normal and can be normal. It’s nice to have days where cancer doesn’t win. And, last night, cancer did not win. This morning, cancer did not win.
I worked my tail off for my master’s degree. The university I attended for my master’s has an intense program where students can complete the master’s program in as little as a year or the normal time frame of two years. I chose the one-year route, which meant I took two classes every eight weeks. The classes are the equivalent of the semester long course crammed into eight weeks. The professors do not lower expectations, decrease writing assignments and projects, or reduce reading assignments. It is a difficult program. I watched several classmates drop classes, and in some cases, drop the program. I began my last class the week I was diagnosed, and I called my adviser, panicked, because I didn’t think I could keep up with the last class while undergoing treatment. She talked me off the ledge and encouraged me to talk with my professor before dropping the class. If I dropped, I would not be able to take the class again until the summer session. As it was my last class, my adviser wanted me to try and finish. I wanted to try and finish. I’d worked too hard, but at that moment, having just been diagnosed and having no idea of what I faced, I doubted my ability to finish the program. My adviser suggested I take a few days, talk to my professor, and then call her with my decision. I took her advice, and I’m so glad I did. After emailing my professor and talking with her, I decided to try and finish the class. And, I did. I wrote my last paper while receiving my second chemo treatment, much to the amusement of my chemo nurse. I didn’t want to write the paper and complained the entire five and a half hours I wrote the paper and received chemo. It was worth it, though because it was the only obstacle standing between my degree and me. Now, I have my degree. Who knows if I’ll do more with it because right now, I love teaching, but at least now I have one life goal scratched off my list.
I walked across the stage last night and proudly accepted my master’s degree (well, the degree cover with the letter that states if I’ve met the qualifications for my degree, I’ll receive it in the mail within the next 8 weeks). I know I’ve met the qualifications, so now I wait for the mail. And, I know, no matter what happens in the future, last night, cancer did not win. Cancer did not stop me from achieving my master’s degree. And, cancer definitely did not stop me from participating in the commencement ceremony and celebrating with my family.
For one night, since this roller coaster began, I got to be normal