breast cancer, family, kids, life, teaching, Uncategorized

Quiet

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I’ve been fairly quiet over the last week. It’s been busy, but last week, A and I took the kids and ran away for a weekend vacation at Great Wolf Lodge. We’ve been there before, but it’s been several years. AJ does not remember our last visit there. He was three. So, several weeks ago, I asked A if he thought we could use the Memorial Day weekend to get away for just a day or two. He agreed we needed the family time, and we made it work.

We didn’t tell S or AJ we were going. I packed for everyone on Friday before S and AJ were home from school, and when A got home from work, we told the kids we were going out to eat and then staying in a cabin the forest. AJ said we were lying. S was concerned we were staying somewhere scary. A and I enjoyed messing with them during dinner and on the drive to Great Wolf. When we stopped at the light to turn to Great Wolf, we told S and AJ to read the sign. They read it, they squealed, screamed, hit A’s shoulder several times, and generally celebrated until we got out of the car. Once we were inside, they were off. Their reactions were the best, and while I wish I’d gotten it on video, I don’t regret not videoing it. I watched their reactions. I laughed with them. I didn’t feel the pressure to be the parent who videos and photos everything while we were there. In fact, the only pictures I took were of S and AJ when we first arrived. The rest of the time, my phone was in the room, and I was swimming and playing with the kids. It was a wonderful mini-vacation. We came back relaxed.

Then, this week, the last week of the school year, hit the ground running. Awards ceremonies. Field trips. Final exams. Final grades. Graduation. It’s been a go, go, GO kind of week. And, to top it off, A’s come down with either a cold or a respiratory infection. It’s just been busy. A good busy. It’s kept my brain from being a scumbag…most of the time.

It reared its ugliness some this afternoon. During graduation rehearsal, as I sat there, I became broody. I wondered if I’ll live long enough to be there when S and AJ graduate high school. I wondered if I’ll live to see my 40th birthday. I beat myself up for falling back into some old, not so good habits. I drink Dr. Pepper again. Not as many as I did pre-cancer, but I drink them again. I brooded over the study floating around Facebook this week discussing how women can cut their chances of breast cancer by 30% if they maintain a healthy weight, don’t drink, don’t smoke, and don’t use hormone therapy. If fact, the study (it was in JAMA Oncology) said 29% of breast cancer in young women could possibly be prevented or delayed.

I love feeling as if it’s my fault I developed cancer.

No, I’m not at a healthy weight, and I haven’t been for 10 years. I need to lose another 20 lbs on top of the 30 lbs I’ve lost since last August.

Yes, I do drink occasionally. A glass of wine and a happy hour with friends here and there.

No, I don’t smoke. I never have. Smoking killed my grandfathers. I learned my lesson at an early age what smoking can do to you. But, I was around second hand smoke most of my childhood because of my grandfathers.

No, I’ve never used hormone therapy.

So, what’s a girl to do? Hindsight is 20/20. I should’ve lost weight after both pregnancies. I should’ve exercised more. I should exercise more. I should’ve changed my diet. I should’ve been more…something. I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter. I am where I am. It is what it is. I have cancer. I can’t go back.

Then, I thought about all the other women in my family. There’s a weight problem in my family. My mom lost close to 100 lbs during her battle with colon cancer. My dad lost over 100 lbs in the last four years as he’s dealt with a bleeding ulcer. There are very few people in my family at a healthy weight (Sorry family members who read this, but you know it’s true.). Still, even with the weight issues, not a single one of them has breast cancer. As far as I know, the only item in that list no woman in my immediate family has done is that no one has done hormone therapies. So, as my scumbag brain asked as I sat in graduation rehearsal this afternoon, why me?

I’ve been told, by people who I’m sure thought they were well-meaning, that it could due to any number of reasons…and then proceed to list those reasons or ask me if I’ve heard ____ can cause breast cancer. I’ve given them my best interested face while in my head I screamed SHUT UP! YOU DO NOT KNOW OF WHAT YOU SPEAK! But, I stay quiet because, really, what’s the point? People believe what they believe, and there seem to be a lot of people who graduated from WebMD University or used Dr. Google and are eager to tell me what they know. And, when my brain is being scumbagtastic, like this afternoon, I hear their words and my own in an endless symphony.

I graduated from the high school I now teach at, and there’s a memorial inside the school for students who have died. We walked by it several times today during graduation rehearsal. Thanks to my scumbag brain, I wondered if my name will be on that memorial soon.

I kept all these thoughts to myself today. I stayed quiet. The teachers I sat with at graduation rehearsal are friends. Good friends. But, today’s scumbag brain session needed to be my own until I had time to process it, to feel bad about it, to be mad about it, and ultimately, to make peace with it, which is what I’m trying to do.

I accept I’m afraid. I accept I blame myself. I accept there are as many days that I don’t actively think about cancer as I have that I actively think about cancer.

I want to believe I will survive for many, many years to come. I want to believe I’ll sit at a graduation rehearsal in seven years, but it’ll be S’s graduation rehearsal. I want to believe I’ll sit at a graduation rehearsal in nine years, but it’ll be AJ’s graduation rehearsal. I want to believe cancer will be a distant memory. I want to believe I’ll be a survivor like three of my friends who are 8, 10, 12 years out.

Yet, I also know if it’s my time, it’s my time. Nothing will or can change that.

 

 

 

 

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breast cancer, life, teaching, Uncategorized

Living life

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