My husband.

I hope that you have met my husband, Jason. If not, you are missing out on an incredible person. He is a rock, kind and steady, genuine and hilarious, and he has been a constant comfort to me during this battle.

We’ve been sitting on a big announcement for a while until it was made officially official. Since the papers have now been signed and everything is all in order, I’m going to let you know his excellent news. Jason will be teaching art and McLean County High School next year and we are both thrilled about this opportunity!

He has checked out his new classroom and has been making plans and thinking of projects. He is looking through our supplies and his art collection and has already begun to choose which pieces will stay here and which will go to the HS. He is all registered for his masters program and is totally ready to begin working. There are some nerves there, as there are before any new job…or at the beginning of every new school year.

So, if you know Jason and see him out and about, let him know that you’re thinking of him in this new venture. If you see him out and about and you haven’t t introduced yourself, let him know who you are. If you’re going to be a student of his and you have a project you’d love to tackle in an art class, let him know. He’s considering a load of ideas and really wants to know what would interest you. I’m so proud of my husband! This is most definitely a ray of sunshine in the middle of this storm!!!

Jason, you rock!

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Chemo round 5

They say the effects of chemotherapy are cumulative, each round dragging you down and making you slower, each rebound regaining less of your strength. They did not lie. Today’s chemo marathon was long, but the five hour infusion was made more tolerable by today’s roommate: a spritely spitfire of a 76 year old woman battling stage 2 ovarian cancer. Her prognosis is fairly good, but like me, she is struggling through treatment. I was also visited by the chaplain I met at Monday’s Lifesprings meeting. These encounters, added to visits from some of my favorite nurses, made the five hours of IV infusion pass fairly quickly. We are safely at home now. I am in bed and Jason is bringing in groceries.

My treatment protocol is targeted at my specific kind of cancer. My stage IV breast cancer is HER 2 positive, and I get infusions of Perjeta and Herceptin that target and stop this specific kind of cancer. They function by turning off these tumors tendencies to grow. I will be on Perjeta for a year and it takes about 30 minutes to infuse. As of right now, studies have not been done to see if this drug is effective after one year. I will be on Herceptin for the rest of my life or until that drug stops working for me. This infusion also takes about a half an hour but it can not be given within 30 minutes of Perjeta. There are some impressive success stories associated with Herceptin, and there are fewer side effects from it than traditional chemotherapy. The traditional chemotherapy drug that I have is Taxotere. It takes about an hour to infuse, but it also requires a dose of anti nausea meds and a dose of steroids before it can begin, which adds about an hour to the infusion time. This drug attacks all quick growing cells and it is responsible for the weird tastes and hair loss and sensitive skin and weakness. I try hard not to complain too much about all of this, especially if it’s working, but this drug is a tough one to live with. Right now, it’s impossible for me to live without it. I don’t know how long I will take Taxotere yet. I will have a pet scan next month and new plans will be made for my treatment after that. The trajectory of my entire life depends upon that scan, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared.

Fighting cancer is tough. The goal of my treatment is a bit unusual too. Our goal is not to necessarily make me cancer free. With a stage IV diagnosis, that may not be entirely possible, though it is the dream. Our goal is to stop the disease from growing or spreading and if we can get the tumors to shrink and disappear, then great!! Our goal is to let me live with as much quality and quantity as possible. Our hope is to keep me alive until scientists and doctors and researchers come up with a way to eradicate this horrible disease. I probably won’t get to be cancer free again, but the goal is to make it possible for me to live with cancer. But enough of that. Talking about treatment and goals is stressful and worrying.

We braved a quick trip to Meijer after treatment. By the end of our quick run through the store, I was leaning heavily on our cart and stopping frequently to rest. I was asleep in the passenger seat by the time we got off the bypass. I am preferring Kroger’s click list for a few reasons at this time. 1. I don’t have to walk through the store and expend energy. 2. We do not impulse buy with click list so we save tons of money. 3. People stare at the very slow bald lady who looks like death warmed over. I know I’m not at my best, but the stares do get to me. Still, Meijer has an excellent selection and I have missed the normalcy of doing my own shopping.

Like I said, I’m at home and in bed now and I’ll likely remain here for the next several days. Life will continue out there without me for a while but I’ll be back on my slow moving feet soon enough. Until then, go and do something summery for me.

Taxotere is hung on the IV pole. This is the drug giving me all of the classic cancer treatment symptoms. I’m calling it a necessary evil.

That’s a wrap

It is now officially official for the faculty. School is out for summer!

I did work the last three days. This extra time allowed me to move at my chemo pace and still finish my closing day check lists. Grade books are printed and turned in, the closets are cleaned out, the book shelves are neat and orderly. It’s a clean slate and feels like the classroom of a stranger. My desk is never that neat during the school year, ask my students or my incredible guest teachers. (I should have taken a picture!). It felt like a brief return to normal to be planning and cleaning and deconstructing my room. I even planned a unit and started another for school next year. My lesson plans are ready through fall break! Of course, I’ll end up throwing those out and re-doing them once I get a feel for the pacing of next years 8th graders.

The halls were crowded with furniture and books collections and the hoard of teachers moving rooms. We collect the most unusual things! Most teachers were trading places within the building, but some have moved on to new opportunities. It makes the end of the year bittersweet. We’ve built these bonds, and some must be broken…or at least distanced, to make room for our new colleagues. I get to stay where I am for another year. For you non-teachers, that basically means that my room was quickly cleaned and finished, and that allowed me some time to sit and think and color and dream and plan.

At home, I finished a jigsaw puzzle. The summer stretches out before me full of sunshine and green grass and possibilities. So much depends upon this summer, these treatments, some upcoming tests. I’m going to make some tea, go sit on my porch swing, and wait for lightening bugs to emerge. I have round five of treatment tomorrow, so for the next few days, I will be resting. Do me a favor? Soak up some sun for me?

An awkward family photo jigsaw puzzle!

The booth

My mom has worked the polls for as long as I can recall. She has been the person to sign me in at my precinct, and her service has held me accountable for the act of voting. I appreciate her time spent there manning her table at city hall. It is a job that must be done in order for our duty to cast votes to be fulfilled.

Voting is an important act after all.

There are valuable lessons I hope to teach my children and civic responsibility is one of them. My mother and her position at the poll is one excellent lesson. My girls went to the poll with their pappaw this morning while Jason and I were at work. My girls went back to the polls when we got home from work. They wore their I voted stickers proudly. I hope to raise women who vote knowledgeably.

It is a primary election and the expected turn out in the state of Kentucky was about 12%.

Now I’m going to ask you a personal question. Did you vote today?

My mother was at the polls for 12 hours waiting for you to cast your vote. My dad made time to get to the polls even though he watched my children and had a doctors appointment today. My husband worked a full day and cast his vote. My children went to the polls twice. I have cancer, worked all day, and made it a point to vote. So, did you vote today?

It is your right, but it is also your responsibility.

Own it.

Vote.

A sleepy weekend

I didn’t post a blog over the weekend, and I’d love to tell you that it was because of amazing summer experiences. It wasn’t. I was just tired. I slept about 7 hours during the day on Sunday. There were naps to recover from my naps and nothing got done. It’s ok. My body obviously needed the rest.

I did go to work today. It’s the end of the school year and that means meetings. Since I wouldn’t be responsible for the health and safety of students, I decided to take the risk. I’m glad that I did. It was good to be around others and it was good to take care of some end of year tasks. I’m so slow, though, and it feels like forcing yourself to walk through molasses. Each step takes so much energy.

I cleaned out my desk. Not permanently as I’m not giving up on my job. Just decluttering and organizing and figuring out which things I should keep and which I should let go. It feels liberating and useful even if it allows me to sit while working. I have so many files, so many things that I haven’t used in years. It is so much evidence of my growth as a teacher. Now, I’ll be able to start the next school year with a clean and well organized slate. That is exciting too.

That is the plan.

I will spend this summer healing and resting and getting stronger. I will return to teaching in the fall as a healthy person. That is the goal and the dream.

Time will tell.

Summer is for bubbles.

It is officially summer!

It’s the last day of school. Can you feel it? It’s the nervous anticipation, the excitement, the thrill of late nights and lightening bugs and vacations. It’s the freedom from structure and expectations and the ability to play. Today, as pencils are laid down and books are closed, they will remain so for months. The halls will echo with the quiet work of teachers and custodians and they prepare for next year at the end of this one.

My girls had field day at school. I wish you could have seen their faces as they took in the view of their school surrounded by inflatables. They were giddy and giggling as they scrambled out of the car and into the building for their last day. We took the traditional last day of school pictures and it always amazes me when I see exactly how much they have changed in a year.

I went to the middle school talent show where I was impressed by all the acts. One student’s song was performed with a video that brought me to tears. It showed the student posters and pictures and videos of some of the support I’ve been shown this year. I’ve always been impressed with middle schoolers, especially when they choose to showcase their talents or tender hearts. It is one of the things I love about teaching. It is what makes me want to get back into my classroom and work with these kids. After a nap at home, I returned to the middle school to see my students promote out of 8th grade and into high school. I’m a proud teacher today, and I hope that my time with these kids was positive in spite of its interruptions.

After all of that, I’m tired. My kids are too: tired and worn out from a day full of sunshine and play. That’s okay. Summer is just beginning and I imagine that there will be lots of time spent on pool floats and lounge chairs and porch swings. Enjoy your summer. I know I will.

Our kindergarten graduate.

Our new third grader who was broken hearted about the end of school.

What a difference a year can make!

Isn’t he cute?

Proud momma!

Today was spent getting to awards ceremonies. First of all, I’m very grateful for the staggering of awards ceremonies at the elementary school. This, combined with my sick leave, made it possible for me to see both of my girls at their own events. This is not a luxury I usually get, as I am typically with my own students.

Let me tell ya something. Kindergarten teachers are super heroes. These extraordinary men and women get 5 year olds to stand in line, hold a pencil correctly, treat each other respectfully, and teach these babies to read. I, on the other hand, have difficulty getting my own child to put on her shoes without picking a fight with her sister. I can’t imagine managing 25-30 kindergarten students on a daily basis. I tried it when I was a substitute teacher, and it’s not for me. These ladies, though, they’ve been awesome all year long. Today they had these babies dancing and sitting still and following directions. It was precious. I couldn’t be prouder of the growth and goals my child has accomplished and her reading award is the icing on the cake! I have a first grader in the house, and it is bittersweet. My babies aren’t babies anymore.

I also watched the second grade awards. These teachers are awesome as well, but now they have the challenge of teaching young minds the foundational skills on which their academic careers will be based. That is a lot of pressure, and my daughter’s teachers nailed it with love and fun and smiles. My second-now-third grader has worked HARD to have achieved all she has. Some things are easy for her, but she struggles with so many things and it is good to see her accomplishments celebrated. She also received the reading award. I’ll admit it: it made this reading and English teacher so very proud.

My kiddos celebrated these awards with slices of ice cream cake and a trip to gymnastics class where they tried hand stands without a wall. We are all dreaming of summer vacation and sunny day activities and the fun we will have when school is out. Tonight we will eat s’mores and list our best summer ideas and celebrate another year of school gone by.

Here’s to many, many more celebrations.