A Letter at 40

Dear Cortney,

Today you are 40. 

I wanted this milestone of a birthday to be special. I had been thinking about it since we went to Chicago for my 40th birthday in the spring.

Then a week later we got the news about my cancer and I quit making any sort of BIG plans for anything. 

But I didn’t fall apart completely because you were there.

You were there in sickness.

You were there for a bad time.

You were there when I was poor in spirit.

You were there carting our children all over the place, making sure we were all fed, and cleaning up after people.

You were doing laundry and dishes and baths.

You were taking time off work (that you really couldn’t afford to do) and buying me lattes and lemon loaf. 

You were shaving my head and counting out anti-nausea pills.

You were getting up with kids in the night.

You were rearranging your schedule and bowling ahead and arriving late to meetings so that I could make all my appointments.

You were making me tea.

You were holding me as I cried. You were holding our children while they cried.

You were patient.

You were kind.

You are love. You loved me and put aside many many things to take care of me and our children.

You deserve a HUGE celebration. 

You didn’t get it, and I don’t feel good about that.

So I promise you that this next whole year will be a celebration. A celebration of love and life and new chances. 

And when December comes around again, we will do something BIG.

Until then, I hope our birthday date and your birthday dinner and your birthday brownies and the cards your boys made you brought a smile to your face.

We are so very thankful for you. And we love you so very much.

Happy birthday, my love.

There is Hope

I started radiation this past week.

I don’t like it.

My family does not like it.

NO ONE likes it.

Oh, it’s “easier” than chemotherapy. I don’t get sick or comatose and my hair is growing in rather than falling out. It doesn’t take hours to get the treatment with hours more of side effects. I don’t have to miss work.

But it’s every week day at 4pm.

It’s non-negotiable. I have to go.

Regardless of what the schedule looks like.

Regardless of who else has appointments.

Regardless of weather.

Regardless of how much work I have.

I have to leave by 3:15pm everyday, get to the radiation oncology center, change into a gown (just from the waist up), lie on a cold “cradle” (which is a dumb name because it implies comfort. This thing is not comfortable…or even soft), have a snorkel thing put in my mouth, have my nose plugged, have my chest out, wear glasses that slide off my face so that I can’t see the screen inside them that helps me know when to take a deep breath and hold.

I have to hold my breath for 20 seconds. Five times. If I don’t mess up.

I have to be exposed to heavy radiation in hopes that it means cancer won’t re-develop in those areas (my lymph nodes and left breast).

It only takes 20 minutes in and out the door. I shouldn’t complain. It’s “easy” and “quick.”

But I hate it.

It means I get less time at work to work. Less time at home to get dinner ready, homework started for the boys, or just stop at the store for a quick something less I want dinner to take over homework time…which then takes over bath time…which then takes over bedtime.

It’s an inconvenience only.

But I hate it like I hated chemotherapy because it sucks and who knows if it will work? Who knows if I will stay cancer-free?

I hate it because it makes everyone crabby because nothing is “normal.”  Everyone’s schedules are thrown off because of a 20-minute appointment I have to go to everyday.

What I’m saying is, this first week was rough.

But I don’t want to end with that. Because this weekend was also the start of Advent, which is one of my most favorite times of the year. With the anticipation of Christmas and the hope for newness, I find myself wanting to believe that it will all be ok. All of it. This cancer crap, the treatment, the stress, the anxiety, the trauma on me and my kids and Cortney, all the garbage we have had to individually work through surrounding a pea-sized tumor that was taken out in May. All of it might actually be Ok.

Saturday I took Eddie Christmas shopping.

He brought up Santa and my heart stopped because, well, he IS in 4th grade. I feel like we are on borrowed time for true belief.

Eddie: Yeah, Liam and I were discussing Santa. We figured he is going to die really soon because how long can that guy live?

Me: Um. You were talking about Santa dying?

Eddie: Yeah, but then Liam brought up the magic. So pretty much that was that. Magic means Santa is immortal.

Me: That seems about right.

Eddie: Last year, on Christmas Eve, when I was in bed…I thought I heard footsteps and I almost went upstairs. But then I wasn’t sure because what if it was Santa? I don’t think you’re supposed to actually SEE Santa. Have you seen Santa?

Me: Not the REAL Santa.

Eddie. Oh, just those guys who dress up like him for little kids to sit on their laps?

Me: Yeah, those Santas.

Eddie: Wouldn’t it be cool if Santa had a blog? Then we could know what he was up to all year…and those elves.

I love the way his mind works.

Later, we were in Target in the Christmas wrapping paper section. He looked over at the stocking display and said, “Mom. Look. A bad word. It says, S – H – I- T over there.”

I looked and realized he was talking about the stockings. They have a display of stocking each with a letter. Someone had arranged them to spell the swear word. I responded, “Someone probably thought they were being funny. That isn’t a very nice word, is it?”

I look back at the wrapping paper, and all of a sudden he is gone. Just when I was about to call for him, he jogs back. “I fixed it. I moved some of the stockings. I didn’t want a little kid to see it.”

I love the way his heart works.

This weekend Alice and I read the Christmas story. She insists Mary had a baby named Olivia. She also insists Joseph is Jesus and he lives in our hearts, not in a barn.

Charlie has a new plan at school and some new routines. He loves them, and we are cautiously optimistic.

Radiation sucks. It’s taking a toll on us because none of us like it.

But there is hope.

There is always hope.

*************

The holidays are a time for giving, and who doesn’t love to give kids the gift of books? If you are one of those people, and you would like to gift a book to my classroom library, please checkout our wish list here. Thank you.

Thankful

Slowly, I am getting stronger.

My body is recovering from the chemotherapy.

My skin is softening and looking healthier.

My energy levels are reluctantly rising.

My hair is coming back.

I am thankful for these things, and for so much more.

My family is healing from all the trauma of chemotherapy too.

Slowly, but surely, we are finding our way back to an easier normal.

We have been being very intentional with our time together–loving each other, and working with each other.

For this, I am thankful.

This is not a turkey. It’s Harry Potter. (Eddie’s disguised Thanksgiving Turkey)

Of course there are still struggles. Two of us are battling anxiety (possibly more than two, but two of us have the diagnosis). Charlie has a disturbance in his own force. This weekend has helped me believe he will be fine…or at least he is able to be fine. He will start some new routines and strategies on Monday. We–he and I and Cortney–are all maintaining a positive attitude.

My Bird has many gifts: he is thoughtful. observant, quick-to-learn, and slow to give in. He is imaginative and creative.

For this, I am thankful.

We had wonderful parent/teacher conferences for the boys. My gratitude for a school community who loves our boys and who are committed to helping them be the best versions of themselves they can be. The boys love their school, their teachers, and their friends. They both love to learn.

For this, I am thankful.

Eddie is thriving in another year of scouting. He loves the brotherhood it brings him and the adventure.  He is helpful and kind. He seeks to understand others–including his little brother. He loves to read and write and laugh. He is goofy and willing to talk about all the things.

And he continues to love Harry Potter.

For this, I am thankful.

Alice has been my innocent, pure joy from the beginning. She gives fierce hugs, has a protective nature, and loves  all things pink, princess, and unicorn. When she senses stress, sadness, or conflict, she gives kisses and reminds us all, “I love you!” She dances and twirls and reminds us all to find joy in small things.

For this, I am thankful.

My children drive me crazy to be sure, but they also give me a reason to get up. To face the challenges that are still ahead of us. They make me brave. They make me work harder and be better.

For this, I am thankful.

I recently came back from Houston, Texas where I attended two professional conferences for English teachers. I was able to spend the weekend with my sister friend, G. She and I have both take a ride down the River Styx this year, so it was good to have each other. To lean on each other. To share and laugh and learn with each other.

For this, I am thankful.

Photo Credit: Erin Barkel Photography

We had a very mini family photo shoot earlier this month. I almost skipped family pictures this year for a number of reasons, all that boil down to not really wanting to record this moment in my life. As much support and love I am given, I still feel very fragile about my looks.

But look at that guy standing next to me. Look how he looks at me. That look sums up all that he has been not just in the last seven months, but for the past fifteen years. He sees me. And he still loves me like that.

For him, I am thankful.

And the list could continue to include other precious friends and our church family and my school family and our jobs and doctors and nurses and modern medicine and all of you and your spirits of grace and generosity.

I can’t even count all of the ways gratitude has oozed from me this year.

And for that, I am very, very thankful.

*************

Monday I start my radiation journey. The countdown to the end begins.

The In Between Time

I’m not doing chemo anymore, but I’ve not started radiation either. I’m in an awkward “in between time” that I maybe should be enjoying more than I am.

This past week, I had my appointment for a radiation simulation to get me ready. I am going to be doing something called deep inspiration breathing hold (DIBH) which basically means that I take a big breath and hold it while I get radiation shot into me. Taking a deep breath will move my heart away from my chest, so when they shoot the radiation into my chest, it won’t affect my heart. It’s sort of a newish thing, and since I am young (LOL), it’s a good option for me because I need my heart to be in tippy top shape and apparently younger folk can hold their breath longer than the older patients.

I had to practice to get to 30 seconds, so I don’t know how great that is.

You can read more about it here, if you’re interested.

During the simulation, I had to wear these glasses that let me see the computer screen the tech was working with. I could see my breathing and when I had to hold it and the countdown to when I could let my breath out and so on.

The breathing thing is sort of like a snorkel that goes in my mouth so my breathing can be recorded by the computer. They also put a clip over my nose so I can’t cheat.

They did a couple scans, made me a “cradle” that I will go in each treatment (so I am in the same position each time), and gave me 3 small dot tattoos so they can line me up with the machine.

I go back on November 26 for my first appointment, although I won’t get radiation until November 27. My first appointment is for “films” so they can take some pictures to make sure the area for radiation is correct and all lined up.

While I wait, I’m supposed to be gaining more strength and recuperating from all the chemo that has been pumped in my body. Resting.

I’m not resting, though. If anything, I am probably trying to cram in way more than I should. It’s the in between, you know. The reprieve from any treatment. I’m trying to finish a grad class toward my PhD (I should be writing a paper right now, but here I am). I’m also heading to the NCTE and ALAN conferences at the end of this week for a long weekend to present four times (two round-tables and two panels). Then there is work. And our personal life. And our kids’ personal lives.

People keep telling me to rest–to let myself “heal.” I honestly don’t know how to do that. There are things to be done. People to care for. Meetings to have. Kids to advocate for. Books to read. Papers to write. Stuff to grade.

Part of me wishes we could just get started already on this radiation thing. I have to have 30 rounds, and right now my “end date” is in January. I just want to be done.

Another part of me is sick of all this cancer treatment stuff and would be happy to push it off indefinitely. I’m sick of appointments and side-effects and the sucking up of my time that could be spent elsewhere.

I have only worked one 5-day week since school started. It’s beginning to frustrate me. And my next 5-day week will be the week I start radiation.

Did I mention a side-effect of radiation is fatigue?

Maybe I did. But a side-effect of chemo is chemo brain and that has not gone away yet.

I know I am lucky. I know I am fortunate. I also know that we have struggles.

Please pray for my energy levels as I fly out to Houston later this week for an intense weekend of professional development. Pray for my Charlie as he continues to navigate some pretty serious issues. Pray for Alice and Eddie to continue their positive attitudes. Pray for Cortney as he is about to solo parent for a long weekend (not that he doesn’t have tons of practice from this summer, but it’s draining).

And then look at this picture of Alice teaching her “Honey Pooh” to play with puzzles.

Thank you for being there for us.

Halloween 2018

Halloween was my first Wednesday with no chemo treatments. It. Was. Exhausting.

First of all, if you have ever been within a 2-mile radius of any school on Halloween you know being in there with the kids is not for the weak. My body’s muscle memory has memorized Wednesdays as a “nothing day” and this past Wednesday was an “everything” day. By the time school let out, I thought I was going to fall over. I may have cried a little.

But as parents we put one foot in front of the other and keep it going.

So I picked up all the kids, and headed to my parents’ house so they could trick or treat there. Then we met Cortney back at home to head to his mom’s house for more Halloween fun.

Then after that, it was time for trick-or-treating. I decided that if the boys were old enough to ride their bikes around our subdivision, they were old enough to trick or treat it on their own, so I dropped them off once we got inside the sub, and told them to just trick-or-treat their way home. It took them an hour, but they loved it.

Cortney took Alice. She went to one house and felt done. My kind of girl.

I went to bed by 9pm.

The rest of the week was still a struggle.

Here is the thing no one told me: chemo might be done, but my body is still exhausted, my immune system is still weak, and nothing magically “goes back to normal.” They probably actually did tell me this, but I lived it this past week.

Halloween was joyful for my kids. They loved it.

It’s not my favorite day of the year anyway, and this year the entire week was just hard.

My favorite 6-year old had a rough week too. We cried a lot together this week. We could use your prayers.

We ended the week on a high note: I got my make up done with one of my favorite friends, and then we all enjoyed food and fun with her family. I laughed so hard I snorted. We all did.

So we are still on the struggle bus searching for some answers and ways to help our guy, and I am coming down with a cold, and Alice needs dental surgery on Monday for some really bad cavities (she’s a diva and won’t sit for the dentist), and the list goes on.

BUT, we have friends and family who love us and let us cry and treat us so well. It’s amazing what love can do. We are going to lean hard on love for awhile.

And may we all be as proud of our accomplishments as Charlie was of his Halloween costume and pumpkin carving abilities (it’s a wolf howling at the moon, in case you could tell from the obvious design).

Chemo Round 16

I did it. I finished chemotherapy this week.

Friends, 20 weeks ago this day seemed like it would never come. October 24 seemed like it may as well be years away. Especially after I had that first treatment in June. I remember feeling like there was absolutely no way I could possibly do this for 20 weeks. No way. But here I am. DONE!

This is my fabulous nurse, Aimee. I am 100% certain, I could not have shown up to each treatment without her there. She is sassy and deals out just the right amount of grief to me to keep me on my toes and laughing. Plus she is good at her job. Like really good at her job. She puts up with my dang port clogging (yes, even on the last day). I’m going to miss her the most, but really, the entire staff at the infusion center is wonderful. The minute I walk in each week, everyone knows me and is awesome.

I was actually kind of emotional about being done, to be honest. I love that staff. I do not love chemotherapy, but I am telling you if you have to go through something shitty, they are the people to do it with. Kali, Ashley, Mary, and Aimee, I will miss you all the most. But really high fives to all of you who laughed at my stupid jokes and put up with my loud voice.

I don’t know if everyone gets one of these, or if I get one because I am a teacher, or what, but man…this was a fun way to walk out of there. With my “certificate” of completion.

Honestly, I never want to be back there as a patient, but I would gladly go back just to say hello and bring those hard working nurses and staff treats. They deserve it all.

And of course giant shout outs to this dude. He was there for every single treatment. He took every Wednesday morning off work to drive me, carry my “chemo bag” (my bag with my blanket and all my other “necessities” for hanging out of hours of poison), and sit with me during my treatments…even if other people came to visit, he stuck around. He always did a Starbucks run, getting me a latte and lemon loaf, and sometimes getting the nurses or my mom or my visitor of the week coffee.

He said in the beginning this was a team effort and he would be there for everything, and he has kept his word. When chemo depressed me, he listened and told me I was absolutely ok to feel my feelings. He asked what he could do to help. He drove kids around and fed the family when I just couldn’t. He’s a superstar that will refuse to take any credit, but he deserves all of it.

I am through the first two hurdles: surgery and chemotherapy. Up next is radiation: 30 rounds. Every day for about six weeks starting November 20.

I can do this because I have already done so much. But I would be lying if I didn’t say I have some anxiety. It’s a new step, after all. A new treatment with new side effects.

But what I know is this: There are people in my corner who are praying and cheering me on. Cortney will be there–maybe not for each treatment, but he will be there when I get home. He will be there to hold my hand and walk through this next journey.

And radiation doesn’t make my hair fall out, so within the next four weeks we should see some “buds” growing in my bald spots! I am SO ready for hair…and eyebrows…and eye lashes again! Although I have gotten used to not having to shave my pits or my legs so often. Ha!

Here we go…next adventure!

Round 16 of 16 DONE!

Chemo Round 15

That’s the look of someone who only has one more chemo treatment left. WOO!

This week we had to reduce my dose. I had been having some numbness in my toes over the weekend, and because no one wants nephropathy to set in, my doc decided it wasn’t worth the risk blasting me with a full dose and possibly losing all feeling in my toes for the rest of my life. So that was the only change to anything this week. If my toes are still having numbness next week, we may decide not to do the final dose. But if they are feeling better we will probably do the final does as a reduced one and be done!

I did meet with my radiologist this week too. Got the low down on all the possible fun side effects of that. I also got my “simulation” appointment set for the first week of November to get me all set up for when treatment starts on November 20. Then I will be getting radiation 5 days a week for 6 weeks. Thirty treatments in all. That puts me finishing during winter break around the first of the year.

After that I have a meeting at the oncologist again to talk about the future and check ups. I’ll also probably be put on Tamoxifen, and estrogen blocker, at that time.  Since my breast cancer was positive for estrogen, that is what fed it, so blocking estrogen would be the next thing in making sure it doesn’t come back. There are a WHOLE bunch of stuff that happen with that, but I am not thinking about that now. Right now I am concentrating on being excited about being done with chemo next week, taking a break before radiation, and then facing radiation for 6 weeks.

If you are into prayer requests this is what I have for you: Please pray that the numbness in my toes goes away and I don’t get permanent nephropathy. Please also pray for Charlie. I don’t want to go into details because he may not want his business spread all over the internet, but he is struggling with some things and could use some prayers. And of course pray for Cortney’s continued strength as my rock, Eddie’s patience with his younger brother (and sister), and Alice’s continued positive attitude in all of this.

Thank you for being my community in all this.

Round 15 of 16 DONE

Chemo Round 14

Good grief, I have crazy eyes in this picture! It’s like I was excited to get out of there or something (I was).

I’m having a harder time with this countdown than I thought I was going to have. I thought I would be SO EXCITED to be close to the end. I mean, chemotherapy sucks. It sucks a lot. It basically steals a whole day from my life each week, not even counting what it stole over the summer. Plus I am starting to feel it a bit in my feet which could mean permanent nerve damage once this is over.

So why am I not more excited?

Well, when you’re getting chemo, cancer can’t grow, so it’s sort of like, “yes everything about this sucks, but at least I know I don’t have cancer right now.” My brain is already starting to loop the possible worst case scenarios about cancer growing once chemo is done.

There is zero reason I should be thinking this way.

They took the cancer out of me in May. The chemo is just an insurance policy. I am starting radiation in a couple weeks. My grandma and my aunt–who also had my type of breast cancer–never had it come back in any form.

There is zero reason I should be worried.

And yet here we are.

Hello, anxiety.

I am positive the insane busy that is going on in our household does not help matters. If I could figure out how to ask for help, I would, but no one can do our jobs for us…if that makes sense. Missing every Wednesday is starting to take a toll on both Cortney’s and my work stress. Our jobs keep going without us there–which is great–but it means more for us to do upon return. I’m trying to give myself grace, but grace doesn’t mean you can just not do certain parts of your job.

Theoretically when chemo is done, I will get Wednesdays back. However because radiation is an every day standing appointment, I might lose after school work time I used to have in place.

I just need it to all be over.

And I need to feel sure–REALLY sure–that I am cancer-free.

Those aren’t too big to ask for, right?

Besides Chemo Round 14 this week, we had weirdly hot weather, so Charlie had soccer practice on Tuesday in 84 degrees and then today his game was in 39 degrees. Michigan is weird.

Today I most certainly did NOT wear flip-flops and shorts. I wore all the layers and a hat with a giant puff ball on top. Charlie’s team did a great job and I know he loved playing this season which is all we could ask for!

Eddie was met with some reality with two big tests this week. Fourth grade is a bit stressful, but I think Eddie is dealing with it better than his mom is. Don’t tell him I freak out for him. He thinks I’m all cucumber cool about it. Even though I get nervous about things, he is thriving. He made his reading goal and was able to attend the reading pizza party this week, AND he met the class goals of having his homework done on time, so he got to attend the after school reward party too.  So even though there is more responsibility this year, he is getting some bigger rewards as well.

And Miss Alice was treated to a Princess Lunch with her Granny last week Sunday.

Cortney’s mom, aka Granny, found out about an event with a bunch of Disney princesses and lunch and all the fun, so she invited Alice. I am pretty sure Sunday was the highlight of Alice’s short life so far. She dressed up like Elsa and went with her Granny to meet princesses, eat lunch, get autographs, and even dance. So much fun! Such great memories!

So even though I continue to journey through this treatment, the family is doing pretty well. We have a few hiccups and bumps, but a few of us are in therapy to get some strategies for dealing with those.

As usual, thank you for the cards, thoughts, and shout-outs this week. We feel those prayers even if you feel like it’s the least you can do. They surround us and sustain us, so thank you.

Tuesday I meet with the radiologist.

Cortney has already been planning party hats for the last chemo treatment, by the way.

14/16 Done

Chemo Round 13

Today was my 13th chemo treatment! My aunt Sandy stopped by to catch up and visit while I sat in the chair. I love her so much, and I’m glad she could stop by. She is one of my mom’s three sisters, and when we kids were growing up, we were super close to our aunts, uncles, and cousins. Sandy and my Grandma Jo used to take my brothers and I camping at the beach during their week there in August each year. Sandy also used to babysit us when we were little kids because my mom worked part-time. She is sort of the social bug of that side of the family, so it was good to hear how everyone is doing. Plus she is an HILARIOUS story-teller.

I met with my oncologist today. I only have three more treatments! Soon I will meet with the radiologist who will be in charge of the next leg of this treatment tour: Radiation. All I know so far is that it’s every day (5 days a week) for six weeks. Appointments are only about 15-minutes, so I am hoping to set them all up for after school. I have a bunch of questions about this, but I am saving them for the radiologist who will probably be the best person to answer them.

Lots of people have noticed the fuzz growing on my head.

It’s not re-growth, but it is the hair that did not fall out growing. It’s pretty patchy and thin on top and in the front since so much fell out. That won’t grow back until chemo is done. And because my fuzz is getting so long, I’m planning to shave it down one more time as the end of chemo approaches so that it can all grow back at the same time and not be all patchy and weird.

The back is pretty thick though…and very soft. Like baby hair.

It’s very exciting to only have three treatments left. Cortney and I keep talking about what we should do for the last treatment. Party hats will definitely be a part of.

My anxiety about radiation is starting, though. I’m not really nervous about the actual treatment, but I get anxiety about how it will affect our schedule. We are ridiculously busy, and trying to figure out how to fit it in each day makes my stomach turn. Plus I have a conference in Houston in the middle of that 6 weeks and will be gone for a long weekend (A Friday to a Monday), and wondering how that will all work. I have lots of questions, which for me means a brain that is now cycling through worst-case scenarios.

I also worry about celebrating the end of chemo too much.

What if it comes back? What if this is not truly The End? What if I am back in that chair with a worse prognosis?

When people ask me how I am doing all this, it is truly showing up one day at a time and dealing with what is in front of me as best as I can. And I am not doing “it all” as it may seem. I miss staff meetings, department meetings, Leading Educator meetings. I am not getting my grading done as quickly as I would like, and I have a huge amount of reading to do for my grad class. “As best as I can” is truly my best, but it’s not what it would be if I wasn’t doing all this cancer treatment.

And I tell myself that is Ok, even though I know it lets people down. They understand, but I know it’s still a disappointment when I can’t produce or show up at the rate I did before The Big C. It’s a disappointment to myself.

I am really really trying to give myself grace. I’m really trying to believe others when the say “it’s Ok.” I’m really trying not to let my brain fixate on every thought that goes through it about radiation timing or getting cancer again.

Right now I am a survivor, and I’m doing what I have to do to stay surviving.

I show up to each day, and do what I can the best that I can.

Round 13/16 DONE!

Chemo Round 12

This was my face when my stupid port was clogged again this week. Luckily, my amazing nurse, Aimee, got it unclogged much quicker this time around and I was off and running with Round 12. Both Cortney and my mom were there with me again. We sent Cortney to work because he seemed to be a bit bored with our chit chat.

I have to say, though, I appreciate that he has been to every single one of my treatments and appointments. He refuses to let me ever be alone in this. And even though my mom shows up too, he is there–he is my person. He is my rock even when he doesn’t feel very solid himself. I honestly couldn’t be getting through this the way I am without him. Cortney has made rest and recovery after each treatment possible even though often it means increasing his own workload and managing the kids and schedule stuff on his own.

I am very, VERY lucky.

Speaking of lucky…

My school district had their breast cancer awareness football game last night, and they asked if I would come and be recognized as a survivor. I was honored that they wanted to include me.

I had my reservations. I said yes because I was told it could bring the community together and give them hope. I want to do that for people. I want them to see hope and not despair when they see me going through my journey.

But I was nervous too. I don’t want to be The Cancer Teacher. I struggle with having the spotlight on me for something I feel is not my own hard work, but luck. I was lucky to have it caught so early. I am lucky to have the support I do. I am lucky that my body is responding so well. And truth be told, we won’t know until I am done and off the chemo and done with radiation whether or not it “worked.” The cancer could come back. We all know there are no guarantees with cancer. It is a brutally and infamously unfair disease.

We packed up the family anyway, and headed out to the stadium. It was cold and drizzling out. Eddie, Charlie, and Alice were heavy on the whine and light on the “proud of our mom” attitudes. I was struggling with my self-confidence and whether or not I was really deserving of all this.

Hanging out before the game and during the first quarter; however, many students came and said hello. Former students (who are all high schoolers now! OMG, my 8th graders have grown up!) gave hugs and told me they were glad I was there.

And after the first quarter of the game, they invited me out with our superintendent to be recognized.

Did I mention it was quite chilly? I have on three layers! I don’t know how Mr. Hoekstra doesn’t have a stocking hat on because my bald head was COLD.

Anyway, it felt good to hear the announcer talk about my years of service in Wyoming Public Schools (this is my 16th year, but I did my student teaching and two years of long-term subbing, so I’ve been around since 2001) and how many students I’ve impacted.

And then I looked up into the stands (which were sparsely populated due to the weather) and heard, “MRS. SLUITER!!!” and saw some frantic waving from my current students. I waved back and they cheered.

Well.

That was pretty awesome.

I still feel weird about being recognized while I go through my journey, but I am a survivor right now. I am in remission even if I am still getting treatment.

And I only have four more chemo rounds to go before the next leg of this tour gets underway.

Round 12/16 DONE!



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