One of my biggest struggles during the past year has been keeping a healthy perspective. All the political and social unrest coupled with a global pandemic had (ok, still has) me teetering on the brink of feeling like it’s literally the end of the world. I feel small and helpless and very afraid.

Watching Alice play and make comments about needing masks for her Barbie dolls and baby dolls makes me wonder if bringing children into this world was a good idea. The logical part of my brain says, “stop it. you had no way to know that this was going to happen.” But the very illogical (and loud, I might add) part of my brain constantly beats myself up for having children in a world with no future.

Recently, I watched a video about World War II and a Holocaust survivor mentioned feeling like it was the true end of the world. This was just days after the insurrection at the US capitol–the coverage of which I could not pull myself away from.

I have found that once or twice a day I have to sit quietly and remind myself what humanity has been through without the world ending. The waring and the disease and the famine and the floods. Events that both the survivors and the victims must have truly felt was the end of time.

Truth has been on my mind a lot lately as well. What is truth? Cortney and I watched The Social Dilema on Netflix last night, and while none of the information was that revelatory to me, it did make me see how someone’s social media timeline algorithms coupled with isolation in a pandemic would push them to come to believe certain things as fact and even to get emotionally invested as to leave their homes and act on these beliefs.

I’ve cut a lot out of my social media in the past few months. Some have accused me of creating an echo chamber of liberal views. And perhaps there is truth to that, but I don’t use social media solely for politics or debating issues. And social media is a terrible place to debate those things anyway. So I’ve made two types of cuts: people who post things that are blatantly false and refuse to admit to any fact checked corrections (because I don’t need that toxicity), and people who may not post much, but leave comments that promote misinformation.

I have also cut folks who refuse to see that there are injustices and inequities in all–ALL–systems and institutions in the United States. To be blind to the history and present-day struggle that is going on tells me that you will not be able to love my family (or me) if we are in a group of people who face oppression because you don’t believe that the oppression exists, which means you do not fully see us or value us and our lived truths not to mention those of everyone else in the world. And while I struggle mightily over my faith and what I believe, I know this: Jesus never preached hate or intolerance.

All of this rambling to say that my mental health has not been at it’s best since March 2020. I spend most of my time just trying to stay level. I haven’t felt “normal” or even “good” in months. I’ve felt like I’m either surviving, on the verge of going under, or drowning. The hardest thing for our family (and we are clearly privileged with this being the hardest thing, I know that) is the lack of in-person mental health care. Both Charlie and I struggle, but he needs to be able to sit in a room and be forced to face some things. He needs to be re-evaluated in person.

We have been doing what we can to get by, but just “getting by” wears on you after awhile.

Last week, I was able to bring a glimmer of hope that maybe there will be an end to the isolation, the lack of physical contact, and the uncertainty about when “going virtual” won’t always be looming. Last Wednesday I was given the first dose of the COVID19 vaccine.

As I waited in the line, my mind wondered if this was the beginning of the end of the pandemic, or if we were at the beginning of a long, changed reality that will always involve masks and vaccines and virtual meetings.

The logical part of my brain tells me to be postive.

The other, much LOUDER, anxiety-soaked part of my brain, struggles to stay in it’s place.

So I continue to be careful how much news I watch, who I allow in my social media, and how much quiet time I give my whole brain.

http://sluiternation.com/2021/01/13161/

What I Read: 2020

It’s been a long-standing habit of mine to post all the titles I read each year. And just because I have been a slacker with writing, does not mean I have been a slacker with reading!

My reading goal on Goodreads.com was 50 books. I read 64! Here is my list.

The ones in BOLD are the ones I recommend the most. The ones wit (F) are fiction written for adults (not kids), (YA) are young adult lit, (MG) are middle grade books, (P) are novels that are written in verse/poetry, (N) are nonfiction, (CB) are children’s books (aimed at an audience younger than middle school), and (C) are comics.

  1. The Behavior Code: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Teaching the Most Challenging Students by Jessica Minahan (N)
  2. The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson (CB)
  3. Dogman: Fetch-22 by Dav Pilkey (C, CB)
  4. The Arrival by Shaun Tan (C)
  5. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (re-read) (YA, P)
  6. A Treasury of Mother Goose by Linda Yeatman (CB)
  7. Journalism by Joe Sacco (C)
  8. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling (re-read) (MG)
  9. They Called Us Enemy by George Takei (C, N, YA)
  10. Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi (YA)
  11. The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown (C, YA)
  12. Illegal by Eoin Colfer (C MG)
  13. The Scar by Andrea Ferraris (C)
  14. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany (YA)
  15. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling (re-read) (MG)
  16. Inspector Flytrap by Tom Angelberger (CB)
  17. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (re-read) (YA)
  18. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (YA C)
  19. Speak the Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson (YA C)
  20. The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (YA C)
  21. Alpha by Bessora (C)
  22. LaGuardia by Nnedi Okorafor (C)
  23. Stamped by Jason Reynolds (read twice) (YA N)
  24. The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui (C)
  25. White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo (N)
  26. Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay (YA)
  27. The Year We Fell From Space by AS King (MG)
  28. The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan (MG)
  29. New Kid by Jerry Craft (MG C)
  30. How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X Kendi (N)
  31. The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio G. Iturbe (YA)
  32. Halsey Street by Naima Coster (F)
  33. Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan (MG)
  34. Becoming by Michelle Obama (N)
  35. This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell (MG YA N)
  36. Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan (MG)
  37. Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson (YA)
  38. So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijemona Oluo (N)
  39. I Crawl Through It by AS King (YA)
  40. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (YA)
  41. Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram (YA)
  42. Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan (MG)
  43. Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith (YA)
  44. We Set The Dark On Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia (YA)
  45. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling (re-read) (MG)
  46. The Writing Thief by Ruth Culham (N)
  47. We Want to do More Than Survive by Bettina L. Love (N)
  48. Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson (YA)
  49. I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina (YA C)
  50. Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian by Rick Riordan (MG)
  51. Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows (CB)
  52. Engaging Students in Disciplinary Literacy:K-6 by Cynthia H. Brock (N)
  53. Internment by Samira Ahmed (YA)
  54. Ivy and Bean Take Care of the Babysitter by Annie Barrows (CB)
  55. Pet by Akwaeke Emezi (YA)
  56. Best Practices in Writing Instruction by Steve Graham (N)
  57. Ivy and Bean Break the Fossil Record by Annie Barrows (CB)
  58. Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor (YA)
  59. Ivy and Bean Doomed to Dance by Annie Barrows (CB)
  60. Ivy and Bean Bound to Be Bad by Annie Barrows (CB)
  61. Linguistic Justice: Black Language, Literacy, Identity and Pedagogy by April Baker-Bell (N)
  62. Ivy and Bean and the Ghost that Had to Go! by Annie Barrows (CB)
  63. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart (MG)
  64. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson (re-read) (CB)

You can probably tell a few things by this list:

First, I took a grad class a year ago that focused on refugee and immigrant stories as told in comics/graphic novels.

Second, I took a Multicultural YA Lit grad course in the fall.

Third, my own children got hooked on different book series for our bedtime reading.

Looking back, I personally chose only 19 of these–fewer than half–to read on my own. The rest were either chosen for me, I had to teach, or my kids requested them as read alouds.

I set my 2021 reading goal for 65 books and I am already on my second book (if you don’t count the Ivy & Bean title that Alice and I finished), so I would say that’s a pretty good start for it being just the first week of the new year!

Happy reading!

First read of 2021–SO GOOD.
Current read by a fave author

42

I turned 42 just over a week ago.

Having a birthday right now is weird. It was weird.

But it wasn’t bad. I expected to be lonely and sad. I never take my birthday off from work because I like being around people telling me happy birthday. I like being celebrated.

My mom and Cortney did a great job of making me feel very celebrated upon turning 42 years old this year despite all the social distancing.

My mom showed up in our front yard in the morning waving and smiling like the wonderful woman she is. She had a bag of “birthday snacks” for me and wanted to yell HAPPY BIRTHDAY from the yard. I love that she surprised me AND that she was a goof while she did it.

I got out of the house and drove to our local Bigby to get a birthday latte by way of drive thru.

It was sunny and lovely.

Cortney gave me the new bookshop Lego set I have been eyeing.

(I almost have it finished already!)

We ordered pizza.

Cortney had a cake for me, so there was singing and blowing out of candles.

There was happiness and joy and after the kids went to bed, Cortney and I played Animal Crossing on our Nintendo Switch (that our kids don’t even know we have because we haven’t told them because we need fun too!) and did Legos.

I shouldn’t be surprised that the day was so great. I underestimate my family sometimes.

Of course I would have liked to go on the date night Cortney had planned. I would have loved to spend the evening with friends and drinks and good food and lots of laughter.

But this was good too.

No. It was perfect.

Being a Statistic

One in three women will get some sort of cancer in her lifetime.

One in five women will get breast cancer.

Last summer, those numbers swirled in my head constantly. I remember waking up from 12+ hours of comatose, chemo-induced sleep thinking about them. I started doing Katie Math:

I have four sisters-in-law; I am one of five.

I had four roommates in college; I am one in five.

I have four female cousins on my mom’s side; I am one in five.

I have three female cousins on my dad’s side; I am one in four (even better, right?)

I kept doing this sort of math with all the women in my life, and my conclusion was: I am the statistic. At first that was depressing, but then I got it in my head that maybe, because I was the statistic, they would not have to be.

I convinced myself of this. By getting breast cancer, maybe I somehow “saved” those I loved from having to go through what I did.

Less than a month after my yearly mammogram came back clear (yay!), a friend and colleague disclosed that she just had a biopsy come back as breast cancer. Then a month later, a college friend texted me that she had just been diagnosed as well.

I was consumed with sadness for them. My sleep became disrupted. I felt helpless, and some how guilty. Why had this happened to them? Wasn’t I the statistic in everyone’s life? I was the one in three, the one in five.

My colleague’s cancer did not spread to her lymph nodes, and they got the tumor with surgery. She does not need chemo. I thought my reaction would be jealousy, but it was unbridled relief for her. I actually cried when I saw her message. Radiation still sucks: it’s a pain to do, plus there are some pretty stupid side effects. But it’s not the life-sucking awful of chemo.

My college friend is undergoing chemo right now to shrink a tumor before having surgery. Having gone through it before, I wish there was something I could do to make it all less scary and horrible.

I had a couple friends who have gone down this path before me, and they both looked at me the same way–a way I couldn’t figure out at the time. It was different than everyone else. Everyone else looked at me with sympathy and pity, but their look was different–more urgent somehow. I get it now: they were giving me the look of recognition and helplessness. They saw their journey in me and there was absolutely nothing they could do to prepare me or make me less afraid.

They were wrong though: seeing them thrive after going down this path helped more than anything could, I think.

Being a statistic is not saving those I love from also becoming a cancer statistic. But by talking about what my journey was like, by listening to how theirs is similar and different, and by just being a regular, boring human after it’s “over,” I hope that I am giving them that light that it will not always suck.

It will not always be this hard.

It will pass, and then you will be a statistic too: one of the 90% of women who survive.

Maybe

I turned 41 and had my annual mammogram this past Wednesday. The last time I was in that little room, I had two long needles sticking out of my bewb that they were trying to image to make sure they could get the whole tumor out.

It’s been sort of a weird year.

I keep telling people this is the year I feel old, but that’s not exactly accurate. I don’t feel OLD like elderly or falling apart or unable to do stuff. I just feel…like a veteran. Like an adult, maybe? Is this what it feels like to be an adult?

Maybe it was going through the whole cancer thing. My body isn’t more achy or sore, but when I look in the mirror, I see change. Yes, my hair is short (which thank you for the compliments, but I am ready for it to be long again), but I have more lines on my face. My eyes are more tired. My skin is drier. Something looks…aged.

Maybe it’s the whole 16 years of teaching thing. This year I am finding myself surrounded by a LOT of very young, new teachers as the people I started my career with start to retire around me. A few weeks ago, I found out who will be retiring this and other shifts that are possible in department chairs and such. I also have a student teacher this semester. On one of her first days, a student asked, “Hey Mrs. Sluiter! Is that your daughter?” And I laughed at the absurdity and then did the math. It was not all that absurd.

Maybe it’s the whole being back in grad school thing. I’m currently taking a class called Professionalization in English that is all about how to be a PhD student who is hoping to become a professor. There are seven of us in the class: three of us are in the English Ed PhD program, one is in the Literature PhD program, and the other three are in the Literature MA program. I am the oldest there by at least five years. And each week we have guest speakers–other professors in the department–come to talk about things like getting published, presenting at conferences, dissertation writing, etc. I am constantly reminded that 40 is not all that young to be back in school, even if it is grad school.

Or maybe it’s just a combination of this whole weird year. Maybe this is fleeting and will go away the farther I get from the entire ordeal. Maybe I just have to settle into this new me. The cancer survivor, doctoral student, veteran teacher me.

This year I’ve had to do many things that made me uncomfortable (to say the least). Maybe that is what feeling like an adult is. Doing the things that make you uncomfortable because you only get one life and if you don’t do the thing, you will regret it.

Which means maybe this is the year we will finally join a gym and get the Christmas decorations off the yard before April.

Maybe.

Here I am hoping 41 is less uncomfortable that 40 was.

By the way, that mammogram I had on my birthday came back completely normal. Absolutely no sign of cancer. I’d say that is a good start to this new trip around the sun.

How to Love on Someone Through Treatment

Since my cancer diagnosis and treatment, I’ve had a bunch of people message me that someone they love is about to go through or is currently going through a cancer diagnosis and needs treatment. They all want to know what was the most helpful thing that was done for me and/or my family while we were deep in the trenches. In fact, I have been asked so many times, I decided to write it all down in my notebook and turn it in to a blog post.

The day of my lumpectomy: May 10, 2018

Meals: This is the one we think of first, right? Especially if we live close or are in a community with the person (church, work, neighborhood, etc). Meals can be GREAT and we loved the ones we got, but ask first. And then don’t be discouraged if the person says they don’t need one. Cooking or baking might be your love language, but in our case, we have picky eaters and honestly, visitors stressed me out. We had a schedule people could sign up on if they wanted to provide a meal, and we weren’t afraid to be specific about what our family would actually eat.

Snacks: Even though meals were sort of overwhelming, snacks were not! We got some awesome deliveries of snacks for the kids (both healthy and fun), an edible arrangement (I ate most of that because FRUIT!), and other treats in care packages. These are great because they can be dropped on a porch or sent in the mail and no one feels like they have to entertain you (or put on pants to answer the door), AND they can be consumed gradually.

Also beer and wine on my doorstep were never a sad thing. Because yes, you can still drink when you’re going through chemotherapy (or at least I could. Just not on the day of treatment–not that I wanted to. Ugg.)

The Mother’s Day Basket my school sent after my surgery.

Cards and notes: If you live far away or you aren’t super close with someone, cards and notes are the way to go. I think sometimes people think, “who cares about a card?” But I am here to tell you that every card or note sent to me (snail mail is really the best) or even every email or private message I received, I kept. They are all tucked in a bag under my bed. When things got really shitty, I would re-read them. Or just hold the weight of them because it reminded me that I went through all those minds and hearts enough for them to specifically take time to send it.

This was all of them as of my last chemo treatment. I have added more to this pile!

Gift Cards: If you want to go beyond the card, but meals are not your thing or an option, gift cards are the way to go. People want to feed you and your family when you are out of commission, and that is a GREAT thing! We got TONS of gift cards to local restaurants that have take out or eat in, that way we could choose when and how we wanted our meals. Another reason this was great was because some days that we thought would be fine, were very not fine and the gift cards were there for those unplanned inability to prepare food. Plus everyone could get what they like. And the ones to ice cream or dessert places? Well those were just fun treats!

We were also sent gift cards for non-food stuff–especially for our kids (Target, the local toy store, activities, etc.) These were true gifts for our kids in the middle of a pretty scary, uncertain summer. All three dealt with my chemotherapy differently, and the kindness of both friends and strangers sustained them and gave them things to look forward to outside of seeing mom comatose.

Shipt or some other service: I swear I am not getting compensated for this, and actually we turned down the offer twice before one friend finally said, “too bad, this is what we want to gift you.” Shipt was so helpful for grocery shopping/delivery, that we renewed it for a full year after our gifted subscription ran out.

Cozy, fun things: I would be remiss not to mention the thoughtful gifts people sent. Earbuds for chemo (there are quite a few loud-talking elderly people there), blankets (chemo patients get COLD fast), hats, fuzzy socks, notebooks and pens, books (even though I couldn’t read during chemo, books are always a comfort to me), music to listen to at chemo, Bible verses, coffee mugs, tea, the list goes on! None of them were needs…or even wants I knew I had! But when they showed up, they comforted me.

Stuff that made me feel pretty: When you go through cancer treatment, you do not feel glamorous, let alone pretty. You feel like you are crawling through life. So when cute hats (that had SPF or were warm), lotions, make-up stuff, nail polish (no manicures or pedicures when you are doing chemo, so you have to do them yourself…or have a husband who will do it), even flavored lip balm or lip glosses showed up, it may have seemed frivolous, but to me it gave me back a little of my femininity. It made me feel pretty again.

Take The Kids: This is a tricky one. One of the best things people did for us was arrange fun childcare for our kids while I was at my worst. The tricky part is we had many offers, but only took up a handful of people on this because we wanted our kids to feel comfortable and natural and not like they were being sent away to someone they don’t know. Our kids were not just well-cared for, they had FUN while I felt like garbage. Some of their best memories of the summer were from the times they spent with friends and family while I was at my lowest. This helped me get the rest I needed because I knew my kids were having a ball.

Flowers: Who doesn’t love flowers? Again, this one seems like something everyone would do, but it’s not. I received some beautiful arrangements sent from professional places, but people also brought vases filled from their gardens or the farmer’s market. Since I couldn’t go outside much, it felt good to smell the fresh flowers in the house.

Ask them out: Ask them to do things when they are feeling good. Get fun stuff on their calendar. This was HUGE for me. I needed things to look forward to so I could remember that it wouldn’t always suck. We went to a minor league baseball game with friends (that I thought was going to back out of, but didn’t and I am glad about it), a Pearl Jam concert, and I got my make-up done with a friend. We also went to a cottage with my parents for a long weekend. Doing stuff when I wasn’t “sick” was necessary to my recovery. I took it slow and I made sure to rest, but I did things. This was crucial for my mental health too!

And lastly, just be there. Make sure they know they can tell you that they feel like shit and that you won’t try to talk them out of that (because you can’t. They just have to go through it). Be there when they are feeling good and help them celebrate that too.

PSA: Follow Doctor’s Orders

My Timehop app reminded me that one year ago today was my annual physical. “Annual” is used loosely here since I had not been in for a physical since Alice was born in 2015. I made the appointment because I was turning 40 and figured that was a good age to make sure everything was working like it was supposed to.

Look at that great hair!

I also knew that my doctor would probably order some blood work to check stuff that hadn’t been checked since before Alice was born (thyroid, cholesterol, etc) as well as a mammogram because I have family history and 40 seems to be the magic number for having your boobs checked.

I was right: blood work and mammogram were ordered, my mental health was discussed, and refills on my antidepressant were called in.

My mammogram was schedule for March–right before my 40th birthday.

After my breast cancer diagnosis, many of the nurses commented on how lucky it was that I actually went and had my mammogram done. I couldn’t believe it–who wouldn’t go get a test done that their doctor prescribed?

It wasn’t luck that got me to my mammogram; it was my (and Cortney’s) firm belief in preventative health care. Get regular check-ups. Call the doctor when you feel yucky. Do the tests (and vaccines) that doctors recommend.

It wasn’t luck. It was common sense.

I am thankful for our common sense because I am alive today because of it.

My doctor did a breast exam, didn’t feel anything unusual, but ordered the mammogram anyway because I was turning 40 and had family history.

Had I not followed through, and I waited until I noticed something was wrong, my prognosis would have been so, so much worse.

Consider this your Public Service Announcement: take care of yourself by getting regular check-up and following doctor advice.

Preventative care saves lives, yo.

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

Donate to my classroom library today by sending a book from our classroom wishlist!

Just a Handful

I only have five radiation treatments left, and the last five are quicker and less broad than the previous 25. Up until today, my treatments were broadly applied to four “zones” so that the radiation hit all my lymph nodes and my left breast in the area that the cancer had been.

It’s been manageable, but not at all fun.

It looks like sunburn, but it’s not really sunburn. It’s not a burn from heat since radiation is not hot. Our skin normally sloughs off and regrows. With radiation, my skin is sloughing off, but not regenerating. So it’s raw. It’s itchy. In the places where my skin rubs on itself (my armpit), it’s tender.

I have some products that were gifted to me by friends that has been working to relieve most of the itching and to give my skin some moisture back, but it’s still very uncomfortable.

The last five treatments won’t contribute to anymore of this since they will be targeted only at my scar from the lumpectomy. But it will take some time for my skin to heal. It will get a bit worse before it gets better even without the radiation. And my scar spot will obviously still be raw from 5 more treatments.

Now that the holidays are over, I’m noticing the fatigue that comes with radiation as well. I am very tired even though I am trying to get a bunch of rest, and I can sleep for very, very long periods of time. I’m thankful that I haven’t had homework or schoolwork to do over break because I have been pretty tired.

That said, I just have five left! By this time next week I will be DONE. I know there will be a transition period where my skin will need to heal and where I will have to slowly get my energy back, but the whole family is looking forward to no more appointments for treatment on the calendar.

Looking forward, I have a follow up appointment with my oncologist later this month and I will have my port removed as well. My next treatments step will be Tamoxifen which will block estrogen from attaching to the receptors in my breasts (my cancer was estrogen receptor positive) and reduce the recurrence of breast cancer. It will, however, push me into menopause. FUN. I will take this for 5-10 years.

But let’s focus on the GOOD, right?

My hair is growing back quickly! Yay! I have an actual salon appointment in a couple weeks! I hope to get it shaped/cleaned up into some semblance of a style. I also hope to find out it’s long enough to color because I miss my warm, brown that I had before I had to shave it. I LOVED my hair color and I am eager to have it back.

I also get to have my eyebrows waxed! Yay! I can’t wait to feel feminine again. That is something cancer has stolen from me–feeling like a pretty girl. It also took away my control over what I look like, and I am excited to get some of that back again.

So, just a handful of treatments left.

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).