Monday, August 16, 2010

I Had Cancer

I had a rough week last week. Tuesday my wife and I took our two youngest children to get their back to school shots. My wife had also made an appointment for me because she was worried about a mole on my shoulder that had gotten significantly bigger in the last year. Wednesday I had surgery to remove a very large piece of skin and the mole.

Both the nurse practitioner on Tuesday and the dermatologist on Thursday were convinced I had melanoma. Honestly, the dermatologist really scared me. She was visibly shaken when she saw the mole. I am pretty sure that when the doctor is worried enough that the patient shot full of Novocaine notices the prognosis is pretty bad. She told us we would find out on Monday what the pathologist found. She explained that I was likely looking at biopsies and all sorts of other unpleasant things.

Saturday I received a call from the dermatologist. She quickly explained that she had gone into work and checked the fax machine. She saw the report from the pathologist and wanted to let me know that although the mole did have melanoma, it was in situ  which means that it was contained in the skin removed and I would not have to have biopsies or other horrible procedures. Before she hung up she told me I needed to go home and celebrate with my family.

There is no way for me to explain how the shock that I felt after meeting with the dermatologist affected me. I virtually shut down any thinking about the upcoming school year. I went in to school on Thursday and Friday, but spent less than an hour both days because I couldn't focus on any work. The only thing I could do to get cancer off my mind was by diverting myself by watching movies at home. I am still not back, I have no idea what I will be doing my first two days of school. School starts in three days.

I had the support of caring medical professionals, my wife, and my family, but I still couldn't function. Today I was thinking about my students and all the major, life altering situations they face: divorce, death of loved ones, neglect, and abuse. Most of them don't have the support system in place that I was fortunate to have. What hubris we show when we expect them to continue to work.

It is time for us to reflect on our tough times and how they affected us. We need to make sure we show compassion for students going through stressful situations. We need to be part of their support system.


Gail Lovely said...

Thank you for sharing your deep thoughts. Yes, we all need to remain a human family. Forgetting that others hurt, worry, fear, love, hate, laugh and cry leaves us teaching and learning in an isolated, empty shell...

I appreciate your sharing and reminding so many to reach out and up and to recognize others are on their own journeys too.

Paige V. Baggett said...

Thank you for sharing such a personal experience to remind us all that there's often more to the story of those we interact with each day. I am so thankful you were told to celebrate! Reminds me to celebrate the joys of life daily.

Wm Chamberlain said...

@Gail Thank you for the kind words.

@Paige Think I got it from BP when I was in Mobile? ;)

Pam Thompson said...

I'm so glad that you didn't need to have any further invasive treatment. You have a very balanced outlook and I'm sure the experience will only add to the wonderful job you do with your students.

Thank you for sharing such a personal moment and I wish you a safe and happy return to school.

Carey Pohanka said...

First of all, I am glad you are okay. Cancer sucks. Really sucks. In the last year, my mom, best friend and grandmother were all being treated for it. And it sucks.

You are so right about kids. They deal with so much and with less information than we adults have. When I was going through my divorce, a friend told me to remember how hard it was for me and I knew what was going on. My kids didn't know all that was happening and they were having to deal with it with way more questions.

So at this beginning of our year (in-services start today) thank you for the reminder that our students are humans too. Your students are so lucky to have you! I can tell, even from afar, that you are there for your students, which is so much more important than their scored on standardized tests.

I'm glad your mole turned out okay and I will add you to my prayers that it stays that way.


Jason T Bedell said...

I'm glad you're ok. I know you'll find your way with your kids; I can't say I understand what it's like, but I'm sure it takes time to recover from something like that.
To your other point, when children start acting outside the norm, it behooves us to find out if there is anything else going on before jumping to discipline. Sometimes it is as simple as talking with the students; sometimes it requires talking to the parent or guardian. My first year teaching, I have a student who was rather difficult. He was just very energetic and rather than harness that energy, I tried to restrain it. Anyway, he started acting more difficult than usual. After several write-ups, I found out his father was in the hospital with dialysis. I felt awful. I apologized to him and was reminded to always serve children first, and content/school/politics/etc... long after.

Wm Chamberlain said...

@Carey You are right, cancer sucks. Because I had melanoma my kids have a much higher chance of getting it. Not the legacy I would choose to leave them.

@Jason Last year while "teaching" keyboarding I had a lot of time to talk to students and get to know them (probably better than the other junior high teachers.) I could tell when one of them had a problem and I had the ability (because of no HS testing in keyboarding) to help them. In my opinion this is more proof that HS testing is damaging to our students.


Glad you made it through. I can't imagine myself getting that kind of news, so I won't pretend to or offer you advice. Take care and thank you for sharing.

John Hadley Strange said...

I am glad to hear that it was contained and they got it all. Was it bothering you when you were here?

Your remarks about not knowing the conditions of life for our students hit home. How are we to know? How you we separate fact from fiction.

Thanks for sharing. And raising even more questions!

You noted in your response to Paige that it might be BP's oil. Maybe it was the heat on the Battleship!

Anyway, glad all is well!

marthayim said...

So glad to hear that everything turned out on the brighter side. I can't imagine how you felt. What a great point about not know what students are going through. Thanks for sharing!

Intrepid Flame said...

Wow! Just read this. So glad that everything is okay and you are fine. I have had a few near death experiences myself and I know they can often times help us re-evaluate our priorities and look at life with fresh eyes. Looking forward to how you use this new outlook. I am sure it will be inspiring both for your students and your new friends online.

teachernz/michael said...

I just found your post in my sadly neglected reader.

I can't say that I know how you feel or think, it's simply outside my range of experience. But this connected world is a strange beast and you've kicked off strong emotions that I didn't expect in a "virtual" relationship - probably thoughts of my kids and my family - but certainly feelings for you. For what it's worth you have my empathy.

Take care.

Aaron Griffin said...

Thank You for shareing your thoughts. From an outside perspective, i can only imagine the thoughts running through your mind. I commend you on your courage and strength to overcome such obstacles. Your family must be very proud of you.Thanks again for shareing.