Western education 2013

Thursday, September 26, 2013

..... and try as I might....

...... the cold has come to stay in our household.  Now that Max is up and running.... the rest of us now have to cope with not feeling particularly well.  It has become apparent too this week that the summer we missed has now magically arrived.  Oh goody.... sigh....

Well it certainly has been an interesting week... Monday, one of my students sitting in the back of the lecture hall was being razzed by his classmates.  I looked up as I settled my stuff on the podium and began the task of liberating my teacher stuff and tool box from my roller cart.  I follow the stares and settle mine upon the student in the second to last row.  There in full splendor is a young man wearing what looks to be the skimpiest clingy stretch dress with his bare knees jutting out in front of him.  The looks are now glancing my way waiting for my reaction.  "well," I begin, "it does appear that you sir have indeed lost the bet?!"  The young man nods quietly keeping his focus away from the other stares.  "I think that you holding up your end of the deal is admirable and should the ship ever go down, you sir will be the one I will be looking for because clearly, you are a man of your word and one to be trusted"..... the class became quiet for a few seconds before they let him know that they too thought he was a stand up guy for following through with his end of the bet.  He would later approach me quietly and thank me for having his back.  Anytime.  It would be a few hours later when I would discover that all my teacher stuff was packed into my rolling cart except for my brand new headphones..... which Stephanie, a colleague of mine would attempt and succeed at getting them back for me and gathering up some student submissions from my drop box.  Very sweet.

There is a lot of work involved in creating a course, tweaking it along the way and giving the students opportunities to collaborate and integrate in the groups they belong to.  It always irks me when the general public takes shots at teachers and makes the assumption that somehow we are riding a wave of good fortune and plenty of perks.  I doubt very much that I would have the same opinion of their career knowing how much effort I put into mine.  Its not just about regurgitating information, in my world it is about conveying the information with as much energy and enthusiasm as you have passion for what you do.  I have yet to have an entire summer off without taking a course or improving the one I am currently teaching or trying to self-learn.  It is pretty ballsy to make flagrant statements about someone's chosen vocation if you have yet to walk in their shoes.  We have all had bad teachers....they do exist... and I have had a few myself and yes in the recent past.... but as I have said to my children - the situation might not always be ideal but you have to take ownership of what you do.

Today I was blessed to be visited by Mary... we are both educators... she has retired and me, well, I am still going.  I love what I do and we chat about all that makes teaching interesting.  It is rarely the same day twice, that's for sure.  We both tear up as we talk about my one blog entry... it's why I adore her... we always find important and meaningful discussions that are heartfelt.  Thank you so much for visiting with me today.... I am sending you off with lots of hugs today.  We happen to be brought together by fate and I will be forever grateful for  her friendship.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

....... avoiding the cold in my own household......

..... means that Max is sleeping in the spare bedroom and trying to keep his distance.  I am washing my hands, rinsing with a neti pot and staying far enough away.  It is cold and allergy season and I am keenly aware of my own sinus headache forming like the black clouds on the horizon threatening the deluge that will follow.  It is a terrible sleep of tossing and turning and trying to ease the pain in the brow line and upper head.  I cannot find my sleeping cap which keeps my head warm through the night.  I feel like I have an icy hand on my forehead and I place my warm hand over it to warm it and reduce the pain.  I am not one to seek head medication but I stumble out of bed, fatigued and in need of some tylenol.  The cat has discovered I am up and is relentless in his pursuit of me by meowing loudly from the doorway.  The noise gets me up and I feed him only to be disturbed once again by his persistent request to go out.  No worries Kajen..... it has poured almost 85mm of rain..... I wave him off and head to the couch to lay down.  Laidee is at the right level to stick her pointy collie nose into my eye socket..... so now I am up for good.

I peek out back once it is clear enough to see..... the pool Max closed last weekend is now brimming with water and the pond has overflowed.  Thankfully both were at low enough levels that they have barely overflowed.  It must be a record rainfall?  This morning is dark and dreary with a light rainfall.  Its a good day to stay in bed, only I have things to do.  Later this morning, Max will be vacuuming the basement from water that has come through a hairline crack in the foundation.

This week has been amazing in the classroom and labs, getting everyone caught up and up to date with their deadlines.  Working closely with a colleague in another course has been extremely rewarding and the ideas exchanged means a better experience for the students.  I love what I do and where I am and although there are some rough days in the week of chemo, I can't imagine being anywhere else.

The Thursday evening finds me at my daughter's school to meet the teacher in an open house forum.  I have a few red flags and some reservations about her teacher based on what I have been hearing from others and what she has told me at home.  First I run into a very dear and favorite teacher Mrs. L. who has been such an incredible teacher and very supportive of Lydia at the end of her grade 5 year when I was diagnosed..... (she sent Lydia home with a bouquet of the most wonder yellow Gerber Daisies).... and greeted me warmly with hugs when she spotted me walk through the front doors.  Shelly B was next with warm hugs and wishes.  She was the first director for the daycare at Jean Vanier when it was in its most humble beginnings in a borrowed room at the school....... and became a friend.  

Max and I head up to Lydia's classroom where we meet the hulking man who has become her teacher.  I am eying him from my perch on a desk and when he is done speaking to the two parents ahead of me, we introduce ourselves.  I had asked him for his OCT number to see what his qualifications were but he gave no reason as to why he did not respond to the request in Lydia's planner.  One thing a parent does not appreciate is a teacher who ignores them.  He informs us that he had to send our daughter to the principals office because she was talking too much???  While we know this is a family trait and I have a college student in my class who has yet to take a breathe.... I think it is highly unlikely that this would necessitate a trip down the hall to the head administrator.  I digress and we move on to discuss his offering of candy in the first few weeks of class.  It turns out after much pressing that a local restaurant dropped off a ton of candy and he would fill his pockets with them every day to dole out to the kids, which they perceived as a bribe to get them to do their work.  He indicates to us that he wasn't going to eat them so hey, why not save them for the children.  I was thinking the garbage can next to his desk would have been a viable option.  I dislike the use of candy to 'inspire' children to comply..... especially when we do not use that tactic at home.... Lydia has had thousands of dollars of dental work to repair teeth after an accident when she was three and sugar is such an enemy to not only her teeth but to her general health.  I tell him that I do not want him to offer her sugary treats unless it is a special occasion and even then, the traditional offering of 1/2 pound of chocolate to just one child is ridiculous.  I offer to supply him with alternative options for Lydia if he insists on using this as a reward system for work that is expected.  According to him, he is retiring in a few years.... we smile, shake hands and walk away.....  I am hopeful that my daughter does not see the inside of the principals office again....   in this world, you do not have to like everyone but you certainly have to learn to negotiate for your children in a polite and respectful way.  We head downstairs to give last hugs to Ms. L and Ms. P in their classrooms and one to Shelly in the foyer.... three of the most incredibly loving and caring women I know!! We have been blessed to have them in our lives.

This is only the 2nd time in my time as a parent to 3 children that I have had to address issues I did not feel comfortable with.  Mitchel, when he was just a wee fellow was shy and reserved and a young fellow took it upon himself to get into his face on a daily basis until Mitch reacted one day and unfortunately the child was pushed a few step from the bottom.  Thankfully the child was not injured but it took that incident for the school to finally call me.  They told me it had started in September but I asked them why they had chosen to wait until February to call me?  They felt that they could deal with the issues themselves.  The vice principal had chosen to dose my child with candy and other treats to get him to comply.... only he gained weight, was constantly constipated and didn't feel well.  I wish I had been informed.  When the incident finally broke the silence, I simply had Mitchel at home and dealt with him the way I deal with all of my children - with consequences.  They never had an issue with him again and learned that not all parents are uncooperative.  I resented the way they had dealt with my child and here once again was someone using candy to elicit good behavior.  In my home, you have expectations and consequences and at no stage is candy ever a part of the deal.   Children want to know they have pleased you with the simplest forms of appreciation like a verbal thank you, a card, a pat on the back or a note left in a planner.  We wonder why children feel so entitled and why we struggle sometimes at home to have our children do chores without expecting a treat.....rant over....

On the up side.... Lydia, as with Mitchel will learn about life not always being fair and equal and to learn to get along with all kinds of personalities along the road of their learning.  We always pray that their generation will be better than the one raising them and ever hopeful that they come out happier and better for the experiences.  I have watched all three of my children grow and mature with a healthy self esteem and a good sense of their belonging in the world.... grateful that I have not repeated the mistakes of my elders and chose to raise my children with healthy attitudes.  I cannot prevent them from being treated badly by others, only learn to deal with them more effectively than I have in my growing years.  There will always be someone who walks into your life for no other reason than to challenge you to see where you still need to grow.... those that take you off guard in moments where you are at your lowest and force you to check how far you have come and to make a mental note of where you need to go.  The ones who hurt you the most are the ones who make you take notice if you are wise enough to see the lesson..... those who don't will be forced to repeat it until they learn the right way..... we are always evolving, growing, learning and experiencing and hopefully reflecting.  It is rarely a one way street...

I dedicate my blog to all those teachers out there who have started a new season filled with excitement and adventures and whose endless hours of class preparation and careful planning enrich the lives of our children.  Thank you to all those wonderful teachers who have been so supportive and kind to my children.  Congrats to Linda for entering into her first teaching position, which I know you will absolutely love.  To Adam's daughter and Linda's daughter, who are at Western Faculty of Education.... you will love your adventures at an amazing University.... it goes fast so enjoy every minute.  To the colleagues of mine and to my fellow graduates now teaching at Fanshawe.... thank you for all that you do!!!!!

Monday, September 16, 2013

........what chemo is really like.....

.......on the inside story....

I often feel it is best to blog about the positives in this journey, and rarely do I share what it is really like to have to go through the process of having your body washed in toxins.  What is it really like???  

I have had my chemo on Wednesday afternoon and by Friday, the senses have begun to dull and the fog in my head has begun to roll in.  I feel fine but am clearly aware that it won't last long.... I am grateful that the worst of the chemo journey will happen on the weekend when I can settle in and nap when I need to. 

My belly is grossly bloated and the pressure on the lungs and heart is causing me to gasp for breath in the middle of the night.  I am up and about and feeling frustrated that last night's dinner, albeit good, is now wrecking havoc and causing my relative fatigue to deepen.  My intestinal track, all 32 feet of it has succumbed to the side effects of the fast growing cells that have begun to die off as the chemo drugs infiltrate almost every cell.  I can smell the socks my husband wore from across the room and it makes me queasy.  All my senses are on high alert accept my head..... the fog has rolled in and will be there for days to come.  I stumble around in the middle of the night to go to the washroom for what seems like the umpteenth time.  I am awkward on what feels like stumps at the end of my legs.  My fingertips are numb.... this will worsen then improve as the chemicals wash out.  For a few days I will suffer from extreme reflux when the stomach refuses to dump its contents into the now lazy intestines.  The belly feels hungry but quickly bloats and groans when it is fed.  I eat but crave mostly eggs, high protein and fresh vegetables... I get into trouble with foods that are heavy or rich with tomato sauce.  Last night was a burrito bake.... need i say more.  I feel disconnected from my body.... which will only last a few days..... I have a deep and burning desire to push myself through the next two rounds and pray that it is the last time i will have to subject myself to this punishment.  My head feels cold and clammy and I find that I am wearing a scarf, not wearing a scarf, wearing a hoodie, not wearing a hoodie....... the dance to find comfort in and out of the house.  I attempt to do some gardening and within minutes, I am sitting down to just admire the garden.... and then I get back up determined to get something accomplished.  I push to trim the few small bushes at the side of the house in the sunny cool weather of an early fall day while my family is at the Western Fair.  I encourage them to keep having fun.... I smiled when they left and felt so alone watching the van roll away.  Happy face and waving hands..... cancer, you suck!!!

There is little joy in finding coping mechanisms to get through that one week in 3 that will push you to your very limits and find you begging for mercy when you do.  I am determined and scared and everything in between.  I ask myself, is this what I will be doing for the rest of my life??  This weekend was emotional and I found myself crying at everything.... I laugh at this point because one of my dearest and closest friends is expecting and our journey has many parallels both physically and emotionally.  She worries about the baby she is carrying in a precarious and challenging pregnancy and I worry about the children whom I am still raising.  I never said 'why me' in this journey but certainly the thought crossed my mind that I have something else I need to learn that perhaps I missed the first time??  Scared, yes, I wouldn't be human if I wasn't.... what if this just keeps growing after the chemo.... what then???  I have been told that I can't live on indefinite chemo treatments and really, who wants to???  The hope is that my immune system can take on the role once the lesions have shrunk significantly and are stable.  I believe in miracles.  So why was I crying?  When a parent, most notably a Mom goes through chemo.... the whole family goes through it too.  I try to keep upbeat and not let them get a glimpse of what is really happening with me.... but children are sensitive to their environments, much like the pets who rarely stray from my side when I am laying down, and they try to be brave in the face of their own fears of losing you. 

My middle child is truly the emotional thermometer of the household and after finding him at 2:30 in the morning sprawled across his bed after throwing up I just knew it was time to have a deep heart to heart.  I wasn't angry... rare to be that way with my children.... and not even disappointed.... more like..... guilt.  I quietly wake him up and try to help him.  He waves me off and I can hear him moving about slowly as I make my way over to the spare room.  I am exhausted and unable to sleep.  I have taken a pill for the reflux but now the brain won't shut off.  I have already let Max know what has happened and he will deal with Mitch in the morning...... when Max leaves to go shopping in the morning, the tears begin when we have our heart to heart.  I am past making any promises to my children other than I will always try to do my best to be there for them.  I am truly sorry that my family must go through this again..... it was hard enough the first time.  It is easy for people who don't know me well to say it's no big deal.... you've done it once before..... yes, I have and it doesn't get easier or better no matter how many times you go through this.  We hold each other and although I know how big he has grown... he is still my very little boy inside.  I love you this much........ (eternity).  I will stay as long as I can I tell him.  

Max will spend the day with Mitch closing the pool and supporting him as only a loving father can do.  Mitch loves Max and works steadily by his side doing chores both here and at a dear friend's house and later makes the burritos for supper.  Max has been a gift to us and I will be forever in his debt for being the rock in our family.  They consult each other over meat smoking recipes as I make my way upstairs to take a desperately needed nap.  After days of struggling I succumb to a deep sleep.... an escape from the days behind and the ones to come.

Does each round get worse?  No and yes..... no, because it is the same time frame of things that can happen and yes because you know what's coming and you do everything in your power to alter or lesson the outcome.  You do realize at some point it is like being strapped on a roller coaster ride where you are not allowed to disembark.  You can close your eyes but it doesn't lesson the queasy twisting and upheaval you will soon feel as you are jettisoned like a rocket from feeling perfectly fine to suddenly feeling desperately sick.  Most rides, once you get off them leave you feeling exhilarated.... this one robs you of the energy you used to manage the week long excursion of being twisted every which way while your head tries to figure out what just happened.  Whew.... the first week is done.... you disembark and allow for two more weeks of your immune system coming back online, cells regenerating and starting to feel human again and then you catch a glimpse of that roller coaster on the horizon moving closer and closer as the next round arrives.  Strap in.... we have another week of adventures just waiting for you.... 

This morning I am having a rare pity party... its been days of discomfort and in some instances agony.  The nurse takes my blood pressure and realizes it is very high.... I tell her that it is in keeping with how I am currently feeling.  The pressure in my bowel is causing all this grief and thankfully I have been diligent with taking the liquid chlorophyll every day.  Within a few minutes of her departure, the pressure is released and I am feeling amazingly like a new woman.... tired but significantly better.... and just in time, it is Monday and I am heading back into the classroom for lectures and a late afternoon lab.  Sara will be assisting me today into the evening.  School keeps me focused and affords me the goal to keep working always onward and upward. 

Why am I so strong?  Well, it wasn't by accident and really, I started out life being pretty sensitive and if I was being really honest with myself.... I still am.  I am strong because of the wrongs against me as a child and feeling that it was my duty to help those who were unable to stand up for themselves.... just ask any of my childhood friends.  I am always bothered by things I feel are unjust or just plain wrong.  I am not a follower and do not need to compromise my principles or values to fit in.... and that is where I hit the fork in the road.  I am deeply grateful for the strong women in my life who have become dear friends and who know the score.  To those women, who are still looking for their strength.... it doesn't come from wounding or ostracizing others to fill your emotional well-being.  It comes from the knowledge that we are all here learning and growing and finding our own way.  I am strong because of what I have been through and what I am going through.  I am strong because I have to be and I will be strong because it is the only way I know how to be. 

I dedicate this blog to all of those struggling with a challenge in their lives.  Walk away from those that just don't appreciate or get you.... they have their own struggles to manage....keep the faith and keep moving forward despite the loops in the coaster ride of life.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

... working while on chemo.....

..... has its funny moments in and out of the classroom this week.

Starting an entirely new curriculum has a few minor pitfalls along the way and with tweaking and perfecting, the last lab/classes of the week tend to get a more condensed and to the point lecture than the sometimes awkward moments on the Monday where not every bug is worked out of the system.  Sara and I spent a great deal of time pounding out the structure and how the course should go.... the rest comes with the input from students and their ability or inability to follow along.  

It is Friday of week 2 and I am accommodating new student intakes into the back portion of the lab and stepping them through the process of creating their first simulation circuit.  While they do not know what they are doing, they are following along.  Sara is there and assisting with the students who are struggling while I talk about next steps and so on.  I think every tech environment would greatly benefit from an assistant like the one we have in Sara.  I ask her to give small instructional pieces, especially those parts that she has developed with me over the summer, to the students. It is a way for me to help show the class, not only how resourceful she is but also how incredible a role she plays in our classroom.  She stays behind while I pack to head off to my scheduled class tutorials.  Between the last two classes of the day, I will run into John, our coordinator who is teaching electrical fundamentals. He shows concern when he sees me and after I remind him that this is chemo week.  He makes me laugh as he apologizes for leaving me shite board markers.  No worries, I have my own thanks!!  We now have smart boards but I haven't used them extensively enough to benefit the class yet.  Practice will have to wait until I get my groove in the lecture and labs.

For is great to to be back and I am loving it.  On my great days, which are most of them, I am on top of my game and mentally aware.  Throw in some chemo and steroids and voila... a head cloud that dulls the wits and decreases the ability for my finger tips to function properly.  Catching minor glitches in presentations is no problem... we address it in the classroom as we go and it is a good way for the students to get involved and to ask questions.  It is also a way for them to know that we as teachers do make mistakes and as long as we own it and correct it, they learn that it is acceptable to make mistakes and to learn by them.  One student in the crowd has already stood out like a sore thumb amongst his peers by being overly vocal and often has a great deal to say when I am speaking in the lecture hall.  His inability to see how  his dramatic outbursts have on those around him cause a discomfort in the group that at times becomes palatable. Yesterday, I offered prize draws for the students who correctly filled out the scavenger hunt last week and his name was one that was selected by our hearing impaired student.  Our dramatic young man ambled down the aisle and casually poked at the three tokens offered for their effort.  He scooped up a pair of headphones and attempted to offer it to his deaf classmate and when the young man nodded no in his direction, he simply tossed it to a fellow in the row behind.  He then announced that I had not paid very much for the item, 'after all, the price tag is still on the package... sheesh'.  Would he have known that I have no feeling in the tips of my fingers and the slightest nick in my hand can send me to emerge with a life threatening infection? Removing the tag was the least of my worries when i spent the last remaining dollars in my bank account that week when I picked up 140 duo tangs and plastic sleeves for my lab students.  I feel for this young man, it is becoming clear that he has already created a tough start at the beginning of a promising year.  During the lecture, he is quick to point out mistakes and I graciously thank him, correct the mistake and move on.  He sits back in his seat satisfied.... for now.

I have two ASL (American Sign Language) assistants and one note-taker in the classroom.  They are fascinating to watch.  Tammy is energetic in class today and answers me in place of her student...and I grin back at her.  I have to place her voice in place of the tall male redhead she stands in front of.  The two ASL assistants take turns signing to their student and I wonder how difficult this must be for them to have to try and figure out what I am saying in a technical environment.  I have learned to slow down my speech so they can get as much information across to him as possible.  Its hysterical seeing Tammy out of the corner of my eye and seeing her become quite animated when I make a joke.  Yesterday her charge was starting to fall asleep at the end of the class and I asked him if he got any sleep at all... he grinned and nodded no, I turned to Tammy, who just shrugged and smiled.  She gets in the groove and just becomes an extension of who he is.  The other sweet translator does a hand off when the first one gets tired.  Both are exceptional ladies and quite engaging.  Our transcription guy sits up front and wants to be a part of the furniture but when I openly point out to the class that for him to type on the computer in binary numbers to transcribe my lecture..... our outspoken student offers that perhaps he should consider a pencil at that point..... point made and the transcriber looks up to give a rare grin.  Week 2 and we are well on our way to facilitating our students needs in many ways.

I have always offered my free time to students and yesterday was no exception as I borrowed the back of the classroom to get the students who missed their labs this past week to get caught up.  With their lab foldable created, a cross-curricular endeavor with my new colleague Stephanie in Communications, we now have a group working diligently at creating a great first project.  Working with Stephanie and collaborating our efforts in the two classes has been amazing.  She is easy to work with, has great ideas and is willing to support what I need for my students.  As I get more time, I will speak with my other colleagues to see what they are doing.  I keep a blog on the college site for all my colleagues to know what I am teaching and what we are learning.  I am keeping accurate notes and tweaking my paperwork as I go.

..... so here lies the chemo brain side of this week...... I accidentally issued an incorrect cell number to 40 of my students who I emailed to inform them of a catch up lab.... which was a mere 2 digits off... funny that i teach 'digital' .... and about 15 of them immediately texted to inquire as to how they could participate.  I received first a text and then a phone message from the rather unimpressed recipient.  I texted an immediate apology and emailed all my students to refer them back to my text number.  I felt it was probably prudent to call this poor individual and offer up yet another apology for the inconvenience.  She was wonderful and we chatted for about 20 minutes.... no, you shouldn't have to change your number, my students are very respectful and you should not be receiving any more texts. She was curious about the 'labs' and upon explaining what I do, she simply laughed and wished me all the best.  I am sure this will be a great story to tell at her next outing.  For me, its a reminder to re-read everything in the days of chemo fallout!!!  Later in the evening I sit up in bed and use my tablet to complete student contacts from the recent inbox of text messages. This way I know if they accidentally call my phone, I will see their name and student and not answer.  Well, my big kitty jumped on my la and lay across the tablet.....under his belly, I could hear a phone ringing and when I pulled him off....oh dear Lord, FaceTime has dialed the student. I try to hang up and managed to disconnect before they answer.  Two seconds later I receive a text and quickly respond with an apology. No sooner do I finish with that contact, but it happened again!!!!!  AAAAAAAArg!!  This student wanted to know if I had pocket dialed, I replied, my kitty called him.  Oh dear Lord, how terribly embarrassing is this?! He thought that was funny and bid me a good night.......yup....a chemo week for sure!!!

This is a great year for me being back in the classroom and having the incredible support from many colleagues who have become friends over the years.  Sara is the most incredible woman to work with and to bounce things off.  We have become very close over the years and yes, we have had our moments as do all great friends.  She is a true gem and I love and adore her.  Please don't retire anytime soon.... I would miss you like crazy!!!!  

I share a cubby with a fellow I graduated with in June.  It is such a small world to see some of my graduate class of tech students at Western Faculty of Education working in the same department.  I will get together with them over lunch and exchange ideas over the next few weeks.  It is alway best to try and collaborate or exchange ideas and techniques that work.  Often a teacher is left to their own without assistance and here I have been fortunate to have the expert guidance of Sara and John in my teaching experience.  With people like Elaine and now Janet to help with the administration side of our job, which most of us techs do not necessarily do well with...... OK Elaine, you rock.... you are amazing, highly organized and let's face it.... you kept us all in check.  Janet is learning to recognize my voice before actually seeing my head pop around her cubicle.  I promise not to break you too hard over the weeks to come.... you have enough on your plate.  Elaine chuckles as her cubicle is next door when I chat with Janet.  How did we get this lucky to have such an amazing support system?!  Our chief is busy but always takes time out to touch base.... I think having an open office door across from Elaine and Janet and me chatting loudly.... yah, hard to miss me!!  Thanking each of you and so many more like Kathy, who kindly hugs me and asks how I am doing, the coffee ladies who wish me all the best, Debbie, the college electrician who came into the lab last week and gave me a hug and to our custodial staff members who always take the time out to touch base with me when they see me.  

I dedicate this blog to all of you who offer support to those in need and I dedicate this blog to all the wonderful people in my world who have touched my life in some pretty amazing ways.  Sending out the hugs and thank you for making life just that much sweeter!!  xoxoxox

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

..... the CT scan results is in.......and....

...... the results will be discussed with Dr. Eisenhower on what amounts to an extremely hot, windy and humid September afternoon.  I have 4 hours between classes and am hopeful that I will make it back in time.  It is always a hit and a miss with a full waiting room.  I get to clinic 3 at 12:30 and am informed that I have missed my early morning appointment.  I had changed the appointment a week ago but the only appointment that was changed was the chemo booked for tomorrow.  I am asked to sit and wait until my nurse can be found.  I spot her in the back office and get the stink eye from the receptionist when I peek around the corner to let her know.  The last time this happened they forgot about me and I waited politely for over an hour.  It only took a few minutes and I was handed a pager and a requisition for a blood test.  

The blood test lab is on the same floor and just past clinic 4.  I have been lucky in the last 3 visits to the lab to get in without a wait.  The regular staff has been changed out and the new staff is not familiar to me.  I am not liking the blood tests or any of the needles of late.  It took two days and the use of a healing balm to reduce the swelling in my good vein and reduce the bruising.  The pain was something else.  I have decided to have the blood drawn from my hand....yes, it hurts and the technician has to push it into the vein quickly and expertly.  She did a great job, and I am deeply relieved.  I am at the cringe stage with teeth clenches and white knuckles.....I feel like crying.  While I didn't want to entertain the notion of having a port installed in the chest under the skin for blood tests and chemo IV, I am thinking that I should have considered it.  

I am back to the waiting room outside of clinic 3 balancing my iPad, cell phone, purse and pager and trying to answer emails from students.  The lady next to me is with her mother and you can tell that her elderly Mom is there for the first time visit when she asks where the blood lab is.  She turns to me and asks me how long I have been in my journey.... I tell her just over 4 years... and for the rest of my life..... she just stares at me and isn't sure what to say.  Her discomfort at my answer has her tilting her head slightly and she gives me an 'oh dear' before rising to assist her mother.  I am normally quite sociable but after two diagnosis, you lose the desire to speak about your illness.  This past week I have spoken to each of my classes about my diagnosis.... I felt like they had the right to know that my immune system is compromised.

Max is due to arrive any minute but nurse Laura finds me.  She hasn't bothered to set off the pager... she has known me for four years as my nurse.  She is cheery and we chat and catch up.  She notes that I look good and goes through the run down as to how I am feeling.  I am weighed so my medication can be made to suit my body weight.  The concern is always with my bowel and I have discovered through two of my last rounds that the liquid chlorophyll w/mint I take every morning in a glass of ice water.  It works far better and with less cramps as compared to prune juice.  I find the recovery after chemo is quicker... just compare that with the second chemo when i ran out and felt brutal for days.... 

..... the results are nothing less than a miracle.  The majority of the nodes are back to their normal size and the ones above the heart and lungs having shrunk to almost their size!  One node was 2.2 cm and is now under 1 cm..... this just after 3 rounds.  There is a blemish showing on the liver but according to the report, while they will be watching this closely, they have reported that there are differences in how the two CT scans have been done.  I will be continuing on the chemo for the remaining 3 rounds which they are confident will shrink all nodes to normal size... this does not mean the cancer is gone, just under control.  They are hoping my immune system can take over after that and keep it from growing out of control.  We spoke about eating well, getting sleep and staying active.  Max mentioned stress and keeping myself paced.  Even though I have been super busy this summer, I don't find my life or the students I teach to be stressful.  If anything, being busy makes me the happiest.  Working in an environment where I feel valued makes me happy.  They tell me that I cannot be on chemo indefinitely...I will get a break after the 6th round and I will be scanned every three months to monitor any further growths.  I am hopeful that as long as I pace myself, eat and sleep properly and exercise to reduce the impact that daily or traumatic stress has.  Yoga is on my list.

Next, I have to see the pharmacist to see if the Neuprogena needles will be covered by the Ontario Trillium Drug program since I have not heard from anyone since I applied 2 weeks ago through the Victory program (a program developed by the makers of Neulasta and Neuprogena) and the Drug Social worker at the hospital.  The pharmacist informs me that there is no coverage.  She speaks to the Victory program and they have let me know that my application to the Trillium drug program was declined??  It is not based on income??  I am quiet but upset as I explain to them that I do not have the kind of money to pay for the needles.  They offer a 50% share of expenses which would still make the needles $1300 each.  I only need 3 more to go.  My savings are all gone from months of unemployment while attending school.  He promises to call me back on my cell phone... which happens to ring in the middle of my class.  I take the call as I walk towards the office just off of the classroom.  Yes, they will cover my needles on compassionate grounds.  I am trying not to start crying with relief.  Thank you so much.

Being candid with my class and explaining how important the call was brought a young man over to speak to me after class.  He informs me that his mother passed when he was 2 months old.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was pregnant.  I told him that a mother who loves her child more than their own life would make such a decision to continue with the pregnancy despite the risk of a cancer growing rampant with the extreme increase in estrogen.  I begin to tear up and he looks at me with the same watery eyes.  He knew that it was either him or her and she chose him.  I let him know how deeply sorry I was to hear of the loss of his mother.  It was brave to come forward and to share something so difficult and he wanted to know how I could handle the chemo so well... I would like to know that too!!

I would like to dedicate this blog entry to all of you who have lost a Mom like this young man.  I would also like to dedicate it to my husband who put his bike up for sale when he returned home after my appointment in hopes of raising enough money to pay for my medication.....I love you Max.  I also dedicate this blog to Colleen who has gone through hours of mastectomy and reconstruction today.  

Monday, September 9, 2013

....... a reminder that superwoman does not live here anymore....

...... came in the form of an energy crash and an afternoon nap.  I have a ton of things to do and I want them all done before chemo this week.... so, I cleaned all the bathrooms (3) including steam cleaning the floors and showers and then steamed all the floors.  I also threw in 4 loads of laundry, cleaned my room and ironed a few dozen shirts.... perhaps this should come as no surprise that by mid-afternoon I was feeling worse than I had in weeks.  I began to sweat profusely and felt nauseated.... Max was simply not amused and sent me upstairs to nap...I managed to get in laundry folding before laying down.  As Max would say "are you happy now??" 

Later I would create lecture materials for the week now that we are in full swing of the semester in week 2.  The students should be ready to go to start their first project.  It has been months preparing for the content and now the lectures.  I still have a lot of work to do but most everything is done including the latest instalment of marking rubrics for their first project.  For those who still believe that teachers have these wonderful holidays and tons of free time, clearly have no concept of what a good instructor does for their students.  I spend about 2-3 hours a day in prepping for classes and labs.  Never mind the marking that will come my way for each student project.

This week I will be getting back the results of my CT scan I had last Tuesday and will be heading into the chemo suite for round number 4 if I am cleared to go.  I feel better but am still tired.  I have to remind myself to pace my way through each day and organize tasks to be done which leaves me plenty of time to rest in-between.  I just feel that I have more to do in a day than time to do it in. Part of me keeps busy to forget sometimes that I am in the midst of treatments and maybe to keep busy enough so I do not have to worry about my results.  Probably a good 50/50.   The wound from the CT scan IV has finally healed but in the process, the vein is no longer prominent in the bend of my elbow....likely meaning that she damaged it enough to render it unusable.  My arm stopped aching yesterday.  I think back to a conversation I had with my doctor about installing a pic line or a port... I regret not considering them as viable options.  A pic line or port are installed into a vein and are used each time for drawing blood and injecting the chemo.  While I hope there is not a next time... it would be a choice to make instead of the inconvenience of collapsing veins.  I am unable to use my left arm for any injections because of edema resulting from the surgical removal of most of the lymph nodes under the arm.  I just stopped appreciating needles this month...... sigh.....I now tense up so bad before they put it in that I think i am causing my own problems.

The students were very receptive to hearing the news that their instructor has a chronic illness.. I let them know that I am the one they know about but in a population the size of Fanshawe, there are other faculty members and students with compromised immune systems.  It is a great lesson for them to be ever so mindful of not bringing their illness into the classroom.  This year I have a hearing impaired student who has two ASL assistants who sign for him.  I have encouraged the other students to please feel free to approach him and that he can text with them to communicate.  This will be a pivotal year in teaching the students by example the soft skills of inclusion and respect for others in the classroom.  The last class on Friday is a little rambunctious but easy enough to understand when they have spent already a long day at the school.  I will endeavour to always make this class as engaging and interesting as the other ones.  As always, I love to have fun in my lecture classes.

The weather is changing dramatically enough that the plants are sure it is late fall.  The tomatoes have slowed down their production, all the apples from our tree have been converted to applesauce and the mums in the garden are beginning to flower.  The plants are so huge now that they have been in the garden for 4 years.  They are almost the size of bushes!!  The squirrels are making their annual deposits in my flower pots and tearing leaves off the trees to build bigger nests to hibernate in.  The one this morning is chatting away and has been for over an hour.  I stand beneath the tree and watch the small branches fall away to the ground as it chatters loudly overhead.  The cat hears it and meanders over and the squirrel decides its best to travel via rooftop to the tree farther away.  It is finally peaceful and you can hear the cardinals making their way from flower to flower.  The front garden is overgrown but colourful and happy.  Next year..... we hope to finish building the walkway in the front and putting in a winding garden to extend what is already there now that the crab apple tree is gone.  The leaves are changing with the cooler nights and the pool is far too cool to jump into without bracing yourself.  I have only taken in a few swims this summer when the water was  warm enough for me to enjoy. Certainly something to look forward to next summer when I get through this year.

The cat scratch is finally healing but will remain until the chemo rounds are finally done and even then, it will take some time afterwards to disappear.  The wound on my ankle from a mere rub wound took almost a year to fade off after chemo.  I am breathing easier but sleeping poorly these days.  It is hard to slow down when I feel a burst of new found energy and use it up as quickly as it came.  I will have to just learn to pace myself and admit to when I am unable to run around scrubbing every inch of my house when I have a chance.  It can wait until Christmas holidays.  My friend Kelly has bought me a day of cleaning as a gift.... so wonderful and thoughtful and so timely. 

Mandi and I went shopping for a short while at the local Home Depot just to see what was there for her kitchen DIY reno.  I love looking at tile, and getting ideas so it was a perfect match up activity.  I will see her again soon when she drops in with dinner on Wednesday....

I wish to dedicate this blog entry to the family and friends of Sue Forster who passed away at the age of 55 after spending time in the intensive care unit at UH.  There was a memorial visitation held for her on Sunday but I was not well enough to go.  My heart, prayers and sympathies go out to her three children and lifelong soulmate Tom.  It is hard to believe she is gone and what a wonderful mom to her three kids.... Our oldest children are the same age...only days apart.  I am grateful for having known her and am deeply saddened that my illness and busy life kept us going in two different directions.  It didn't need to be that way and as I sit here quietly, I realize all too late that it would have been a simple matter of picking up the phone and chatting more often than we did.  If anything, its a reminder to be thoughtful of others despite being 'too' busy.  Pick up a phone or text a friend today just to let them know that you are thinking of them.... life is short.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

.........first day of school and a CT scan.....

.... in a busy new first day back to work.  

I was listening to the radio this morning and heard the announcers declare how difficult it must be for a teacher to have 2 months off work and to start back to work... suddenly.  Ha, I have been taking courses all summer and working on curriculum. 

Ah, back to a new school year started with Lydia running around getting her hair done... flipped over to show the shaved side that I tidied up with our clippers the other day.  She is growing up so fast and I am reminded of this as I check out the neighbor's children's first day of school pics..... they are all growing up so fast.  I am readying myself for the day.  I have decided to cover my sparse hairdo, quite in contrast with my daughter's funky hair, still sporting the remains of colour from a few weeks back.  I have decided that I feel much more comfortable with a head covering.  

I didn't sleep well last night... the neighbors are back from their vacation and their dog's barking woke me up abruptly at 11:23 pm.  So much for getting back to sleep.....sigh.  Today is CT day and the first day of school.  I head into the labs and lo and behold is a classmate of mine from Western.  It is his first day of teaching at Fanshawe in the Manufacturing sector.  I have a number of classmates now working at the college this semester.  There are few jobs available in the school boards and the ones that were offered do not even begin interviews until the late fall.  Myself, I am happy as a clam to be back in my groove working with Sara, Mitch and John.  Happy Happy Happy

The first lab began at 10 in the morning where I introduced myself and the lab content under the FOL website.  This is administration week for all of the students in my program.  Often times students do not have the funds until their OSAP money comes in.  Typically this money comes in after classes start and for some students, much too late to get their parts in time.  I designed the course with this in mind and as such made sure we had plenty of time in advance before needing the parts.  The bookstore line-up winds its way outside and down the hall through the double doors into a building junction and past the variety store.  By the time our parts arrive, the students will not have to wait in a line-up... we have parts on back order.  I am also awaiting the arrival of the circuit board I designed for our final troubleshooting lab.  The students are excited to be in class and we talk about our course and how we want it to be engaging, interesting and fun while learning top notch skills and developing a portfolio along the way.  Western was time well spent as I am taking with me the tools I really liked and incorporating them into the classroom.  

After class, I head off to my CT appointment at University Hospital.  They recently had a C-difficile outbreak.  I am conscious of this as I enter the hospital and sanitize my hands.  Today I will find myself up on the second floor in the CT scan area waiting room with the angioplasty patients.  One elderly woman looks at me and asks if I am having that procedure?  I smile thinking that she is confused by how young I look.  I took great pains to try to eradicate signs of chemo from my face this morning as I filled in my eyebrows, put on eyeliner and mascara and covered the rest in foundation.  The headscarf looks decorative.  I am called to the suite by a lab technician who will attempt to put an IV into my one really good vein.... and fail miserably.  Yes, I think I have had enough pokes.  The IV tube attached to the end of the syringe is halfway out and now she attempts to force saline through it to pop it into place.  The tactic works and I am ready to be scanned..... only after I eat what amounts to a little pot of lotion.  It is contrast for the throat.  Yum.  It coats the entire throat on its way down... I jokingly tell her that I am no longer suffering from hunger pangs.  She is still feeling rather guilty about the injection and pats me on the arm.  The scan takes a few minutes.  I have to sit holding pressure on my vein for 10 minutes until I can leave in the waiting room.  The technologist wishes me a good day and promptly takes the next patient down the hallway. 

I am early enough back that I can help Mitch in the first practical lab with the logistics of creating a foldable for the student's lab reports.  He is grateful for the help and I am grateful he is teaching the two remaining labs!!!  He started teaching when I was just a kid fresh out of diapers and he taught me in technology over 20 years ago!!!  I consider myself very lucky!!! 

The final lab of the day will take us to 6 pm.  A few students have misread their schedules and arrive at the end of class.  I stay long enough to help them get their work done and head off home.  I arrive home only to realize I have lost my cell phone!!!  I log into my ipad's iPhone finder and discover it is back at the college.  I contact Sara who graciously heads back in and we play the scavenger game of where is it.  There is a key feature incorporated on this finder.... I can send a request for a tone.  Sara had no problem finding it once this was activated.  It was at the back of the lab under the keyboard???  Thanks Sara, dinner is on me!!!

All in all, a pretty darn good start to the season!!!!

I wish to dedicate this blog to all the teachers I know who will put in an incredible amount of work before classes start and to those that continually strive to educate themselves on their own time.  Teachers totally rock!!!!!