Posts Tagged ‘Unitarians’

a couple of good days….

August 25, 2009

Wow-lucky me- Sunday was another good day!  Got to go to church, see all my friends…..nothing quite like going to a place where not only does everybody know your name, but they are all like really nice  big brothers and sisters and moms and dads.  Some of them are like quirky neighbors, and others are just like best friends.  Truth is, I really have only known them all for less than two years, and only know them from church*, but I know their interest and care is sincere.  Again….lucky me. 

Then on Sunday afternoon, I still felt great so I went to the Levis Commons Art Fair and got to do one of my favorite things….buy “Artist Jewlery”.  I found a sweet little set of a silver necklace and earrings created by a Michigan woman and her dad…..I tried to take a picture of them to place here, but I’m no professional photographer…the necklace says “give thanks”.  It truly represents how I mostly feel, even if you think I sound kind of “whiny” from time to time. 

Today……well, today was a whopper of a day!  I was up in the middle of the night with an anxious and sleepless child (school anxieties) so I can’t believe how much I accomplished with the help of my friends.  Especially MarvelousMarilyn (MM).  Let me tell you about MM.  She has volunteered herself as my monday morning helper around the house, which mostly means “maid work in the kitchen”.  But MM has really been a great inspiration for me, has kept my spirits up when I have been dragging, vigorously wiped down my kitchen counters (still kind of difficult for me to do), helped clean out a neglected refrigerator, vacuumed, vacuumed, vacuumed Yellow Lab Dog Hair, folded laundry, talked to boys, etc. etc. etc.  Today MM helped me clean up the “student center” in the house which is where all the kids school work, legos, and miscellaneous crap lands, and where their beloved computers reside.  Well, this area has been a DISASTER for….months, and I have been feeling bad about that.  Not a good enough housekeeper to even get the kids school work from LAST SCHOOL YEAR saved or filed away or thrown out or whatever you are supposed to do with the volumes of paper two kids bring home from elementary school.  Well, today MM helped me in A BIG WAY get it pretty much whipped into shape, and looking good.  Still a bit to do yet, but I feel like I can get the rest of it now.  Even if I had done nothing else today, it would have been a great day because of this accomplishment.  Thanks Marilyn, you are a marvelous friend and like a mom I wish I had.

THEN, after lunch, I took the boys to their new daily afterschool childcare, to get to know the family, the toys, the other kids, etc. while I had a couple of appointments.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that it works out for all involved.  Like..all of my fingers crossed and toes crossed, too, because right now, I don’t have a back-up plan for afterschool child care, and even though I’m not back at work yet, I will be soon (I hope) and will desparately need the assistance then.  So far, the boys have said it was “OK” which is a good sign.

SUPER LUCKY ME, had an appointment at The Victory Center** with Tom.  I’ll tell you, we are so lucky here in NW Ohio to have TVC and receive the benefits of the adjuvant therapies offered.  You know things are good when you begin to feel better just walking into a therapist’s room.  Tom practices Reiki and Sound Therapy and it is the best I feel all week when I am in his care.  It is so difficult to explain, but for me, it provides such a deep sense of peace and relaxation which permits your mind and body to just experience the flow of energy on a completely pure level.  You must be willling to release conscious thought to truly receive the benefits.  Again, I can only say what it gives me, but it is a colorful, relaxing, yet at the same time energetic experience.  And no two sessions are exactly alike.  And I always feel just great when I am done.  Thanks Tom, I love the work you do.

AND AS IF THAT WASN’T ENOUGH, MY NEXT APPOINTMENT WAS WITH THE DENTIST!  Now you might think I am being kind of sarcastic here, but nooooo, I actually like going to the dentist.  First of all, at MY dentist’s office, everyone is really nice and the hygenists never scold you for not flossing well enough.  Secondly, they have really nice chairs.  Thirdly, Dr. Urbanik is friendly, sincere, and has really small hands.  Or at least I think he does.  I never actually look at his hands when I can see them, but I am always impressed that when he has his hands in my mouth he doesn’t make me gag.  The last time I was there was just days before my cancer trip began, so I filled them in on my busy Spring and Summer.  Did you know that one of the potential side effects of chemotherapy is open sores in the mucous membranes of your mouth?  Again, lucky for me, I havn’t had that problem.  Dr. U was impressed, said nice things about my mouth.  While there I mentioned that I might be participating in a clinical trial at U of M, the Bisphosphinate Study and might need his office to send dental records.  He surprised me by mentioning we need to talk about that further, and perhaps even complete a more in depth examination.  He briefly explained how  the mandible (and to a lesser extent the maxilla) process bone, and how the drug in this trial will move through bone, especially the jaw bones which then brings up a concern for the future integrity of those bones.  Hmmmnnnn.  Great that my Dentist actually knows about the study I am talking about, now I have another thing to research a bit further.  In my spare time.  I really am grateful to have a smart tooth guy like Dr. U.

OF COURSE MY DAY WASN’T OVER YET, after I picked up the kids at the new place, went home, made dinner for them, and then directed the boys to write their names on the school supplies that BFF Heather took the time to buy for us.  That means about a million things needed names written on them.  Well, we only had time after dinner to put names on half a million things and jump into the superminivan and dash off to Open House at the boys school.  Charlie had asked me to wear one of the newly borrowed wigs to the school so I didn’t embarrass him, so halfway out the driveway I remembered, drove back in, grabbed the hair and off we went!  (BTW Heather, I’m giving you another BIG HUG for that incredibly thoughtful act……to save me the hassle of pulling together all the school stuff!!)

OPEN HOUSE WENT WELL, boys behaved, even the incredibly anxious child, they were nice to their teachers, nice to each other, found their desks, put away their stuff, nobody got mad, nobody whined, nobody yelled.  Not even me.  So, it was a resounding success!  And school starts in ohhhh about 32 and a half hours.  But who’s counting?

THE REWARD FOR A GOOD VISIT TO SCHOOL was a stop to see Bill’s chickens before we went home.  The kids had fun feeding them yummy weeds, and chicken delicacies, beetles and worms.  I got to help pick tomatoes and drink a beer.  The weather was perfect.  The sky was beautiful.

Arrived home late, Lou went out for Chinese food, so thankfully I didn’t have to make dinner.  We all ate together like a family should…again with no whining and no yelling.

An incredibly productive positive day.  Lucky lucky me!  Can’t wait for tomorrow! 



*Maumee Valley United Univeralist Church website is:  check out the calendar…if it sounds like something you are interested in, please come.  Anyone of any faith is welcome!

**I know I have mentioned this before, but it is worth mentioning again…if you know anyone diagnosed with cancer in NW Ohio, you must refer them to The Victory Center.  All services are free for cancer patients.  This organization is worthy of your support…..your passing their information along and/or passing a check their way.  Check them out:


A short list of the things I miss

August 23, 2009

Last night Lou and I saw the movie Julie and Julia.  It was great, especially Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Julia Child.  Wow!  WOW!  WOW!!!  And all the food………..ohhh my goodness.  I loved it, loved it, loved it!!  When I woke up this morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about the food.  And then I realized just how much, how terribly much I miss “the food”.  I think one of the things I have missed the most this summer is not being able to COOK.   Oh, I can kinda’ cook.  I can make a basic dinner with convenience foods and a few fresh ingredients.  I have enough stamina to make it through the grocery store, and get the food into the house.  I have enough strength now to be able to get the Caphalon pans off the rack and onto the stove.  But I have discovered, I must keep it all very simple, or else I run out of steam before the dish is done.  I can’t even tell you how many beautiful bunches of basil have been denied the opportunity to become a perfect pesto because they wilted into oblivion in my fridge before I had the opportunity and energy to put the simple recipe together.  And the swiss chard, especially the rainbow chard…sighhhh…I just felt so so bad, and so sad to throw several bunches out over the last couple months.  Beautiful rainbow chard gone to waste is a terrible thing.  I have started with great intentions, and think a recipe through carefully, plan around what I anticipate will be “my good days” purchase the ingredients ahead of time, and somehow it frequently hasn’t happened, but certainly not for lack of desire or will.

I also miss strength and stamina.  Just pulling four dinner plates out of the cupboard takes effort.  Actually I can’t even do that, it’s more like two at a time, and even that is not all that easy.  Closing the back door of the minivan…that hurts, too.  Even pulling weeds out of the garden requires planning, have to save that for the “good days” and all I can manage to evict then are the shallow rooted invaders.  This lack of upper body strength makes me feel so oldwhen I have never felt old before.  I am working really hard to continually, everyday, try to do a little more, but it seems like I take two steps forward, and then one, and sometimes two steps backwards.  The lymphadema issue on my left side, that is a real thing.  So, I guess I really miss those lymph nodes, too.  All these years I have taken them for granted….well no more.  I’m grateful for all the lymph nodes I still have left.  You should love your lymph nodes and appreciate them for all they do.

I miss fearlessness.  I didn’t realize until this year, how relatively fearless I have lived life.  In fact, I don’t think I really experienced much fear until I had babies.  When I had babies, they came with “parent fear”…if you are a parent you know what I am talking about….the fear that something, someone, some unknown factor will hurt your beautiful and perfect child.  Of course, “parent fear” comes and goes with the news stories of the day or the shriek of a child…..  But now….geez…cancer……somehow it invites itself into your tissues and divides uncontrollably.  Then, if you are lucky like me, you find it before it really threatens to kill youand get it in a body part that is non-essential (sorry about that breasts), and a good surgeon can “cut it out”.  But you know what they can’t cut out?  That nagging fear that some how, some rouge cancer cell snuck out of the core tumor and has been hiding from the chemotherapy, is out of the line of fire of radiation, and just waiting to make a ‘comeback”.  The small discomforts of normal aging now make you think with a paranoid edge.  Could that nagging backache be something bad happening in my bone marrow?  How many times have I had that little pain in my head….and has it been in the same spot….and maybe I should mark it with a “Sharpie’ so I can keep track of it…maybe I should make a log of the times I’ve felt it…..  I don’t know how to find the balance between merely paying attention to my body and being paranoid about every little thing, little pains I feel.  I don’t like it much, being paranoid.

Yesterday I made a trip to Office Max to buy one of those rolling cart things for when I do eventually return to school (hopefully by the mid to end of September) because, of course, I’ll probably not be able to actually carry stuff back and forth like before.  While in the cashier line, I saw this pretty teenage girl, I kind of didn’t recognize her at first…and realized it was Emily, a quiet and thoughtful student I had in my class for two years in a row.  Boy, over the summer she has grown, looks more mature.  I chatted with her and her mother for a few minutes as we all walked to our cars.  I put my bags in my car, got in, and surprisingly and uncontrollably burst into tears.  Wow…what was that all about?  I think I just miss teaching, I miss my school, I miss the camaraderie of my teacher friends and fabulous secretaries, but most of all, I miss the kids.  Seeing a student really hit me right in the emotional gut, I’m not where I am supposed to be right now.  I am supposed to be in the classroom, with all the ups and downs of teaching, it is all about connecting with kids, and helping them learn and grow and become more mature.  And I’m missing it.  Yea, I know I’ll get there, but today I’m missing it.

There’s lots of other things I miss too, like having free time.  I’m sick of taking every available moment to study my treatments options, filling out medical paperwork, researching medical facilities and doctors, etc.  I know that it is shallow and only temporary, but I miss my hair.  In air conditioned rooms, my head is cold.  With cooler temps finding their way to Ohio, my head is cold.  I miss planning anything.  I always have to think, well, if I am OK on that day I can…..  I hate having to live one day at a time.   People who tell me to just live one day at a time don’t actually have to live their life that way.  It is easy to say, very hard to do.  I miss taking “feeling good” for granted.  I didn’t realize how most of my life I always felt good.  Now, when I feel good, I really notice it and appreciate it so much.

Sigh.  I’ll quit whining now.  At least for today, I get to go hang out with the Unitarians.  And that is something to be grateful for.

Ahhh yes, that mettalic taste in the mouth means you just had chemo….

July 19, 2009

Well, it is two days post chemo number two.  YEA, lucky for me, I am halfway through my chemotherapy regimen!!  Now I have that awful crappy taste in my mouth, and I am grateful that I have no nausea, but the only way to get the “dirty pennies” taste off of my tongue is to eat something stronger than dirty pennies.  I’m thinking really rich dark chocolate truffles sounds good right now.  Too bad the “food therapy” is only momentary.

So Thursday was an interesting day.  Started off early (8:30 am) with a cool lady, Cynthia, a U of M Orthotics Fitter.  She measured and fit me for a compression arm sleeve for the left arm where all the lymph nodes were removed.  Do I really need it?  Hell, I don’t know, but if  “Geeta the Great”  (my PT) said to wear it, I’m gonna wear it, or least try to wear it every day.  Can’t hurt I suppose, and the discomfort in that arm, underarm, and down my side is significant enough for me to do whatever anyone smart suggests. 

Then,  back to the U of M campus for:   Blood Tests,  appointment with Joan, Nurse Practioner,  and of course, Chemotherapy Infusion.  Somewhere in there I had time to go to the “U of M, Comprehensive Cancer Center, Patient Education Resource Center” which is a fancy name for a teeny tiny Lending Library for Cancer Patients.  A very small room with lots of books for people like me.  I loved this little place!  So much information and so little time.  I wish I could just ignore the world and readreadread all about all this business.  Cancer is pretty interesting on a cellular level and the treatment options and medicines are absolutely fascinating as well.  Here is something I learned while waiting:  “Toxicity from Chemotherapy:  …..Most drugs can cause nausea and vomiting by stimulating the chemoreceptor trigger zone and emesis center in the brain….”**  Wow.  Did you know there was an emesis center in the brain?  I sure didn’t. 

So, when I was finished with Super Nurse-Practitioner Joan, they moved my chemo up an hour, and it was quite a dash to get food and carry it to the infusion center.  Didn’t really care for that, I still think meals should be revered and enjoyed, even meals consumed in hospital cafeterias. 

Had to get to the different infusion area, the “Med Inn”.  Mary was my infusion nurse, and brought a load of meds to my tray.  Holy cow there was a lot of stuff there!  Here’s what I have in my notes:   Decatran, anti-emetic for the chemo trigger zone.  Aloxi, a long lasting (3 days) antiemetic which binds to the chemo receptors in the gastrointestional tract.  Benedryl, an antihistimine, “just in case” since I had an allergic reaction during the last infusion.  Zantac, I think to also prevent an allergic reaction.   And one more, Ativan…this is an interesting one….a sedative to prevent “anticipatory nausea”.  This drug prevents the development of patterns in the brain, like, oh, I’m here and I’m going to feel sick….it stops that pattern of thinking.  It took quite a while to get all those in, of course my quizzing Mary about every detail really took time, too.  But you know, she was so patient with my questions, and so incredibly detailed with her answers.  I really appreciate that.

About a minute after she walked away from initiating the first chemo med, Taxotere, I heard a  little panic in my voice as I called out, “Uh Mary, I’m having  a hard time breathing!”   This time the reaction was more scary than the first, but again, quick reactions by nurses go a long way to soothe the nerves.  She immediately turned off the Taxotere, came back with another medicine to counteract the reaction, and eventually got the drugs rolling again, v e r y s l o w l y. 

“Infusion.”    I don’t know why, but the word really does not set right with me.  Hot tea is “infused”.  But the idea of infusing my body with powerful medications…..   Maybe it is because I’ve never been sick before, but the concept is one that I still have to wrap my brain around.  I wish I didn’t have this need to understand, I wish I could just accept my doctors directions and forget about it.  Oh, there are a lot of things I wish right now.  But nevermind.

Finally, all the Taxotere was in and Mary was off shift, and apparently my brain took a little leave of absence because I didn’t even get the name of the nurse who started the Cytoxin in my IV. That was certainly uncharacteristic for me.  But by this time, I was kind of weary, and couldn’t focus on the beadwork I had been trying to do, got my laptop out and tried to write, listened to a “TED” lecture instead, and then I think I dozed off.  I think it was after 5 pm when we were all done, and while that would have been a short work day, it seemed like a long “hospital day”.

It all seemed so anticlimatic and kind of depressing.  But a lucky kind of depressing.  I made it through, and now I am halfway done.  If the universe is kind to me, I won’t have to do chemo #2 again. 


**Chan, Helen S. L.    Understanding Cancer Therapies.    p. 47.    Copyright 2007.    University Press of Mississippi.

Hair by Chemotherapy

July 4, 2009
This is how much hair I still have today (7-4-09)
This is how much hair I still have today (7-4-09)





So far, Dr. Schott has been right on target with all her information.  She suggested that my hair would be brittle in two weeks and fall out in three.  So, last week I got a short haircut, whined about it for a day or so, then actually began to kind of like it!  Too bad it is falling out in huge, big clumps now.   Stupid Cancer.   Maybe one of my local friends will take pity on me and offer to shave it all off.  I’ve been practicing tying cool scarves around my head (thanks Yvonne for the gifts!) and getting used to the feeling.  So today I picked some more beautiful rhubarb to make pies for super neighbors, the Jaegers, and the Unitarians (tomorrow is potluck Sunday!) and thought perhaps I better wrap one of my new scarves around my hair lest it fall out while I was cooking.  (I know, that is a terrible thought.)

This last week has been a pretty good one, too.  Friday night we went to a lovely holiday party where there were a bunch of kids and then watched the fireworks over the Maumee River.  The weather was great, and the company was even better.  Also this week I’ve met two of my neighbors, Nikki and Diana, both have had breast cancer.  We all live within two blocks of each other, and of course, made an instant bond.

I feel pretty good, except for the fatigue, which hasn’t been too bad.  I’ve been exercising more, walking between 30 and 45 minutes per day.  Plus, I had a meeting with a fitness trainer to work on abdominal muscles.  Since the top half of me looks so…ah..”unusual” I decided it was time to “tone it up” everywhere else.  I still don’t feel right in the chest area.  It is so weird to flex your pectoralis muscle though some random daily action and then to feel the expander implant move around.  Then I just start flexing the pec’s just to watch the action of the right breast…it is so strange, and strange that I am amused by it all, too.

 Well, I am just grateful to feel as good as I do for this day.  In five more days I will travel up to Ann Arbor again for the second round of chemo.  Hopefully the anxiety demons will leave me alone this week.  Send good thoughts my way on Thursday afternoon.



School is cool

June 8, 2009

Wow, that seems like kind of a cheesy title, but at this moment, it’s the one I am working with.  I’m going to take the “round-about” way of getting to the point.  

For me, discovering cancer has been such a long, strange trip.  First, the shock was truly mind-numbing.   That phase lasted, about a week maybe?  Life seemed “monochromatic”, with a dull vibration in my brain, no real thoughts of consequences, I just got up each day and put one foot in front of the other.  Then, I merely followed the directions of the Cancer Surgeon….biopsy, blood tests, MRI test, Bone scans, CT scans, met Plastic Surgeons, plan reconstruction, etc.  All the while, I was in a bit of denial, just going through the motions……wondering, is this really me?  I really have cancer?  How can that be?  I am too healthy to have cancer.   I’m too busy to deal with this.  Could this be serious, (Could I die from this? This year or next?)  I have a really great job, and I am very busy with my work, and I have two children as well as a husband who needs me.  How can I possibly juggle cancer on top of all the other balls I have in the air?  I think I did not allow myself to truly feel anything, for fear of “losing it”.

For all of March and 29 days of April I went to work everyday and tried really hard to “turn off cancer” and think instead of just what I was doing with my beautiful Junior High classes.  Of course, in reality, I was trying to plan for my impending departure, not even knowing when that would be. My brain was working in “split screen”.  

When I had students in the room, I was completely “with the kids”, and thank goodness for that.  While teaching, cancer was pretty far from my mind.  When I wasn’t teaching, I really had to make use of every single available second of non-student time to be sure I had enough detail in my lesson plans for my substitute to seamlessly come in and take over my classes for a month or more. In addition, my rooms needed to be organized, buttoned-up and put away for the end of the school year.  This required an inordinate amount of work, coming to school as early as the custodian did, and staying long after most teachers had vanished to enjoy their afternoons or coach spring sports.  Man, that was a lot of work!

Through this experience, I have discovered I am an “intuitive” kind of teacher. My lesson plan “book” probably looks pathetically anemic to an outsider.  Instead of specific details for each class, weeks into the future, I have big picture objectives written out, without too much worry as to how I am going to teach those lessons. Oh, I have files with previous plans available if nothing fabulous comes to me.  But I always hope that at least once or twice each week, I will have some kind of “light bulb moment” and some great idea will present itself to me in time to teach the lesson.  Sometimes that happens as soon as I wake up, during “church” on Sunday, or on the drive to work while listening to NPR. I love to teach a class in an unexpected manner, and I think kids like it too.  

I can remember the favorite teachers I had as a student….because there were so few of them.  But the teachers I loved seemed to be passionate about their topics, and were not afraid to show it.  They used humor and crazy analogies and popular music to emphasize a point.  Most of all, they seemed “genuine”.  They didn’t act too much like “teachers”.  I think in my early years of teaching, I really tried to act like a teacher, hoping I would convince the kids that I was one!  Eventually, I kind of settled in with my topics and realized that I could really be me, and be a teacher, too.  I could evolve, and take the best parts of the best teachers I have ever had as a student or had the opportunity to work with. Sometimes, they were even teachers just across the hall, but their passion and enthusiasm just kind of diffused into the air and you could feel it as you walked by their rooms.   I am so lucky to have lived and worked in a variety of places at so many different jobs, the mentors I’ve had have been in many different disciplines and in unusual places.  As I think about this….I realize this is a book all of it’s own.  But the teaching “gig” has just been a “dream”.  Especially where I’m now, back at my original “traditional school”.



A few years ago I saw a “just be nice” bumper sticker in Lakeside, OH and tracked it down to a website and small enterprise of a man in Florida who embodied the “Just Be Nice” philosophy.  It seemed to make so much sense, and I jumped on the opportunity to reduce a whole page of “rules” in my syllabus to three little words.  I placed the JBN logo around the room, and always made a big deal about it.  Kids knew if they would JBN to me, I’d JBN to them, and they absolutely had to JBN to each other in my room.  If we all lived and embodied the “JBN” philosophy in room 102 and 104, we would all have a pretty good time.  

In addition, I let kids know that I was their advocate.  I always told my classes that I am always there if they ever need help, with anything, even if they knew they had made a mistake, I’d help them get through it.  That was a philosophy  I adopted from “The Open School” outside of Denver, CO, where I did my student teaching.  Not many kids literally took me up on this, but I think it just made them feel a bit more secure, especially the youngest 7th graders in the group.  When I realized sometime in March that this cancer business was serious, and was going to take me out of school, that was the first time I think I actually cried.  I know it sounds silly now, but I was upset, and concerned that I might be letting some of the more vunerable kids down.  I had no idea how much they would inspire me in the coming weeks.

Get Well Soon

Two days after I stopped teaching for the year, super-angel-nurse-Juli came to my house with a stack of handmade Get Well cards, a big pink “Get Well Soon” poster that hangs in my room, and what she called my “battle bucket”. The “bucket” is BIG and filled with all the things I would need for my “battle with cancer” like new pajamas that button up the front, water bottles with straw spouts, dark chocolates, meditation CD’s, new slippers, a velvet “sleep mask”, ribbons for my drain tubes, a big heating pad, etc. All items donated by the staff and administration at AWJH.  Wow…..I was so impressed! 

By the time I came home from the hospital, many cards and gifts continued to flow into our household from friends and both schools.  But my favorite by far, were the cards that students wrote, especially when they included the motivational quotes I had used in my classes.  My 7th and 8th grade students took the messages I taught them, I had hoped would inspire them, and sent them to me in their homemade cards to lift my spirits and inspire me!  As a teacher, it doesn’t get much better than that.     —Oh, but wait, it does!!!


A couple of weeks after my surgery, I received a “conference call” from a few incredible teachers at my school informing me of a special “holiday” coming up on May 29th, “Just Be Nice Day” in my honor.  Apparently, every teacher in my school participated, devoting time to the JBN concept, that, in and of itself, is amazing!    Bright colored JBN T-shirts were designed and sold to students and parents alike with $1.00 each donated to cancer research (over $400.00 raised!)  Guidance counselors took the time to make out a seating chart for three lunch periods (for over 700 kids!) to be sure they sat with a new group of students, a “mix-it-up-at lunch” concept.  I was feeling good enough to make a brief appearance after lunch in a couple of classes to say “Hi!”, and encourage the kids in their social experiment.  That was especially nice, and really great medicine for me, to see the smiling faces of those great kids.  At the end of the day, all students had the opportunity to write me a note on special JBN paper (I don’t think they were “forced to”!) about what JBN day meant to them.  I have a stack of letters over 4 inches high.  Some funny, some sad, some of the sentiments expressed by current and former students made me cry, and some made me laugh right out loud.  My gosh….what a great thing to do, “JBN Day”.  It doesn’t get much better than that.   —Oh, but wait, it does!

June 3rd, Last day of school, Awards Ceremony

Last year I had decided I would give an award for something, and as the school year proceeded this year, I had thought the JBN idea would be great for an award.  It seemed to be a democratic kind of “award”, as anyone could achieve this… need to be academically gifted, or athletically inclined, or a great writer, or singer or socially outgoing. After first semester ended, I made mental notes of the kids who had been especially nice to other students in class, as well as the kids who consistently cleaned up in the room or made an effort to be appreciative to me as well as others. Of course, once I got the Cancer diagnosis, the JBN Award was one more thing on my overflowing plate that I prayed I would be able to complete.  

Thankfully, as time progressed after my surgery, it appeared that I would be well enough, and be lucky enough to not have any critical appointments on the day of the awards ceremony.  I created a humble little certificate from the actual bumper stickers in my room, choose 32 students to honor and eagerly awaited the last day of school.  I had only seen a small group of the 700+ students before this day, so I was sure to write out a short motivational message about “attitude” and “JBN” before I gave the award, because I was afraid that I might get a little emotional and forget what I wanted to say.  Well, I really was surprised by the big reaction I received.  As the teacher who proceeded me announced my name and I walked down the aisle, kids actually applauded, and stood up!  And didn’t stop.  It was a most amazing moment…..maybe the best moment of my career to this point in time.  The following is an email I received from another teacher friend who was in the auditorium that morning:

Hi KayLynne!

I can’t even describe how wonderful it was to see you today.  I am so glad you got to spend some time with us!!

Although there were a lot of fun moments about today, the best part by far was when your name was announced to distribute awards.  Did you realize that you had almost 700 kids giving you a standing ovation?!?!  And several teachers with tears in their eyes…  And when you started to speak, you could have heard a pin drop in that auditorium.  It gives me chills and tears just thinking about it.  Everyone was hanging on to your every word.  I hope you know how much you are loved and appreciated, not just by the staff, but by the students, too.  Thank you for being such a positive teacher/friend in all of our lives.  If you have ever doubted what you do and really wondered if you are making a diference, today you got your answer.  YOU are amazing and we are all very lucky to be blessed with your optimism and spirit.


Wow.  I have read this letter over and over, and it still humbles me.  Hard for me to believe it is true. Lucky me to have colleagues that have been so incredibly thoughtful and kind to organize and donate to my “battle bucket”, to plan and implement JBN Day, and to write the most thoughtful letters I’ll keep forever. Lucky me to have students who are so incredibly smart and sensitive and caring.  My school is definitely “cool”.


The following is the mission statement from The Open School.  It sums up not only my teaching philosophy, but cancer has shown me that this is the spirit of my “learning from every life experience” philosophy, as well.

Discover the joy of learning

Seek meaning in your life

Adapt to what is

Prepare for what will be

Create the world that ought to be


Thanks for reading this incredibly long post, I love you all.


Oncologist to Oprah

May 26, 2009


Well, we finally got to meet the oncologist, Dr. M., and I’ll say this much, I think he is smart.  BUT-that doesn’t help me make a decision.

So far, this has been exceedingly difficult to even think about, much less write about, and I can’t exactly figure out why.  Maybe it is because I feel so clueless and immobilized by…..what?  fear? the fact that I really didn’t understand hardly anything he said?  And what he said, well, just had to do with my “odds of surviving” this stinking disease.


so at 3:00 am tuesday morning, I am still wondering how do you choose which type of treatment to do after breast cancer surgery?  We even taped the appointment so I could listen to it again (and again and again) but that hasn’t helped much

I think my choices are a clinical trial, or a more conservative chemo plan AND tamoxifan or a hormone blocking clinical trial.

Dr. M favors the clinical trials, but said if it were him, he would do the conservative chemo treatment. I think that is his way of being diplomatic about it all. We see him again on Thursday, I’m supposed to at least have an idea by then what I want to do.

I do think he is a smart, thinking doctor, but it would be nice to have somebody else decide for me.


Taped the Memorial Day Oprah show with Christina Applegate on Breast Cancer, hoping for some pearls of wisdom.  It was a nice show, but for me in the “thick of it” right now, it provided no answers.  Shoot.  Actually, it was something said on that show that woke me up this morning.  A BC survivor made a comment which really bothered me, something about how great God was for giving her a second opportunity at life. Of course, the crowd applauded and cooed approvingly.  I so much can not relate to that kind of belief.

The thought that pulled me out of my now-normal uncomfortable sleep was, the universe is just “what it is” and it is what you choose to do with it that makes it turn beautifully for you, or makes life pass by achingly slow.  Good Lord, I have got to  get back to hanging out with the Unitarians again.

Random thoughts of gratitude

May 19, 2009

“take me to St. V’s”

It occurred to me the other day that I had not mentioned how nice all the nurses, supervisors, and other staff were on the “Burn Unit” at St. Vincent’s Hospital.  I was too “out of it” to remember their names, but I truly felt well cared for.  The floor was nice and quiet, food was pretty good, and all the nurses actually seemed to care about me and my recovery. It was kinda weird when they were so happy about all the “pee”, but I guess body fluids are their thing.  I appreciated all you did for me!

xoxo to AWJH students

I have always known I loved teaching Junior High School, but after this experience, I don’t know if you could ever separate me from 7th and 8th graders. The large stack of “get well” and “you can do it” and  “don’t give up” cards I received from my many students (and even from some kids not in my classes!) is just the best mail I have ever received in my life!  To my students: you are the BEST ever…you really “get it” and I am the luckiest teacher around!  JBN!

 XOXOXOXOXO to administrators and teachers, too  

I really do know that I have the best job in the market.  My teacher friends have gone “above and beyond” to help and support me, and the administrators have demonstrated love, care and concern.  What more can you ask for?  How did I ever get so lucky?

Friends and Unitarians  

Wow.  You know, some of you I know I must have shocked a little, and I was so selfish.  Please forgive me.  I needed to practice saying that awful word “cancer” out loud when I really barely believed it myself, and I am sure I was insensitive to your responses.  Probably seemed a little cavalier about it even….  I told you first because I felt safe with you.  Again, know that I love you and appreciate you.

To the friends I told last  

You are the ones I couldn’t tell right away, because I was afraid any fear or sympathy or concern you might express might just reduce me to a puddle of emotions, and I knew I wasn’t strong enough yet to handle that.  For a few of you, it is the depth of our friendships and the breadth of our love and our lifes’ connections…..I didn’t have the inner strength to tell you because I didn’t want to hurt you….oh, I know it all sounds so ridiculous now, but just know it is because I love you all so much. 

This is only a partial list of everyone I owe a debt of gratitude.  I thank the universe for putting the right people in my life at the right times.

Joys, Milestones and Concerns

May 4, 2009

At MVUUC (my Unitiarian Church), every service includes a place for those in attendance to come up to a microphone, light a candle and express their joy, milestone or concern. This is what I said Sunday:
Today I have all three:  joys, a milestone and concerns, and I want to begin with the milestone.

Today is the last day that I will possess all my original parts, for tomorrow I am having surgery, a bilateral mastectomy. So by tomorrow night, there will be a “new me”, a bit bruised, I’m sure, and in transition……
My concern is for my lymph nodes. If you want to pray, or send good thoughts, or white light or whatever it is you do in your mind for others….please think of my lymph nodes as being exceedingly clear and clean, and my doctors as being exceptionally skilled.
My joys……..are many………(at this point my voice cracked and wavered, and it took a few seconds and all the strength in the world to continue)….First, my sister has arrived from Dallas to take over “mom” duties, and we are so grateful for her. My husband for being supportive, and for this place, this community for the sense of family, all the love and caring support you provide.  Thank-you.


I just love this group of people.  If you could hand pick a great big group of the best moms and dads and cousins and sisters and big brothers and quirky, but loveable neighbors, they would be all the people in my church.  I am so lucky to have them in my life.