Hijacked

Stories from a Life I Didn't Plan

Month: June 2016

Summer School and Struggle to Set a Post Chemo Routine

Summer School and Struggle to Set a Post Chemo Routine has been the whole of my life in the past few days.

Summer School and Struggle for a Post Chemo Routine

This week summer school started and so began the struggle to re-establish a healthy routine with balanced time between work and the rest of my life. It has been a great challenge for me. So far, I have managed to spend an enormous amount of time at work and been consistent at the gym, but keeping up on household chores has been somewhat disastrous. Just to keep things interesting, I am having trouble getting to bed at a reasonable time and then having to roll out early the next morning because the school where I am teaching places me squarely in the middle of commute traffic. Consequently, it has seemed like the longest week! And actually, it is only the second full week I have worked since being released back to “normal” life.

But, I am enjoying teaching a new group of first grade or almost second grade students and working with a new staff. I consider this my time to work with training wheels on as I prepare to ride solo at another new school this fall. So far, things have been going well. Using training and experience from the past few years, I am having fun developing lessons with the needs of this unique group of students in mind. It has been a delightfully intriguing challenge that is yielding plentiful rewards. I am enjoying a deep joy and satisfaction in the job that I am doing and in the response of students to the lessons and activities I plan to engage them in learning.

Similarly, my students have settled into a happy routine and seem to be enjoying learning in my class. They have formed friendships with students from various schools, as this is a districtwide program and many of them had never met one another before. I am glad to see them happily engaged in learning and have once again remembered why I love teaching! I am hoping that this excitement and energy for teaching persists into the coming school year at my new school site and that I will be able to establish healthy boundaries for work that lead to a happy and healthy lifestyle that is conducive to good physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health.

Seeking Words of Wisdom

As I continue to struggle to find equilibrium in my life, I could use words of wisdom for what you have found or observed works.

Two Months Post Chemo and Still Surprised

Two Months Post Chemo and Still Surprised

Two months post chemo and still surprised by fatigue and things that trigger emotions.  Even though I have resumed normal activities and am going about life as usual. I have been keeping a pretty steady pace and for the most part have been fine. After going back to work, I had some challenges readjusting to being back in a world that looked the same, but had changed. But, I made it and was glad I had gone back for the end of the year.

Now with school out, I have been filling my days with travel, packing up my classroom to move schools, transporting things to the new school site or to be stored, reconnecting with friends, and exercise. I have been feeling good and enjoying this new phase of life. However, I quickly forget that just over two months ago, I was a chemo patient.

My fatigue doesn’t seem to grip me constantly, so I can keep a pretty full schedule for awhile. Then suddenly, I find myself unable to deal with the emotions that accompany the normal stresses in life and realize I am tired and in need of a nap or a long night of sleep. The good news is that it is exactly that simple, so why can’t I remember this simple fact?

Triggers

A cancer diagnosis comes with an element of fear that takes time to overcome. Occasionally, that fear pops up out of the blue, but more often I find that it is triggered by treatment related issues or circumstances. For example, this week I had to schedule follow up testing for the end of the year. Both of the procedures I had to put on the calendar were tests I had in the hospital when the cancer was diagnosed. Naturally, scheduling those tests triggered feelings similar to those I felt the first time I had them since they caused me to remember and relive, at least on some level, the emotions around my diagnosis. However,  if I had been more rested, I think I would have faced them more quickly and put them to rest without having to weather such a tempest in a teapot.

Anniversaries

And, the anniversaries are looming larger on my calendar. The anniversary of feeling sick, learning I was ill (on my birthday, no less!) yet not knowing the cause, then being told I had cancer one day and having surgery to remove the tumor the next. I anticipate a certain amount of emotion as these dates approach, but I know that they will pass and I will be fine. They are just dates.

Recurrence

Recently I had the chance to share with someone who asked me if I feared a recurrence that I do not expect the cancer to return. I am striving to live my life to the fullest, while doing everything I can to live a healthy, anti-cancer life. But, it could still come back. I couldn’t prevent cancer the first time, so I know I can’t prevent it from coming back, either. What I can do is make the most of my life. Do what is important and let go of the small, insignificant things that pop up that really do not matter, but can quickly steal my joy, time, and attention, if I let them. I am doing my best to not let them! It is easier said than done, but I am finding the effort worthwhile.

Why Am I Surprised?

While I do not know the answer to why I am surprised by fatigue and the impact fatigue has on my emotions, I do know I am planning to make rest a priority and to find ways to remind myself that it will take time, more than I realize, to regain my stamina for the everyday pace of life. Taking a nap or sleeping an unusual number of hours some nights is exactly what I need in order to keep up with my day in and out activities. Hopefully, this will begin to come naturally and I will not reach the point that I am stressed and emotional over insignificant things.

Any suggestions for other ways I can be mindful of pacing myself and getting enough rest?

Finished Chapters and Tales Yet to Be Written

Finished Chapters and Tales Yet to Be Written

I have come to a time of finished chapters and tales yet to be written at the end of this  school year more than almost any other. After a challenging return to teaching for the last eight days of the school year, I settled into the routine and had a special time saying goodbye to current and past students, as well as colleagues, effectively closing a chapter in my life.

Packing and Cleaning Up the Classroom

Beginning after the final bell on the final day of school on Thursday of last week, I began packing up my classroom for the move to a new school site. Once I knew I was going to have chemotherapy, I had packed up most of my personal teaching materials and belongings in the classroom and taken them home to store while I was on medical leave. So, I began packing what remained of my belongings along with the district owned materials I would need to move for the upcoming school year.

Thankfully, packing went fairly quickly and, with help from my niece, I was able to do some cleaning out of outdated materials and supplies that the incoming teacher, who is a friend of mine, decided she wouldn’t need for next year. This process took several days, but it was with great joy and relief that I turned in my sign off sheet and keys at the school. With a shout of “woohoo,” I celebrated the end of a bittersweet chapter in my life. As I remember the good times and all I learned, I move forward to a new school with excitement and anticipation, commemorating finished chapters and tales not yet written.

Preparing for Summer School

With the financial stress of medical bills and a partial month’s pay once my sick leave ran out, I decided that for the first time in years I needed to teach summer school. Since I have rested and decompressed over the course of the last several months, I do not need the summer break desperately as in most other years. And, I thought it might be a good way to ease back into the routine of teaching to teach shorter days in two week increments.

So, yesterday I had my first day of professional development and orientation for the summer school program I will be teaching in a neighboring district. I have been anticipating learning from collaborating with teachers who bring a whole different set of experiences and preparation to teaching. It has been interesting to learn how a district other than the one I teach in during the regular school year operates. I am finding the interaction with teachers from a different perspective refreshing and challenging alike. The freedom I have to develop and implement the curriculum has infused excitement and enthusiasm into the task. And, my grade level teaching colleague is new to the profession, which allows me the opportunity to share my experience and knowledge with her as we jointly plan lessons for our first graders.

Learning a New School Culture

With the move to a new school, I must learn who is who and how things work at the new site. So far, I have met just a handful of people at the new school and have focused on being a positive addition to the staff. As frustrations arise, I find myself seeking advice from a teacher friend who knows the school community and can help me to navigate these yet unknown waters. I hope to quickly learn more about the school dynamics once school starts so that I can fit in with colleagues, students, and parents alike.

Unfortunately, at this point there is some doubt about what grade level I will be teaching and I have not been able to get keys so that I can begin to unpack and settle into the classroom. Hopefully, the issue will be quickly resolved and little by little I can prepare for the upcoming school year instead of having to rush to try to do it right before the new school year begins.

Glancing Back, but Moving Forward

This juncture of finished chapters and tales yet to be written finds me looking back in celebration of the lessons I learned, moments I savored, people I cared about, and challenges I faced. But more than that, I am looking forward with anticipation of the next exciting chapter filled with new challenges and people, as well as unexpected joys and lessons to be learned. It is good to be moving forward in anticipation of even better things ahead!

Finding a Balanced Life After Chemo

Finding a Balanced Life After Chemo

Finding a balanced life after chemo has been a challenge since going back to work. While I was on medical leave from work during chemotherapy, I had ample time for exercise and cooking healthy meals when I was well enough.

Cooking

I enjoyed trying new, healthy recipes in the kitchen and had a lot of satisfaction in knowing that I was doing something positive to regain and maintain my health. Even still, I enjoy cooking at home and generally choose to come home and eat, rather than eat out where I do not know what the ingredients are in the dishes. However, now that I am back to work, I find that I have much less time to spend in the kitchen to try out these new dishes. Instead, I opt for simpler fare that I can warm up or cook in a few minutes after coming home from a tiring day in first grade. In fact, I think it was scrambled eggs for dinner twice this week!

As time goes on, I hope to find a better balance of life and work, but since I returned to work for the last two weeks of school the flurry of activity consumed most of my time and energy. Hopefully as I continue to recover more of my strength and stamina over the summer, I will find it easier to return to a more balanced life that includes a little more time in the kitchen when school resumes in August.

Exercise

As often as I could during chemo, I would walk. I tried for at least a half an hour a day, but on some days I simply couldn’t get outside for it. However, as time went on, I found that I really enjoyed the natural mood elevation I got from taking a walk. And, friends would sometimes walk with me, making the outing doubly enjoyable. But now that I have begun the Living Strong, Living Well program and have gone back to work, I no longer have the time and energy for these daily outings. Teaching keeps me on my feet most of the day and the Living Strong, Living Well exercise program provides a different kind of exercise that I quite enjoy. Nevertheless, I find I miss my long walks around the neighborhoods near my house. I miss looking at nature and meeting new people along my customary route. I do not know quite how to find balance in this area, but hope that over time I will adjust to the new forms of exercise and not miss my walks quite so much.

Without a doubt, finding a balanced life after chemo will be a process, but I am anxious to maintain my healthy patterns that have helped me to feel so robust and positive about the future. If you have any suggestions for how I might achieve this, I certainly hope you will share your words of wisdom. Or, if you face a similar struggle, I hope you will share that as well.

As always, thanks for continuing with me on the journey of life!

 

 

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