This is a strange story for me to write. It will at times be a sad story, in many ways it will be happy and perhaps even funny. It will be an adventure that entails anxiety, flirting with danger, fortitude in the face of adversity and many attempts to look on the bright side. There will also no doubt be moments of anguish and despair, and a lot of uncertainty. It's a story that will hopefully be cathartic for me, but also interesting and perhaps informative or even entertaining for others.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Kids are so honest!

Well the students have been back at school for two weeks now and it’s been great. I’m teaching 8 and 9 year olds and I can’t believe how mature they’ve been about everything. They’ve asked me every question under the sun about the cancer and my treatment (kids aren’t backward about coming forward), but have been incredibly caring and helpful. I’ve received lots of hugs, bunches of flowers, cards and drawings. It’s very heart -warming.

As all teachers know, kids aren’t afraid to say what they’re thinking. I learnt this in my first year of teaching when we were learning a song and one of my students said “Miss C, you don’t sound like you when you sing, you sound awful”. I also know another teacher that was asked “why are your legs so chunky, when my mums are thin?”. I therefore knew that I’d get plenty of amusing stories out of having cancer. Here are some so far:

•I was wearing my wig on the first day, which is much shorter than what my hair was. I went into another classroom and one of the students said “I feel sorry for you Miss C”. Another student asked why, “because she’s got cancer” he replied. Then another student said “oh, I thought you felt sorry for her because she had to have a haircut”.

•Another time I was in the corridor outside my classroom wearing a bandanna. A kid from another class was at the other end of the corridor with his mum. “Bye Miss C” he called out, “See you tomorrow” I replied. As the walked out the door I heard him ask “what the heck is wrong with her head?”. I had a good chuckle to myself!

•Last year at school we had a crazy hair day and I wore a bright blue wig. A parent of an autistic student told me how she’d explained to her children before school went back this year that I had cancer and I might be wearing a bandanna or a wig. Her autistic child replied “Well Miss C has a blue wig, so she’ll be wearing that”.

•A student with Asperger’s Syndrome that I have taught for two years asked me “are you wearing that bandanna because of how you’ve got Asperger’s?”. Obviously he got mixed up between his diagnosis and mine!

I think I’m very lucky to be working with such supportive colleagues, but also wonderful students and their families. They are so caring, but at the same time I feel it is so helpful in allowing me to remain positive, have fun and enjoy lots of laughs!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A fabulous week!

First of all I’d like to start by saying that I've re-read my last post and am definitely not feeling that way anymore. After the initial shock of my hair falling out, I actually feel pretty good about it. I guess it's a visible sign that the chemo is doing something. If it's killing my hair cells then I can be more confident that it is also killing the cancer cells!

Now I can go on to tell you the good, well actually great, things that have happened to me this week. To begin with I went wig shopping with my two best friends and my step-sister. We bought a wig and a whole heap of scarves and had a lot of fun trying things on in the shop. My long-standing suspicion that I have a pin head was confirmed when the lady had to take the wig in for me as it was too big, and was reinforced again when I was trying on hats and they were all falling down below my eyes!

We also went out for breakfast –my first outing without hair. I was thrilled when I looked at the menu and saw blueberry bagels with cream cheese. Something I LOVE and haven’t had for ages! I went up to the counter to order them and the guy behind the counter said “Sorry, they didn’t get delivered today so we don’t have any”. Forgetting about my bald head and CanTeen Bandanna I replied “oh no, I’m devastated. I was so excited when I saw them on the menu, I think I might cry”. I was of course only joking, but the poor guy went white as a ghost and looked like he wanted to crawl into a hole. He must have been thinking ‘oh no, I’ve upset the poor cancer lady’.

The following day was Australia Day which I spent at my Dad’s house. It was lovely to just relax by the pool and chat with family. The next great part about this week was going back to work, as the summer holidays have now finished. I know work is not normally on people’s list of great things, but I love my job and the people I work with, so going back and seeing everyone was wonderful. My colleagues were very supportive and it was great to have a sense of normality in my life again.

On Thursday I had an appointment with my oncologist, which was definitely the highlight of the week. He was very pleased with how well I am taking to the chemotherapy. He also told me he thought that my ‘down to earth’ personality and positive outlook would mean that I would have less side effects. That was a nice compliment to receive and also reiterated to me how important the power of the mind will be in all this. Furthermore he said that as all my symptoms had disappeared (no more visible lymph node swelling, fevers or night sweats) he was confident that my next x-ray (in 3 weeks time) would give good news!

I went into my appointment armed with a list of questions I had been wondering about since my last appointment. What should I be eating? How often should I exercise? Can I have a glass of wine? What exactly are B-Cells? Should I have paid more attention in biology in high school? I bombarded the poor guy with so many different things he ended up lending me a medical book on lymphoma! The book is very interesting and has answered many of my queries, but I will probably now just go to my next appointment armed with more complex questions!

Friday was the not-so-great part of the week. Chemo number 2. My step-sister, Dani, came with me this time and thankfully it was a much shorter session this time. It was still about 5 hours, but at least it wasn’t 7 hours again! The worse part of the day was when the nurse tried for 10 minutes to get the cannula in the back of my hand, then gave up saying that my skin was too tight. I don’t really know what that means, but I’ll take it as a compliment and assume she meant it was youthful and firm! They ended up putting it in my arm which took about 10 seconds, but I now have a bruised swollen lump on my hand!

I left the hospital feeling fine and even went for a short walk when I got home, as I wanted some fresh air. However, about an hour later I was sick. Panic set in a bit then and I worried that I was going to get the days worth of nausea and vomiting I had heard that most people experienced. Luckily, that was it and I’ve felt pretty good since. Like last time I felt queasy all day Sunday and have been unusually tired and vague, but if that’s as bad as the side effects get for me then I’m stoked!