Beach hair, dont care
This time of the year is rough for me (a Dr told me Cancer PTSD is actually a thing, who knew, so I struggle with things often). Adding on top of the timing and being stressed about getting everything ready in my classroom in time, I mentioned to my therapist I was thinking about going to the beach my last weekend before school started (for teachers) but how I really thought I should stay in Austin to continue to grind it out in my room. Thankfully, after changing my mind multiple times, I decided I needed to take her advice and I'd regret it if I didn't go. So even though I may be cutting out laminating at the beach, I'm still here and know this is where I should be.
A little glimpse of the last 2 years...
2 Years Ago Today...
On this day 2 years ago, I was laying in a hospital bed after a week stay and a few surgeries, waiting for my biopsy results to come back after being transported to the ER not being able to breath. My oncologist walks in and confirms the results that I do indeed have cancer, and not just any cancer, but a fun, rare, and fast aggressive form. Thankfully, these few minutes were one of the rare moments in my many hospital stays where I was alone so I got to absorb the information by myself and attempt to figure how this was going to affect my life. A lot has happened in the last two years. That week in the hospital, and obviously after getting the confirmation of the biopsy results, my life was literally turned upside down and completely taken away from me in every way. Nothing would be the same in my life again.
From losing my job, my apartment, my health insurance, my health and everything in between, everything was gone. These last 2 years have been emotionally, physically, mentally, and financially draining. If you've followed my 2 year journey, you know I literally underwent every procedure possible and nothing ever worked. Until FDA approved Car-T therapy I had no options left to fight and live. Last November, I was one of the first in the US to have Car-T therapy after it was FDA approved. Literally a million dollar procedure was my last chance, but also a huge undertaking. Living in Dallas for a month, on top of everything else that came along with it was obviously never fun. Not to mention this would mean losing my hair for the 3rd time...
A year into my cancer journey I didn't think any hope was left since I had done it all. There were many, many times I just wanted to quit and give up. I have always told my Beachers (students), "No one is perfect, as long as you don't give up and try your hardest that's all that matters". If I didn't live up to my own words than how could I continue to instill this into my students. So, no matter how hard it was, I just did my best. I've literally lost count of how many hospital stays I've had, times I've been poked and prodded, amount of blood taken, the number of iv's and tubes connected to me, the number of bags of chemo put in me, the number of radiation treatments I did, the number of doctors and appointments I've done, the amount of pills I've taken.....well you get the point. Cancer was a 4 letter word for me. The only constant was my amazing friends and family who never left.
I can say, only after being on the other side of it and literally go thru hell and back (multiple times) that cancer definitely changes you. I'll always have my "tiger stripes" I got from having to live on predisone and the many cancer scars from multiple surgeries...but that is my new life. In every workshop or inspirational program I've been to or read, people always say you will never get back to your old "normal", you will have to build a new normal no matter how hard it is. I don't think most people can really understand or grasp how difficult this really is. First, of course, the task of getting your health back, then dealing with your mental and emotional stability after all you've been thru, next coming to terms with the financial burden you will be in till you literally die, and just putting the pieces back together of the ones you can find to try and complete your puzzle as much as you can. Sure, I'll always have some of those pesky pieces missing, but that's ok. It took me literally 2 whole years to finally start putting my pieces back together even after never thinking I'd ever get to this point or being able to complete my picture.
I finally got good cancer results, finally am going back to teaching (after 2 attempts in 2 years), finally mentally and emotionally on the up thanks to my therapist I continue to see weekly (thanks to the amazing Flatwater Foundation), and believing I can now actually plan for A future. Sure, I may never get to say I'm having children now, or getting married, or buying a mansion, or even get to say "I'm in remission".....but I will be able to say, I never gave up and cancer didn't win no matter what it put me thru. I can back up what I say to my students everyday about never giving up and in the end it will pay off no matter how hard it may be in that moment.
Cancer may be a 4 letter word, but I'm choosing to make it a positive 4 letter word now: hope, love, free, grow, give, kind, pure, wise...and maybe a little zest here and there. It's hard to stay positive during Cancer, but coming from someone who has literally been knocking on death's door, I can tell you it is possible to find the light at the end of the tunnel....no matter how long and dark that damn tunnel is. The pieces don't come easy, but if you keep searching and looking you will eventually find them (try between the couch cushions, there's always some hiding there).
I've been asked many times why in the world would I go back to teaching and the stress etc after all I've been thru....well, thats easy, I love teaching, and one of the many lessons I've learned thru cancer is to do what you love! Take vacations, be with who you love, eat the cake, buy the dress you've been eying for months....just enjoy life because you truly never know when its your last day Or another persons....enjoy and cherish everyone around you. Enjoy life while you have the chance.
Even though I won't be back at BCE and miss them more than words can explain, I am beyond excited to finally be back in my own classroom and with my favorite grade. Getting back to teaching was one of my biggest puzzle pieces I was trying to find. Becoming a CASA ad litem is just another piece I am proud to add to my new life chapter puzzle. Finally, my pieces are coming together, it may not be the puzzle of my old life, but a puzzle of my new normal slowly coming together.
"You either get bitter or you get better. It's that simple. You either take what's been dealt to you and allow it to make you a better person, or you allow it to tear you down. The choice does not belong to fate, it belongs to you."