Right now, dealing with the heavy load of dealing with a new treatment routine has been particularly stressful and generally been a real downer. Work feels especially stressful now since we’re heading into the final stretch of the end of the semester. The grading has been non-stop. In fact, juggling the priorities of being a teacher and being there for students is also tricky to manage. I mentioned in my last post that after my first treatment, I had to rush to work. Why? I had to give a makeup exam to a student. Being a teacher means the needs of the students take priority. I was very angry at having to go back literally as soon as the needle left my vein. No one dictated this decision, but I feel I have to be a responsible adult.
I’m beginning to realize that I really need maximum flexibility and my teaching job can only be flexible up to a point. I mean a 9 am class has to happen at 9 am, right? That means on treatment days I have to rush out of school to make an afternoon appointment. An afternoon appointment means I cannot wait around to be available to students who need extra help, or that planning for the next day gets done. An afternoon appointment also means that the chemo/treatment area is likely to be more backed up, so perhaps requiring a half hour to an hours wait, adding on to the 90 minutes required for treatment. All of sudden, it can easily be 5 pm and I’m just starting my commute home, with planning and grading to await me.
This is just a glimpse, and I don’t write it to sound complainy, but I don’t think a lot people realize how many rippling effects cancer has on the day to day basis. For now, I’ve requested to have my one non-academic class (advisory) moved to someone else’s schedule because I need more time for treatment. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t feel guilty about the fact that someone else is taking a heavier load.
On Wednesday, my department also had some very sobering talks with our school administration about budget cuts. It boils down to, we should expect more cuts, and therefore either larger classes or more classes (increased course load). Needless to say, I can’t imagine taking on more work than I already have. One could say, I was at the meeting but already had my metaphorical one-foot out the door. Because the conclusion, or realization that I’ve come to lately is that I need to be selfish. I need to take the time to take care of myself, and work on my own terms. It’s scary because people are losing their jobs left and right, and I’m basically planning on going on medical leave next school year (assuming I still have this benefit, and that it is not being renegotiated as well.)and giving up my coveted recession-proof job. But the way I’m feeling now, I don’t feel like I have another alternative.
Also, lately, there seem to be very few things that can cheer me up. In addition to all my cancer stuff, my dad is still recovering my lung surgery — and that has been particularly taxing. Without getting into the details of the family stuff, I’m in the caretaker role, and don’t have much support from my immediate family. I feel bad about not always going to see him, but I also just feel like I really need to take care of myself. (But I still feel guilty about it.)
Many people have said that it’s remarkable that I’m even working, but I feel like I need a medal of honor because lately it’s felt so hard to manage it all, and one thing that makes my job even more trying at times is that teaching is a very public job. Everyday I get up in front of a class and wear my teaching mask because that’s the professional thing to do right? Just like any other job, except it’s harder for me just to take a moment for myself. (At this point, I could get devastating news over the phone, and probably not even blink.)
I also don’t feel so attached anymore to the school community, and with yearly turnover, very few faculty really know my medical situation. (I actually started my job teaching while going through chemo because well…I needed health insurance so I had to work. I was 27 and just fresh right out of graduate school.) As far as I know, none of the students know about my situation, and I don’t know if I’d ever tell them. I guess it’s crossing a line between personal and professional that I don’t feel comfortable. Some students knew in the past, but they have graduated. Honestly, some of them might freak out, or not really understand what it means. I mean, I remember being a rather naive, uninformed adolescent — I wouldn’t want my teenage self to know that one of my teachers had a life-threatening illness.
There’s a part of me that wishes I could be open with everyone at work, but it would be complicated, to say the least. So, it’s a delicate balance, and having cancer is like having a part time job. The job isn’t ideal but sometimes the cancer ‘work’ is easy (like when I was on my recent trial and just taking pills everyday), but right now let’s just say that I’m not sure what the next project will demand.