Thursday, July 30, 2009

Life is Too Short, and I don't mean this guy

I say it all the time, but evidently I'm the one who needs to hear it the most. Life is too short, people. In case you can't tell, this is all related to my last post, too.

I'm sure that some of you keep up with Dave and Tara, listed under "Fields Family Blog" in the melanoma/cancer links. Dave is a melanoma survivor who was first diagnosed in 1997. He
makes it look easy, but he's had a long fight with this disease. Dave has been having a lot of weakness, numbness and pain, and so they've been running some test to find out if he has any new tumors on his spinal chord. But this last Tuesday Tara posted that they finally figured out where the pain was stemming from: lepto-meningeal disease, which is melanoma of the spinal fluid.

Obviously, they need y
our prayers and positive vibes. This is not the news that anyone had hoped for or expected. And, as always for this couple, they are handling it with grace and courage that simply astounds me. Here's a quote from their journal:

David and I talked about a lot of "what ifs" yesterday and he told me that I have to continue to be for him I will be! His body is so tired. He's been running a marathon with more hills than valleys and he's feeling the effects of it. It may seem strange, but I think we're at peace with whatever happens. Dave and I have always had the kind of relationship that we could talk to each other about anything and everything.
We're NOT losing hope, but we are definately coming to terms with the fact that melanoma may win the race, so yesterday we talked about a lot of his final wishes. These are conversations that no one should have, and yet I feel blessed to know what David would want. He is so proud of his children and is terrified that they may forget him if he "goes home" soon. I promised him that no matter what happens, Sam and Emma will hear about their dad in one way or another...
very day of their lives. So...if you have gotten to this point in the journal entry, I need you to do something for David. Please wirte (or send me through e-mail) something about Dave.

These two blow me away. So much hope and so much peace in a few short sentences.

If you keep up with the Fields', please take a moment to send them some loving words. They are an inspiration to follow and I know they'd appreciate it.

And you probably know about both Johnny Deep and Becky. They have both passed away from melanoma in July. Becky was amazing- a real fighter who had just about the most amazing positive attitude I've ever seen. In one of her last posts, she wrote, "If there is one thing that I have truly learned from all of this... it is... that people truly do hold great compassion and love in there hearts for one another." She leaves behind a beautiful daughter who is still blogging on her sight.

And then, of course, there was Johnny, who totally did things his way. He took melanoma on his terms and spent a good part of the last year of his life sailing, which is what he loved to do. I love the way Johnny never pandered to his feelings, and he made it clear how bad things sucked without apologizing for his words. But then he'd turn right around and make you laugh in the same breath. Less than a month before he died he decided he wanted a tattoo to commemorate the journey, which you can see here. He was truly one a of kind. When my time comes, I want to do things the way Johnny did. It makes me smile just thinking of it.

Everyone of those names listed under "In Memory Of" links is someone I have known in one way or another. All but 2 or 3 I knew personally and corresponded with during their treatment or my own. If you don't already know, I can't explain what it's like to lose so many people like that. So many people who truly touched my life.

Every one of them would tell me now to enjoy my life and not waste a single second trifling it away with stress and worry.

If this doesn't drive home the point, friends, then I don't know what does.

Four short years ago, I found out that I had only a 50% chance of living for five years. Having said that, I wouldn't change anything that I've done with or for these kids of mine or take back any of the hours I've devoted to this job, even when I was overdoing it. I mean, my students have been one of the biggest blessing of my entire life. So this isn't about regret. But it is time for me to work on a new chapter, in which I learn to do things both for myself and for others. In which I detach myself from the test results and instead focus on those things that I can control.

I think I threw myself into this job as a means of rehabilitating myself back to health and back to life, and it has served its purpose in that way. And now I am going to devote myself to being the best teacher I can be during my work hours (which will be less than 50 per week), while maintaining a balance for myself outside of those hours. I don't have to cling onto this exhausted teacher persona anymore. I am determined to define myself in new ways every day, including a determination with a new sense of balance. I am committing to that right now, and as an ultimatum, I am attaching to it the stipulation that I will leave my school at the end of the year if I am unable to do this.

This isn't about work, really. This is about life.
Life is too short.

And life is too good to miss out on.


P.s.- In case you need it,
token cheezburger cat cartoon in 3.... 2.... 1.....

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

This is the 8th attempt this week

It's not that I haven't been blogging, it's just that you haven't been reading my posts. Mainly because I haven't been publishing them. Bwahahahahaha! Too bad for you that you've missed out on all the witty, insightful posts I've been writing.

I got an email and phone call this morning from CBS evening news, peculiarly enough, and they were asking me if I'd be interested in being on the show tonight regarding the latest skin cancer research. At the time I didn't know what was going on, but it's great news! I really consider this a huge step that experts are finally printing conclusive evidence so people know just how dangerous tanning beds are! In case you haven't heard or read, you can see it here, but the article issues powerful warnings against tanning beds. Like serious warnings. Awesome! (Oprah voice)

Btw, did you
recognize our little friend Paige from the Vans Warped Tour? If you don't recall you can re-read this post, where we were singing the praises of Paige and her people, Mole Mate, and the screening for skin cancer at the Warped Tour. Pretty small world, eh? (Btw, I ended up not being on the show because I've never used tanning beds.)

I've been doing a lot of tidying since my summer break
started just 4 short weeks ago. I've cleaned out all the closet space that drives me crazy throughout the school year and done a thorough cleaning of the ware home, donated a ton of books and clothes and bags to Goodwill, and even took a load of boxes to school to do the same with my classroom. It feels good to sweep out all the dust bunnies and get stuff organized and dust free. My asthmatic boyfriend is especially a fan of this ritual.

You may be able to tell I've been tidying up a bit here, too, from the new look of the blog and the new sites I put up. I divided my commonly read blogs into 2
bits: the old schoolers that I still read almost everyday, and my new friends that I'm getting to know and love.
And yes, there are quite a few new person development sites I've added under the "Good Stuff to Check Out" section. This is just as much for me as it is for anybody else because, during this lovely little summer break, I've also been cleaning out my head. I realized that having quick and convenient access to these sites may help me keep focused and clear-headed about my goals for this year, and help me to keep the prize- living a functional and balanced life- in my eyes. This has been the best cleaning of all, and although I do this every summer, I think this year has been a real eye opener.

So much gets lost to me during
work. I seem to lose sight of everything I want and need from a normal life for the sake of TAKS scores or essential science skills. I think we all know what the real problem is: I'm a teacher. Somehow because I work with the best kids on Earth (think Snapple for elementary schools), I somehow excuse myself from having any form of balance. At the lowest points, I get no sleep, work 15 hours a day, and eat crap food because I'm just trying to get by until high-stakes testing is over. Somehow I made up my mind that this is all ok. ...The hell?

Balance. That ever-illusive term which creates
anxiety at the mere mention of it. Why? Because balance means having boundaries. Limits. And other words I learned in therapy.

What can I say? Balance has never been my strong suit. I have kinda always thrown myself into my job or warm-and-fuzzy projects that "make a difference." The thing is, my workaholism has started to affect other areas of my life, and it's time for a re-evaluation. My, Miss Melanoma, how very grown up of you. Oh, don't worry- I'm not that advanced yet, though flattered that you would assume so.
This was all brought on in full-on intervention style, courtesy of my loved ones.

nd why not? I think it was way overdo for me to take an unflinchingly honest look at my lifestyle. I accept my job for it's craziness because I do work with kids, and I see it as a necessary evil that I just have to put up with for the sake of the kids.

But after 4 weeks of doing nothing but sleeping and rehabilitating myself from a punishing and grueling year, I still couldn't get myself to publish a blog post. My head was too muddled and cloudy to even consider the beginnings of sorting things out. I literally typed 7 pages of text before I even got to the beginnings of what I was trying to post here for you. All the rest was just the leftovers from exhaustion and confusion and stress. And that's when I realized why my friends had stepped in for an intervention: because I truly was unhealthy. I had let my job take over to the point where my quality of life was suffering.

Then I had one of those moments of clarity, when I thought about all the anger I've been carrying around about times when I needed people and they weren't there for me. All those hurt feelings I couldn't let go of because couldn't understand why this person or that person wasn't what I needed them to be. Hmm. Maybe the same reason I haven't been there for my peeps lately. Maybe because at times we are truly unable to be a good friend due to life's extenuating circumstances. And again I am humbled at my own in-competencies and critical judgments. The learning never ends!

I've got lots more to say but I think that I'll save it for the next post. Thanks to all of you who have been writing me and commenting and asking that I return to this blog. It is far from over between this blog and I. We had a brief falling out, and stopped talking for a while. She went through sort of a party phase and I become a hermit. But time heals all and I will always love her. And besides, I air all my life lessons here. Where else am I gonna get that?


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Marry Me, Lance Armstrong!

Hi all you Miss Melanoma readers,
Just FYI, I just dedicated a page to my dear Bobby at LIVESTRONG Action.

This page is a part of the world's largest dedication book that LIVESTRONG Action will use to pressure world leaders to do more to fight cancer. Can you add your name to my dedication page? It'll only take a second, and you will be my best friend FOREVER.

Also, you can help me reach my target of 25 dedications.

Please click here, it only takes a second: [1]

Right now, Lance Armstrong is dedicating his ride in the Tour de France to the fight against cancer. And after the race, he'll send this dedication book - with your signature - to world leaders and pressure them to make
cancer a priority in their own countries. It's our best chance to push for
better treatment, more funding for cancer research and access to care for
everyone around the world.

But if people like us don't stand up, these leaders won't pay attention.

Thanks so much!

P.s. I love you mucho.


I'm Too Young For This!