Monday, August 16, 2010

I Had Cancer

I had a rough week last week. Tuesday my wife and I took our two youngest children to get their back to school shots. My wife had also made an appointment for me because she was worried about a mole on my shoulder that had gotten significantly bigger in the last year. Wednesday I had surgery to remove a very large piece of skin and the mole.

Both the nurse practitioner on Tuesday and the dermatologist on Thursday were convinced I had melanoma. Honestly, the dermatologist really scared me. She was visibly shaken when she saw the mole. I am pretty sure that when the doctor is worried enough that the patient shot full of Novocaine notices the prognosis is pretty bad. She told us we would find out on Monday what the pathologist found. She explained that I was likely looking at biopsies and all sorts of other unpleasant things.

Saturday I received a call from the dermatologist. She quickly explained that she had gone into work and checked the fax machine. She saw the report from the pathologist and wanted to let me know that although the mole did have melanoma, it was in situ  which means that it was contained in the skin removed and I would not have to have biopsies or other horrible procedures. Before she hung up she told me I needed to go home and celebrate with my family.

There is no way for me to explain how the shock that I felt after meeting with the dermatologist affected me. I virtually shut down any thinking about the upcoming school year. I went in to school on Thursday and Friday, but spent less than an hour both days because I couldn't focus on any work. The only thing I could do to get cancer off my mind was by diverting myself by watching movies at home. I am still not back, I have no idea what I will be doing my first two days of school. School starts in three days.

I had the support of caring medical professionals, my wife, and my family, but I still couldn't function. Today I was thinking about my students and all the major, life altering situations they face: divorce, death of loved ones, neglect, and abuse. Most of them don't have the support system in place that I was fortunate to have. What hubris we show when we expect them to continue to work.

It is time for us to reflect on our tough times and how they affected us. We need to make sure we show compassion for students going through stressful situations. We need to be part of their support system.

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