Kicking Cancer's Butt
Recently, a friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am writing this for her to let her know that she has to have hope that it will turn out OK.
A few years back, before I opened the B&B, I took a sabbatical from my high school teaching job in Chicago to work on a graduate degree st the University of Illinois.. No sooner had I started the program in September then something suspicious showed up on my mammogram. On October 9th (my birthday). I ended up writing this experience into my first memoir. Heres an excerpt from that chapter:
Operatic Divas and Naked Irishmen, chapter One ( an excerpt from Chapter 2)
...My one year Sabbatical began in September almost three years before. I registered at the University to work on an advanced degree. Since the Board of Education required a complete physical every few years, I made an appointment at my clinic to do it before classes started. A couple of days after my appointment, the clinic called saying they found something suspicious on my mammogram. They suggested a biopsy. I put it off until October and finally went in as an outpatient on my birthday. The results were not good and I was told I needed a lumpectomy and probably radiation and/or chemo. I had stage one breast cancer
I did not quit school and go into cancer treatment hibernation. I continued as planned. Every day, for eight weeks, I went to the Michael Reese Cancer Center for radiation in the early morning, took classes at the university in the afternoon, and worked as a teaching assistant, in the evenings. The radiation was scary to me, so to help myself through the fear and anger, I drew pictures of "The Radiation Team from Hell" on motor cycles, wearing helmets and goggles, looking fierce and coming after me. I pasted them on the wall over my dissertation desk. I would talk to them disparagingly every day. It had the effect of diffusing their power over me, a technique used by psycho-therapists with patients who have panic attacks.
My cancer was only stage 1, so fortunately they got it all with the lumpectomy and I hadn‘t needed chemo. After that year of school and radiation, I treated myself to the summer in Africa. It was very expensive, but I never regretted it.
Africa did it for me. It took me away from the angst of a year of learning, teaching, and cancer. It also helped with the depression that came once that year of stress ended.
When it was over, my mental state had plunged.
Africa was hauntingly beautiful, inspiring, and fascinating. I went on Safari, a gorilla trek, and sight seeing tours…from Kenya to Tanzania. to Lake Kivu, Zaire, and Rwanda. Over that summer, my state of mind gradually stabilized. When I returned to Chicago, I was ready for another year of teaching high school...
*Note: The following poem is about the anger I felt being violated by a huge x-ray machine.
the great mitosis
to stop it
on a bed of plaster
arm raised high
from the room
through the glass
enamored with chocolate
in a candy shop.
this is not
a candy shop I shout
as rays invade
this is not a candy shop
a hissing pierces
ridding my body of
my aching arm
to fall swinging
at my side.
a minute longer
and the throbbing
seek me out
in dark of night
while I lay sleeping
in my bed
and yet instilling
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