Tuesday, June 26, 2012

This Summer's Activities

Thanks for a note asking where I've been. I'm pleased to report that it hasn't been because I am overwhelmed with work. I am not. I'm probably publishing less due to a slow loss of motivation caused by fewer and fewer comments (I have heard this may have more to do with the Google reader than a loss of interest).

In any case, I am doing 5 things this summer. I'm getting paid for 4 of them.

1. I taught a May Term course. It was an interdisciplinary course co-taught with a seasoned vet, and was entirely enjoyable. The students were diverse and engaged. The subject matter was familiar enough but new enough, and I learned a lot. Moreover, the work was nice: we met every day for 2 hours, I took lunch, prepped and graded in the afternoon. No evening work. One thing to focus on at a time. Ideal. (about $800 because I split the teaching)

2. I'm doing "Science Summer Camp" I've done this two years before, and written here and here about it. $1500 for four half-days of work and relatively little prep.

3. I have an independent study student taking a course I offered this spring. $500 for rearranging the course and sitting with him 2 hours a week for 8 weeks. Relatively little weekly prep.

4. Exploring sabbatical options. The proposal is due in September and they are competitive. In a talk with my Dean, she suggested that given this past few years' experiences, that I make getting a sabbatical and spending the full year living together with my husband my absolute top priority.

5. Writing up my research into a manuscript ($1500 scholarship grant). This has been really hard for me to focus on, for some reason. I am watching myself procrastinate daily and scold myself for not being more productive.

I'm also far more mellow about getting my kids to the daycare early in the morning. We explore, we play, we cuddle. It's been so very nice to have the lack of pressure in the AM.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

This might change everything.

My last few posts have been silly posts or exchanges from students. But a major theme of the last year has been how miserable I've been trying to do a more-than-full time job and be a part-time single Mom to two kids in diapers: one of whom wouldn't allow me to get more than three hours of sleep at a time. I had fallen deep into a cycle of self-pity, resentment, anxiety etc., I couldn't seem to feel happy, and believe me, I tried.

Something happened recently that may have shaken me out of that cycle.

I had a few gall bladder pains in the past few months that were relatively infrequent, and not excessively painful. I tolerated them because I knew I would need to have my gall bladder taken out, which is a relatively simple surgery. I was unafraid of the process, so took no swift action. Hub urged me to go to our family practitioner anyway, and "Doc" sent me to get an abdominal ultrasound. During the procedure, I watched the images, trying to learn from the procedure. With the right type of oblique questions, I got the techs to show me that there were no obvious stones. This seemed strange given my pains, but I waited to hear back from the family doc with the radiology report.

Doc's nurse followed up the nest day up by saying they found a lot of abnormalities, and that I needed an appointment with Doc in the next few days. That made me worried, and I tried to get her to tell me what the abnormalities were. She avoided it as much as possible until I firmly stated, "just. read. me. the. radiology. report. please". She assented and I took furious notes. I did what any biomedical Ph.D. would do and looked it up on Pubmed. The search terms brought abstracts with the same term, over and over: ductal cell carcinoma of the pancreas.

Pancreatic cancer.

Months to live. No surgical, chemotherapeutic, or radiological  treatment, only palliative treatments. 94% dead in 5 years. Most within a year. A swift and painful death.

I have 2 BABIES, and my confidence in my husband's ability to manage both grieving and taking care of them is pretty low. I journaled and prayed, begging God to spare my life. Let me raise my kids a little longer, let my husband grow stronger. PLEASE, Lord.

I was a terrified wreck from about 7 pm on a Thursday until seeing Doc on Friday at 1:30 pm.

A friend went with me to the Dr., because Hub was still away at work. In the exam room, I told her what I had read. My friend is a Nursing prof, and when I recited the radiology report to her, her face dropped. Doc walked in as I was weepily explaining to my friend that I wasn't ready to die yet. Though taken aback by the scene he encountered, he gathered the info and laid out some alternative hypotheses that were pretty convincing. He concluded, "If you were my wife, I wouldn't be worried yet", then sent me for an urgent abdominal CT.

By the time Hub got into town, he joined me at the hospital. I was no longer terrified, but still needed that X-ray report. After the CT, Hub and I held hands in the exam room as we waited and waited for the radiologist to read the image and get back to us. A nurse came in and began to clean up saying "all clear". We squeezed each others' hands and walked out of the hospital.

I cried a lot that night, from joy and emotional release.

When I woke up the next day, I prayed, read Scripture, journaled, and had a huge realization. There are two ways to look at what happened:
1.  I was never in danger and that's what I get for trying to self-diagnose. Haha, never do THAT again!
2.  I DID face death (at least psychologically), and was given new life. God DID spare my life, if you will.

I simply choose to view these days the second way. I have been given new life.

I feel transformed! (warning: schmaltzy section) I am grateful for each day. I am thankful for this life, even when girl wakes me in the middle of the night. I have a loving husband who supports me to the maximum of his capacity. I have a community that will care for me when I need it. I have the very rare treat of having a job with an employment guarantee for life, as long as I keep the quality of my work high. Lord, please let my attitude of gratefulness continue as it is right now.

This doesn't change the fact that my burdens are heavy. But I can make myself unhappier than necessary by coveting all of my friends' (seemingly) easier lives. I can dwell on my heavy burden, and fill each day with self-fulfilling prophesies. OR I CAN CHOOSE NOT TO. Thanks for ending the cycle and giving me the choice back, Lord.