On August 24, the morning of my 14th wedding anniversary, my father picked me up so I could go with him and my mother for my mom's first ever colonoscopy at age 65.
Before he arrived my mom called to tell me this was a complete waste of my day.
She couldn't have been more wrong.
Let's back up a bit. Three years ago my uncle (my mother's brother) died from colon cancer. It was a 5-year, hard-fought battle. One that was so emotionally gut wrenching that it left my mother too afraid to get herself checked despite all of us telling her to go.
Over the last couple years my mom consistently lost weight to the point that we thought she must have an eating disorder. I took her out to dinner and she had a couple french fries and a few sips of Dr. Pepper and nothing more. The following day she ate a bagel over the course of lunch and dinner. Her entire diet consisted of small amounts of complex carbs.
When she finally went for a physical, the doctor said she was so thin he could feel her aorta through her mid section. Then assured her she was right at her target weight. What?
The morning following her blood work (part of the routine physical) she was awoken at 5:30am and told to drive herself to the hospital.
She ended up needing 4 units of blood. That's half the amount of blood you should normally have in your system. She spent the night in the hospital and the doctors there didn't want her to leave without getting a colonoscopy.
She did contact the father of one of her former students who is a GI doctor - both the father and former student are GI doctors.
It just so happened that this doctor had run into her earlier in the summer. When they parted he said, "If you ever need me, please call."
So that's what she did. And he got her in for a colonoscopy within a week.
After the procedure, my father and I met him in the hall where he delivered the devastating news that she had a large, bleeding tumor. I don't remember exactly what he said but it ended with, "she took care of my son (as his kindergarten teacher) and now we will take care of her. It's only fair."
Leading up to the surgery, I honestly don't know who I prayed for more - my mom or her doctors.
My mother's former student was there after the surgery when he and his father let us know that everything went well.
It was amazing to see this circle of fate. He had taken care of her just as she had taken care of him.
Working While Receiving Cancer Treatment
Since my mother's recovery I have heard stories from several teachers who suffered from cancer while still working.
One teacher, a single mom worked every day. After school she would go for chemotherapy. Then come home and crash. Looking back she cannot believe she and her two boys made it through.
Another teacher I spoke to would rest in the nurse's office when she needed to, but continued working because her students gave her such a sense of purpose.
My son's second grade teacher fought her way through 7 breast tumors while never losing her kind disposition.
Back in the 1990s a Californian University did a study that showed that cancer was more prevalent in teachers. They never stated why. Is it the stress? The selflessness? The asbestos in classrooms? We don't know for sure.
All I can say is that I am absolutely blown away by the grit and stamina of teachers. You are an amazing force and inspiration. Your journey, your fight and the example you set for your students is one of the strongest lessons they will learn.
God bless you all!
If you know a teacher or loved one suffering from cancer and you want to send them a little gift to let them know they're not alone, check out the ultra-soft, faux suede Pocket Prayer for the Suffering.