Saturday, March 5, 2016

Surgical changes: Those who can, teach.

Most people, thankfully, think thoughts that are never said out loud. I can safely admit I'm one of those people who (usually) thinks before I open my mouth. I'd be surprised if you told me you've never encountered someone who seemingly spews their thoughts without putting it through some sort of social filter, asking him/herself "Should I really be saying this?" before orating. "Oh great," you're thinking, "this is about to turn into some sort of political tirade." Nope, I'm not going to go there. I am well aware that this is primary season and I do have political opinions, but this is not my platform for sharing them. Well, I'm about to write about my fierce commitment to public education, so if you consider that political (no, I will not be talking about vouchers or charter schools or taxes), I don't apologize, but feel free to stop reading.

I've already established that I'm not the same person I was pre-illness. To bring new readers up to speed, I recently had major, major surgery to remove a "low grade malignancy" from my pancreas (a large portion of my pancreas got the boot in addition to other digestive organs most of you still house in your bodies). I've dubbed my illness a "sort-of cancer," as it wasn't quite benign, though in the world of pancreatic cancers I got the super rare, relatively "good" and curable variety. My one year follow-up CT scan revealed "surgical changes" (duh), and nothing more tumor-related. 

I remember 48-hour-post-discharge appointment with my surgeon like it was last week, never mind that it was actually 13 months ago. My surgeon, the wonderful, kind, talented, and handsome Dr. Fabio Sbrana told me and my husband that the day he ordered my discharge papers (a Tuesday), he had told the nurses that I'd be back, meaning, he didn't think I was physically ready to go home and would be re-admitted, but he let me go because I was BEGGING to end my two-week stay at hotel "Surgical Telemetry Unit." But, that Thursday I walked, upright, mind you, into his office probably looking like hell, but looking ten times better than I had in the hospital. My determination to be home and healing kept me at home and healing. At this follow-up visit my main questions were about bile (if you're curious, ask, but I will spare the non-curious the green details), what I could eat, and my physical restrictions. I could eat pretty much anything I could stomach, and I didn't have any physical restrictions. Yes, I could pick up my giant two-year-olds (hallelujah!) a mere 16 days after my 11-hour-surgery, and, in fact, I could go running! I laughed, as I'm not a runner, but thanks, doc, for those "surgical changes" that turned me into a runner. Joking aside, his point was I couldn't do any physical damage to my surgery with physical activity, and in order to heal, I needed physical activity. What wasn't mentioned were the emotional repercussions of undergoing such a traumatic event. I've mentioned my resulting depression and anxiety, but that's well-managed. I've explored how this experience has allowed me to admit my like of Phil Collins, Lorna Doones, and tattoos. Those who see me everyday (who knew me before my illness) have noticed yet another change, the weakening of my "filter." I'll joke and say Dr. Sbrana removed my social filter along with half my pancreas (and somehow made me a runner), but this change is all emotional resulting from the physical.

When I publicly admitted I got a tattoo (gasp!), I assured my reader that this change came about, in part, because I don't really care what you think of me anymore. While the weakening of my filter is related, it's not because I don't care about offending others, it's because there are things I DO care so much about that I speak up much more often than I used to. 

If you know me IRL (in real life) you know that I've been a public school teacher for the past 10 years. You might also know that my great-grandparents were CPS (Chicago Public School) Teachers in the 1930s through the 1960s. Several of my aunts and uncles are teachers. My sister-in-law is a teacher. I have firefighter relatives, my father helps run a large, successful park district, my grandfather retired from military, and I'm married to a public defender. Public service is kind of a family thing. 

I work in a struggling school district (as defined by the great state of Illinois), but I'm a proud supporter of my school district. We don't suck, really. We're not unsafe, really. We have some star educators, really. The wider I cast my social net, I've realized that some people think poorly of my school district for reasons beyond our struggling test scores (I won't even go there...). Admittedly, the community which houses my school district is a very diverse place, racially, socially, and economically, but I consider this an asset rather than a hindrance. Most of my coworkers have been in social situations where someone bashes our school district, sometimes unknowingly an employee is in his/her midst, but sometimes knowingly. My first reaction when this happens is to speak up. I don't teach where I teach because I can't get a job in a "better" school district. I don't live where I live (I live in district, people!) because I can't afford to live elsewhere. I believe in what I do, and I believe in where I do it. I go to work every day as a small attempt to better the lives of children through education, my small contribution to this life. I bring my own children to daycare rather than stay at home with them because I really want to make their world a better place, and for me that means teaching and defending public education and public school students by way of example. (Not to mention they drive me nuts. I say that with love, of course.) 

Like all teachers, I'm not a fan of the expression, "Those who can't, teach." This is a horrible, horrible thing to say about people who spend their minutes, hours, days, weeks, months (even the summer ones!), and years teaching our children. I teach because I can, and I teach because I want to. I teach for my kids, even though they aren't in school yet. I don't apologize for my increasing willingness to speak up for public education. My surgeon told me I can now run, but I have yet to do so. Though he didn't prepare me for the emotional changes after surgery, this conviction to continue to do what I do (teach!) and talk about it (and defend, with evidence, when necessary) is a welcome change. After all, these guys are pretty worth my efforts (aren't they cute?).




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