Spinning The World On One Finger

I can’t remember anything specific about the end of July/beginning of August – I am pretty sure it was spent in a haze of chemo and clock watching. Mid-August caught us up in the hustle and bustle of work and life outside of our home.  Schools in the southern states (or rather, not in New England) tend to start earlier in the year than they do up north. When it was time for me to return to the classroom, Honey was just getting acclimated to his chemo. Although I was concerned about leaving him – this was more related to his state of mind than his actual health.

Teachers usually return to work a week or so before students. I went for training on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (T was back in childcare – his regular academic routine) and Honey was home – more than likely spending all day attached to his computer games. Things looked as if they were going to settle into a groove. I had a work schedule that I was kinda’ excited about. I was supposed to be co-teaching Algebra 1 all day – this would have been a perfect complement to having a husband with an illness. I would be doing something that I was already good at, something I wouldn’t have to do too much planning for and that would allow for me to take intermittent FMLA when Honey was wiped out from chemo without my students suffering too much for my absences,

Friday of that week was a banner day. That was the day that I was informed that the schedule I had expected to was not to be. Instead – I would be teaching a pilot program for online learning and resource high school math 1 and 2.  Not at all what I was expecting, but still manageable (I thought). Not being a co-teacher, meant that I would have to prepare my own classroom for learning and would not have the built in support when I needed to be out caring for Honey.  I left school a little bit late that day planning on having one last weekend with Honey, G and C before actually starting to teach again (at this point, our weekend custody schedules were not yet synched up).

The weekend was far too short. Saturday came and went in a haze of shopping during tax-free weekend and then it was Sunday. We got dressed for church (it is important to note that I dressed nicely – usually I just wear jeans) and went for our weekly dose of spiritual growth. Following services, Honey took G & C to pizza while I went home to read and be alone. Right about the time I started to wonder what was keeping them, I heard the kids coming in the yard. Enter G, enter C, enter Honey leaning on one of our friends as he couldn’t walk on his own. He’d had another seizure (remember – we had that one back in July) and they couldn’t get through to me because my phone volume was still turned off for church. He said it wasn’t a big deal – that this was just an affectation of the cancer and that we should wait before we take action. So, we waited. I watched as he lost the movement on the left side of his body. When his face went slack – I realized that this was no small issue. I thought he was suffering a stroke and called 911 for an ambulance.

Enter EMTs who also thought Honey was having a stroke, and who were clearly disappointed with me for not having called as soon as the seizure began. Nobody wanted to hear that I hadn’t had experience with cancer before – that I was following Honey’s lead; and frankly, in hindsight I can see their point. At the tim ehowever I felt they were berrating me excessively and unnecessarily. Before following the ambulance I called G & C’s mom to have her meet me at the hospital to get the boys. I still can’t imagine how stressfull it must have been for them to see their dad unable to drive and not to be able to get through to me to come help.

Fast forward to the local hospital ER. People were coming in and out of our curtained off “room” – the only thing I really remember is sending the billing guy away after I told him that I had only gotten off the phone with the MD Anderson switch board because I thought he was someone important. (I have a tendency toward bruskness when under stress – I blame it on being raised in New England – certainly folk brought up in the southern states have a more highly developed state of “nice” than we yankees.) Finally, Honey was admitted to the ICU. T’s dad had agreed to keep the boy child overnight and to drop him off for the first day of school the next morning. I spent the night sleeping in one of those horrible almost recliners next to Honey’s side – leaving him at 6:00 AM in order to get to my first day of school on time. Thank goodness I had worn nice clothes to church, because I was wearing the same outfit to the first day of classes.

I pulled up my big girl pants and did what I thought I had to do. Towards the end of the work day – when all of my classes were done – I filled my principal in on what was happening in my world and asked if I could leave early to be with Honey. I must admit that I derived a small sense of self-satisfaction when my new boss said that she would not have known anything was amiss in my world based on her observation of my class. I drove back to the hospital and spent a couple of hours there before I had to pick T up from childcare. And, no, it didn’t occur to me that I could have asked anyone else to step up and help me. I honestly thought that I had to be all things for all people. My husband, my son and my students all “needed” me. (I never said I had a diminished sense of my own importance) and for the first time, I couldn’t handle it at all.

I don’t remember how many days Honey was in ICU that time. I am pretty sure that I took a couple of days away from work. I also vaguely recollect feeling guilty that I wasn’t able to do all that I thought I should be able to do for everyone. I know that following this stay, Honey did not return to work – instead he took some sick time while we tried to figure out what we needed to do to keep it all together.


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