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elementary teacher cancer survivors elementary teacher cancer survivors

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Unread 08-28-2002, 10:53 AM
elementary teacher cancer survivors

I would love to hear from elementary teachers who are cancer survivors. I would like your views on whether you told your kids you had cancer or not. My situation is this: all the kids and parents know I had a serious illness and missed the first day of school plus a month. When I return, I will be getting radiation therapy and I am sure feeling its effects, maybe bathroom dashes and extreme fatigue. I wish I could tell them I have cancer and have to be careful to wash my hands and avoid germs, etc., but I wonder if that is too serious an issue with fifth graders. Please advise.
Wishing you the best of health,
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Unread 08-28-2002, 11:23 AM
elementary teacher cancer survivors

s Jenny

Can an RN with two nieces just finishing fifth grade offer an opinion?
I really feel honesty and openness are the best. My two nieces were ten years old and just getting ready to enter fifth grade when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. We all live in the same small town and one niece lives right next door. I had to receive chemotherapy and knew I would also soon be bald. I was very honest and open with them. When my hair started to free fall I shaved my head. The first time I showed the girls the bald head, I kinda chuckled first so that they would feel free to smile as well if it affected them that way.
Your fifth graders will soon grow to love you. It sounds like they already have a clue that something is up, since you missed the start of school. I would give them a general picture of what is happened and even use the cancer word. I believe if you try and keep it a secret, they will become fearful and may not even understand why. But at the same time you need to be open to their questions and comments.
Perhaps at back to school night, you could also update their parents
It really is an opportunity for you to pass along some important life lessons.
Best wishes to you.

Unread 08-28-2002, 12:59 PM
elementary teacher cancer survivors

Thank you for replying to my post, karenann. I tend to agree with you. Cancer has come up every year in my classes (this was before the summer, this was when I thought cancer would never happen to me because I have no family history!) Every kid seems to have a cancer story of some relative who either has or had cancer. They seem so eager to talk about it. We have also lost several students to cancer, a topic I cannot think about for more than a few seconds because it is so overwhelmingly tragic.
I am waiting with bated breath to see what kind of hormonal change I will undergo after radiation and as the post surgery weeks fly by. This is my third HRT-less post surg week, and so far I am in usual control of my self. I hope I will be calm and my normal self when I step back in to that classroom.
Continued excellent health to you!

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Unread 08-28-2002, 08:48 PM
elementary teacher cancer survivors

Hi Jenny,

I just wanted to let you know that I am going without hormones, too. My doctors have all said "no way" to HRT because of the endometrial cancer. I haven't had any real problem at all--a hot flash here and there that I can manage, and some trouble sleeping--but when I lie awake one night, I make up for it the next by sleeping like a rock. Lack of hormones hasn't affected my teaching at all. I have always been famous for my patience (former Special Ed. teacher here), so I guess it's my nature to be extra calm. The A/C in my classroom is so cold that if I'm having hot flashes at school, I sure don't notice! I do suffer from mental overload right now, but I attribute that more to changing teaching assignments than to lack of hormones. Also, I am still experiencing a lot of fatigue caused by radiation. I've been going like gangbusters since we started back on Aug. 14, and yesterday I cratered and stayed home. I expect that to slowly improve. I'm not going to discuss my illness with my second graders, but a few of their parents do know what's been going on and have been wonderful to volunteer to help me in any way. I had volunteer moms in the classroom the first two days of school to help with taking up supplies and checking out books, and now I have at least one mom who will come in 3 days a week if I need her. I am lucky in that I finished my external beam radiation the day before our staff development started, but it sounds to me like you have a good attitude and will be able to handle both radiation and school. Accept every offer of help from your fellow teachers and don't turn down a ride to your cancer center or a meal for your family. I've found that people want to do anything they can to help. Teachers are THE BEST at caring for each other!

Unread 08-29-2002, 04:07 AM
elementary teacher cancer survivors

Thanks for your very encouraging reply, Adrienne. (I chuckled at your comment about the mental overload. If my radiation causes me more, I probably won't notice the difference!) It is amazing how many individual differences there are to menopause in general. My mom went through it at age 40, and ended up getting a hysterectomy for I don't know what. This was decades ago. She and her neighbors complained all day about hot flashes, etc. That put huge dread on my mind, something that warranted their complaining so bitterly about. I had hot flash like symptoms for two days after I got back from the hospital; no more since then. I wake up every morning with my hair and the back of my neck soaking with sweat. I'll bet that's a menopause thing, right? Anyway, I sleep through it and even if I am at home I have been able to maintain a normal sleep schedule. I sure hope radiation won't change that.
Congratulations on your return to work; I know you are one dedicated teacher. Many happy years of teaching to both of us! I hope you keep posting when you can.
Unread 08-29-2002, 06:08 PM
elementary teacher cancer survivors

Hi Jenny...No one works in a germier place than me..I am a certified elementary teacher teaching Pre-K. I had a total hyst in April of this year and missed 6 weeks of school . I went back for the last 3 weeks. Most of the parents knew what was going on and were very supportive. The children, of course, new nothing except that Miss Rosalie had a bad tummy ache and that the doctor was going to fix it. When i returned to school the kids were great and kept asking how i was feeling. After my hair fell out, from the chemo, i had to wear a wig... One little girl came up to me and said, "Miss Rosalie, you got a hair cut and i don't like it!!" So much for "out of the mouth of babes"!!
The school that is work in also has a summer camp and i workd there all summer also. I will be returning to work next week and am really forward to it.
I guess that what i am trying to say is that if I had to watch out for every germ, i would not go outside the house. I will just tell everyone to please not sneeze on me..
Hope all works out with you.
Unread 08-29-2002, 06:39 PM
elementary teacher cancer survivors

Jenny, I had one "night sweat" during the recovery period after my surgery. I woke up soaking wet from my hair to my toes. I threw back the covers so the ceiling fan could dry me off, rolled over and went back to sleep. That was mid-June, and I haven't had another one. The lack of hormones may not be bothering me, but I've got one little chatterbox boy in my class that is definitely getting under my skin!!!

Unread 08-31-2002, 06:38 PM
back to school

Jenny, you may not be able to do pelvic radiation and teach too. The bowel problems and fatigue may be a little too much. I was told NOT to work. I'm sure you'll know what you're able to do. But please don't overdo. You need to keep your body working well in order to help the radiation work. By the third week, I would come home and sleep after treatment, then go to bed early that evening. When I went back to work I was still whipped. I would fight to stay awake until 8 at night. You may want to discuss this with your radiological oncologist.
As to telling the kids. I didn't say anything before my surgery and by the time I got back to work, everyone knew. I wish I had said something so they would all have known the total story. Instead, it was kept rather quiet. I think kids need to be able to tell you they hope you'll be well soon, or send a card, or give you a hug.
Whatever you are comfortable with will work for you. Remember your health is your first priority right now and you just need to get better!
Unread 08-31-2002, 07:28 PM
elementary teacher cancer survivors


So long as you are able to be comfortable and fairly optimistic about your diagnosis, I think honesty - even using the word "cancer" is really best. And I think that is especially true if you are going to be absent from the classroom for a while (and you may be now and again, even if you can generally work). You might even tell the children that if you are absent a lot in the near future it is because of your treatments, and not because of the disease itself.

When I was in 6th grade (in the dark ages ) There was a teacher who had (and survived) breast cancer. Everyone knew, she talked about it, parents helped, and we all learned a lesson in courage and honesty. In my daughter's preschool, a teacher had cancer, and she talked to her 4 year olds about it. My daughter was in the class and reacted just fine. This teacher worked all through her breast radiation and chemo, but only a 1/2 day, and the school provided an additional aid (actually parents made a schedule so there would always be more hands in the classroom).

Teachers are the best!!

Unread 09-01-2002, 03:49 AM
elementary teacher cancer survivors

Dear Dorrie and SusanL,
Thank you so much for your replies and support. When the time comes for me to do the radiation and return to school, I will update you how that's going. For now, the days at home keep ticking by...

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