When ICE failed and my treatment schedule moved on to Brentuximab, Z told me I could go back to work. There was no point in lounging around the house using up my sick time when I could feasibly go back to work and my ‘normal’ routine. I didn’t need to worry about nasty side effects (that I rarely got anyhow) or having to don my very fashionable mask when my white blood cell count dipped to nothing. So in other words, I could get back to my life or at least this version of my life that was occasionally littered with reminders of my cancerous status. If it weren’t for my bald reflection in the mirror, there are days that go on like any other and I almost forget that I have Hodgkin’s and am in fact sick. If I wear my ‘hair’ I don’t look sick. Some of my students thought the substitute had lied to them about my cancer status, based on my appearance, until I confirmed that it was in fact true. I even went an entire week without having to see a single doctor or having my port accessed for blood work. An entire week… I hadn’t gone a whole week without an appointment since I was diagnosed in March. It was a great week and one that did actually feel normal!
It was nice getting back to work, I love my colleagues. They have been nothing short of supportive since this process started. I have been flooded with much appreciated well wishes, prayers, and reminders to stay strong. I attributed most of these sentiments to be directed at my cancer, but it is possible I needed them to be directed at getting back to the grind. Returning to my full time teaching duties has been an adjustment for myself and my students. My two sets of eighth grade classes had not had the privilege of knowing me prior to this and well let’s just say they prefer the substitute who isn’t quite as strict nor gives as much work. My freshmen were in agreement with the eighth graders but they were prepared for me, because many had had me before or were at least forewarned by my reputation within the building. Needless to say, the shift has been frustrating on both ends. And once again, if you are under the impression that these students are at all sympathetic or better behaved because of my cancer status, you are mistaken. I suppose that’s a good thing especially when trying to get back to “normal”.
People are always asking about my energy level and while I too may have had some slight concern about that when I decided to return to work, it has not been an issue. I was never one to stay up late even before cancer. So sure I may turn into a pumpkin around 9:00, but that has been true for the last 10 years. As far as work goes I have no problem keeping up. Treatment weeks are a little tricky. The Neulasta shot still causes some mild bone pain but with Brentuximab it seems to cause annoying headaches for the 24 hours after. I attempted to work through those but was unable to ignore the fever side effect of Brentuximab that kept me out of work this past Friday. While some might find that of concern, I was elated, maybe it means that this one is actually working for a change. I won’t know until Halloween when I ironically will get to glow under the radioactive lights of a PET scan. If Brent works and there is no evidence of disease (NED) and I am cleared in complete remission (CR) I am off to Boston for tests, the harvest, and the auto stem cell transplant all before Thanksgiving. But in the meantime, I intend to keep working, grading papers, and spending my free time enjoying life with my family, friends, and boyfriend.