Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Dark Days Brightened by My Students

The past week has been extremely hard for me. 

Just getting over some malady that kept me in bed a week and then being diagnosed with a light case of shingles, I pushed to get myself ready to teach a Creative Writing class beginning June 6. 

The days leading up to June 6 were dark. I could not focus on anything but the health of Kathryn Byer, who was in the hospital, first in ICU, then on the oncology floor and finally I was told she was in a Hospice Situation as cancer raised its ugly head, and she was too weak to win the battle.

I don't know if the fact that Kay had Lymphoma made it harder for me. Barry had that kind of cancer. He was told by the local oncologist, "If you have to have cancer, this is the best one to have. We can manage it with chemotherapy but you can enjoy your life."

Our Poet Laureate Emerita, Kathryn, was told the same thing. When she told me that a few months back, my heart sank. Those words frightened me more than you can imagine. I wanted to say, "Go to Duke where they have done new and outstanding research on Lymphoma. Don't do what we did."

But I didn't want to frighten her or over-react to her diagnosis. After all, I was not there when she spoke to her doctor.  After Kay's passing I saw where her sister-in-law posted on FB that the family was reeling with the shock of her death so suddenly when they had been told just what Barry and I were told. No one was prepared for her passing this quickly and with no warning.

As much as I hate cancer, I hate the way some oncologists make patients feel that they can fix everything with the same basic protocol used on everyone. I remember one of Barry's doctors, not an oncologist,  saying to us when we expressed that we felt we were rushed into chemo before we knew the options we had, "That is his job. That is how he earns his living, by giving chemo." 

Just as Kathryn's family says on Facebook, I say don't be passive about your care and your treatments. Ask for a Pet-Scan to see the progress being made or not made during your treatments. Don't rely on the doctor's word that you are doing OK. 

Barry had a Pet Scan after he finished his round of chemo and the doctor said the tumor was very small now and he was 98 percent cancer free. So they would not do any more chemo at this time. Barry was dismissed for three months and during those three months the cancer grew so rapidly that it killed him. I wish we had insisted on tests each one of those three months. I wish we had gone where research was being done on his kind of cancer, and I wish we had checked more carefully the local doctors. 

As patients we learn but seems the doctors never learn. They do the same things over and over again. 

Tuesday was a brighter day for me. My class is delightful and filled with writers who are motivated. Some of them are in the midst of writing books. I was told by a new person to my classes that I was a good teacher and the class was very interesting. I needed that. I felt I was only half a teacher as the other half of me was just not here. 

Today I see many wonderful tributes in newspapers and on Writers Digest online for Kathryn Stripling Byer. Such an outpouring of love everywhere you look makes me smile for her. It somehow lets in the light - just a little bit.


Elephant's Child said...

I am glad that some lightness came into your life.
Cancer is hard. For the patient and for those that care about them. And sometimes doctors get things so very wrong.
Four weeks to the day after we found out my father had cancer we were at his funeral. And years later the shock still reverberates.

DJan said...

I am so sorry for your loss, although I knew little about her. I agree that we must be our own advocates when we get sick and not have too much faith in the doctors. And I am very glad to learn that you are enjoying your class so much! :-)

Glenda Council Beall said...

Thank you, my faithful friends, EC, I can't imagine how difficult that was to have cancer take your father in just four weeks. We never get over that shock.

Djan, most of us learn the hard way to depend on ourselves when we get sick. My history is filled with doctor's mistakes with my loved ones. I don't think I would live if I were sent to a hospital where my care would be completely out of my hands.
Have a good week. I appreciate you so much.

Far Side of Fifty said...

My sympathy. Good friends are hard to come by and harder to lose to cancer.
I hope your bout with shingles is bearable .

Glenda Council Beall said...

Thanks so much, Far Side of Fifty.
My shingles seemed pretty tame considering what I've heard from others. My chiropractor said I didn't have shingles and was misdiagnosed, but he couldn't tell me what it was. But I am all better and had a wonderful day today. A great massage with hot stones eased away all my tension and painful joints.
I am a huge fan of non-medical methods of healing.