No longer a GA, and I’m okay

I haven’t blogged anything because almost every aspect in my life has been unsettled since Thanksgiving.  My constants have been the love from God and my family and friends.

Short version:

  • I had a cancer scare.  I’m okay.
  • I had to have surgery over break.  I’m still healing.  I’m okay.
  • I resigned as a graduate assistant.  I’m okay.
  • I’m still enrolled in classes.  I’m okay.
  • I have professional opportunities in the pipeline.
  • I have supportive friends, family, fellow students (see friends and family), and professors.
  • I have more time to take care of myself and my family.
  • I’m going to be better than okay.

Long, disjointed version:

Let me first say that, looking back, I kicked ass last semester.  GA work had been either feast or famine.  I had a heavier workload than normal during the week before and the week of finals.  I didn’t do as well as I wanted to on one of my final projects.   I underestimated the scope of the project and ran out of time.

That being said, I accomplished the following:

  • Worked my hours.
  • Got all final projects in early or on-time.
  • Made it to my daughter’s winter concert (worked on final exam in the lobby)
  • Got everything done/in/packed up for my first biopsy the Thursday of finals week.
  • Got straight As.

A  b lump in the road.

I normally do not do breast-self exams.  I will never skip them again.

By sheer luck, I noticed a large, marble-sized lump on my upper left breast over Thanksgiving break.  I was able to get in to the breast center within the next two weeks to have a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound.  After three docs looked at my boobs and pics of insides of my boobs – they came to the conclusion that… they couldn’t agree.   The mass was was large (robin’s egg) and in an area that my normal mammogram probably missed last year.  So, they wanted to perform a needle biopsy just to be sure of what they were seeing and to, quite frankly, cover their butts in case it was cancer.  The earliest they could get me in for the needle biopsy was the Wednesday of finals week.  I asked if one day made a difference because I would be on a travel restriction for four days afterwards.  (It didn’t.)  So, I scheduled the biopsy for Thursday.  I’d work my 20 hours, get all my schoolwork done, and be free to get poked and get ready for the holidays.

The biopsy took more out of me than I thought it would.  Not only was it emotionally and physically draining.  Sticking a needle in it inflamed the area – the lump doubled in size and started pressing on my chest more than it already was.  I also had a horrible allergic reaction to the dressing and broke out in blisters that looked like chickenpox/shingles.

Then, the results came in.  Inconclusive.  The tissue type didn’t match what the mass looked like and where it was.  I was sent to the surgeon the very next day and a lumpectomy was quickly scheduled for Dec. 30th.   I don’t remember much about the surgery or the couple of days afterwards.   The surgeon called a week later and said that the tumor was benign and that she would talk with me at my follow-up appointment (which was this past Wednesday).

Fast forward.  I’m getting to where I’m not in pain all the time, but I still have problems sleeping and bending over – and a sharp pain at times.  I didn’t call the doc because I already had the follow up scheduled.  It’s now time to go back to school.  I drive to Muncie on Monday  morning and by the time I get to school, I am wiped.  I felt every bump along I-69 and every pothole on SR32/67. I need a pain pill but I can’t take them because they make me sleepy and loopy.  I e-mail to request a meeting about the GA.  I’ll meet with the doc on Wed and give them an update.   If nothing else, thank them for their help and give a status update that I will have some appointments to work around.  I come back on Tuesday and Tuesday night, I’m in tears.  I’m hurting, I’m exhausted.  I can’t focus on studying.

Wednesday – I found out why I’m not back to normal yet.  I’m okay, but I’m not healing properly.  I have pulled stitches, a hematoma, and deep tissue damage from the surgery.  Oh, the sharp pain is a popped stitch.  It will dissolve, but it feels like a sliver of glass right now.  The tumor was the size of a small chicken egg and very deep.

On Thursday, it took me three hours to make the drive to Muncie and get settled.   I had to pull over due to nausea and was so shaky and sick when I got to school that it took me about 45 minutes to get to a point where I could work.

The meeting was quick and gracious.  I can’t do the commute, at least for a bit.  I can’t work from home. I can’t, unfortunately, “volunteer” my services  (there was no way I was going to let my profs get behind on projects – pay or no pay).  I was going to need to work more anyway to pay off my medical bills and I have some opportunities to pursue. We agree that I should resign – effective immediately.  It was a difficult conversation, but a good one and I have nothing but admiration and respect for our department chair and administrator.

Filler:  Changes

If everything had stayed stable at the time I started the program, I’d still be there.  Things just got more complicated.   My ex ran all of the logistics for the kids last term and has a new job with retail hours.  When he got the job, I changed my schedule so I would not be on campus three nights per week – even though it got me off schedule for my own research and degree.  That’s okay—I filled up with practical, online courses.  I also reached out to my network about possible opportunities after spring semester and I may have a part-time job offer (in the field), with benefits.  AND—the company did a report on last term wants me to do some work for them too.  I need the money because we have a high-deductible insurance plan. So, my having my plan B, C, D, and E in my back pocket, I think I’m going to be okay.

So, today, it’s homework and sleep catch up, grocery shop and celebrate my baby girl’s 12th birthday.

I’m going to be better than okay.  I would not have traded the last semester for anything – even more sleep.  I can’t wait to see what’s on the road ahead.

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