Carolyn Thomas of HeartSisters wrote a great piece yesterday entitled “I went from the driver’s seat of my life to the trunk” about the experience of confronting a life changing diagnosis. She writes of Jamia Crockett being diagnosed with Multiple Scleroisis in 2005:
“In my life experience, being a ‘patient’ comes from a place of weakness, with vulnerabilty and no control. And I’m a Type A personality in control of my surroundings, so when the diagnosis of MS was thrust upon me, I quickly rejected it and disconnected myself from the doctor.
“I went home and had a sandwich.”
“I moved from the driver’s seat of my life and slipped into the passenger’s seat. I relinquished my type-A personality. I was now this small little person inside of a huge life that was filled with something that I didn’t know how to fight.”
As the doctor continued to give me more clinical information, I moved again from the passenger seat of my life to the back seat of my life. MS was driving the car now, I was but a mere passenger on a journey to nowhere.
“I finally moved once again to another place in the car that was my life. I was now in the trunk. A small dark place. No way in . . . no way out . . . sad and tragic. MS was in total control and I was curled up deep inside myself with nowhere to go.
“I went from the driver’s seat of my life to the trunk!”
This analogy hit home in a big way. My breast cancer diagnosis put a definite crimp into my 3.5 GPA ways and while I didn’t spend much time in the trunk, I have sure spent the better part of the last two years in the backseat, feeling that I wasn’t in control of my world. Doctors appointments, examinations and tests dominated my calendar rather than social engagements and mini-adventures. Reading about the experiences of others and entering the world of support groups dominated my social world. On top of a challenging work environment–where teachers are not encouraged to put themselves first–medical appointments had to take precedence. Breast cancer–reading about it, learning about it, learning how to live with it–pushed many of the other important things in my life to the background.
That is why something like heading back to Michigan on the train in June was such a big deal. I was flipping off cancer and asserting control.
As I sit in our beautiful sun room on a warm NOLA day, I realize that in the past 3 or 4 months, I’ve been reclaiming that front seat more and more. Maybe not always in the driver’s seat, but at least I’m feeling like a co-pilot who is able to weigh in on the direction I am headed–and can enjoy the view.
It’s strange. People are often surprised that I didn’t have a higher gpa in high school, college or grad school. I averaged 3.2-3.7 (except the last semester of each when I earned a 4.0) but was also involved in a few other things as well. Swim team, golf team, residence life, campus organizations, and employment all factored into my academic experience and I tended to thrive juggling many interests.
I realize that this crazy teaching/coordination schedule that I’ve gotten myself into this fall would have been impossible to maintain a year ago, but because I’m getting back to my Type A-/B+ personality, I’m in the mix.
And not a bad mix it’s been. In the past month or so, I…
•chaperoned a group of students to see an evening opera of “The Vampire” at the Mahalia Jackson theater. Excellent performance and beautiful night.
•embarked on a trip to Houston for International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge training at Rice University (I’ll give the low down on that fascinating class and the training in another post). I wonder how long my students could sit in a lecture hall like this one and pay attention?
•spent two days in Baton Rouge at a training for administrators (my school loosely defines department chairs as members of the administration) on evaluations. A let-down after the Houston training, but at least I was able to see a few sites around Louisiana’s state capitol, such as the Huey Long statue, the capitol building and the Old State Capitol.
•walked with Terry in a very wet Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk at the University of New Orleans.
•dressed up for Halloween
•supported my students during Spirit Week (especially my awesome seniors!)
•hosted friends from Michigan who came in for Voodoo Fest at New Orleans City Park. The weather for this year’s festival was gorgeous and the opening night concert of Pearl Jam was truly magical.
And The Cure playing closing night was pretty amazing as well. Here’s a quick clip:
•spent a day putting a stack of empty flower pots to work–with the help of a wonderful garden center here in New Orleans called Urban Roots.
•and managed to write 20 blog posts! While not quite the 31 I set out to write in October, I’m still happy that I at least made the attempt and was able to spend some time reflecting on where I was a year ago–when I felt that I was stuck in the trunk.
So, that’s how things are looking from my front seat. And yours?