I watched a lot of TV growing up. It wasn’t that my parents weren’t interested in me or that I was terribly unathletic (although I was terribly unathletic), I just really enjoyed it. Being a kid of the 80s and 90s really set me up for some quality television. More on that at another time. Really I wanted to focus on not my favorite show, but a show that came to mind to me this week. Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood was one of the oddest shows ever made. Really lets be honest the puppets were terrifying. They were something out of a horror movie and the voices they had were equally disturbing. Really the big draw of the show was not the puppets and other characters, but Mr. Roger himself. The way that he introduced himself to his audience. He always made you feel comfortable and welcome. Then he spoke words that were just for you. Made you hear them, not by force, but because you wanted to hear them. That’s when I heard about being kind to others, sharing, lending a helping hand, and that hard word to understand, empathy. Another key thing that Mr. Rogers said is listed in a small book I have on my desk at school. Its a book of quotes by Mr. Rogers and on the front is a mirror and the words, “You are Special.” I think I got this book as a graduation gift. I still look at it and smile today, because I mean how can’t you smile at that. Well in that book is a quote that goes something like this:
“Sometimes it is not a sign of weakness when you ask for help….sometimes it is a sign of strength.”
I don’t know if I have ever been the kind of person that liked to handle things alone. I have always been the one to want to have someone there with me through every situation. I like companionship and friendship. However, I am one stubborn kid. I hate to be told no and thats not possible. I also don’t like to be taken care of. You can ask my parents. I hated to be told what to do. For instance, if I was supposed to clean my room it had to be on my terms. I didn’t want to be told now was the time to clean. I wanted to clean in Bryce’s time. Same thing with getting out of bed in the morning. I wanted to get up when I wanted to, not when anyone else wanted me to. This obsession has overflowed into my classroom. Not that I have the most organized room in the world, but my process is set and my way of distribution and grading and leading class is perfect for my room. I love it. All of this is leading up for me to tell you that this week was the worst week of my year.
It started off just fine. All the problems arose on Tuesday at lunch. See my “bad days” after chemo are typically the Tuesday and Wednesday directly after treatment. This Tuesday saw the arrival of another migraine episode. I really hate migraines. I used to suffer from them a lot more in high school and college, but they have only just resurfaced again since chemo. Migraines are very elusive things. No one really knows why they happen or how to effectively stop them. Everyone who suffers through them like me have some tricks of the trade to handle them. Sometimes these little aids help and sometimes they just do nothing. Really nothing works well to stop the pain. A migraine means I am out for the next 3-4 hours. And there is nothing I can do to stop it. The most frustrating part is that a migraine looks like nothing to the common bystander. They see no physical pain besides that which you show on your face. No one around you really knows the pain you are going through except you. At least when people see someone break a leg they aren’t wondering if the guy is faking it. With me I am always like, “I have a migraine.” But I feel like people hear me say, “my head hurts a little bit.” I wish the pain I felt was visible on the outside, like my head was bulging or something. Here is how my migraines start:
First, one of my eyes, usually my right eye begins to have blots of my vision missing. I can’t focus, my vision begins to blur, and I lose a bit of depth perception. It is almost like I lose sight out of my eye with it being completely open. As my vision comes back, a slight ache begins above my left eyebrow. My vision comes back completely, but the pain is becoming greater. I begin to sweat from the stress and strain. My words start to slur and stumble. I can’t figure out what I am trying to say. The pain is now so great that it is all I focus on. Light hurts to look at. Sound begins to feel like it is bouncing in my skull. I have to run. Nausea sets in. All I want to do is rip the pain out. Nothing makes the pain subside. And there I twist and turn for hours until I either throw up all that is in my stomach and fall asleep or I get medicine that knocks me out before the nausea is done. Laying in the dark with an ice pack on my forehead helps, but it is no match for the pain. And there I am waiting for the pain to subside.
That scene was my Tuesday afternoon. That scene was my Wednesday most of the day. That scene was my Thursday afternoon. Each day I tried a different medicine approach. Each day the medicine failed to help. Every day I woke up feeling good and went to school to teach. Every day I felt my vision begin to “short out” and I knew what was coming. After three days of nausea, headaches, and frustration, I took Friday off just in case. I took the day slow and tried to pick up the pieces of my mess of a week. We found out that migraines really weren’t usual chemo side effects. So that means I am unique….yay. Another theory might be that the migraines are caused by anxiety brought on by the chemo. Also I have two more treatments left and if this is a sign of things to come, I really dread the last two trips. But I can’t think like that for the anxiety in me might explode. All I know is that I am ready for the end.
I really had to learn that lesson from Mr. Rogers this week. I could not have made it through this week alone. I needed help. I needed my wife to fix me the best ice pack ever made and hold it on my forehead while I slept. She also covered up windows in our bedroom to block the light out. I needed my fellow teachers to step in and take care of my students that I had to leave in the middle of the day. Again I am reminded of how amazing it is to have willing and able people around you who care about you. I had to sit down and swallow my pride and say, “I can’t do this.” I think Mr. Rogers is right. It is harder sometimes to say you need help.
So many people ask me all the time what can they do and I always say, “oh nothing,” or “just pray.” The fact is that it is so much harder to accept the gift of help. We are such selfish beings. We think we can do it all, but the truth is that we really can’t. So thanks everyone for stepping up and saying, “let me do that.” This week, I really couldn’t have done it without you.