Last Day of Summer Vacation

Last day of summer vacation.

It’s going to be challenging to go back to work tomorrow and see people who aren’t on Facebook and didn’t know about the cancer returning and chemo.

The inevitable “How was your summer?” question may pop up.

I am not going to say, “Well, five days after school ended I had a PETMRI scan, six days after I was told the cancer doubled and I was on the placebo of the trial. And the seventh day after school ended I began a heavy intravenous chemo which caused me to gain thirty pounds, lose my hair, feel nauseus, lose my taste, spend all day inside out of the sun, got a port put in my chest, my bones now hurt, and I didnt get to do anything I had planned all year on doing.

Other than that, it was good. How was yours?”

So I’m hoping people just say, “Hey Keri! Great to see you! Have a fabulous year!”

If asked, I’ll focus on the love sent to me strangers, support give me to me by friends, a summer of baseball and a championship, a summer son and a new family in our life, my amazing nurses and doctors and staff giving me tips and helping me through chemo, sunsets at the beach, magic fountain runs, giving room trips, full moon meditations, camelback, zip lines, tree top rope courses, a backyard night with magical breathing, and lots of hugs and love.

I spent the morning yesterday looking up bone pain remedies, food shopping and rallying, and by 3:00 pm I was able to get up and head into the pool for the first time in almost three weeks since the port has healed. It was the first time all summer the five of us were in the pool at the same time and it was lovely. My Tomcat Summer Son Joe texts me every Thursday to see how I’m doing at chemo, and said he wanted to come out to visit. He brought his brother with him last night, and we invited my mom and dad and robs parents. We had a lovely last minute barbecue, and I’m so glad I ended my summer with Joe. He had quite the experience here, and saw a family learn how to carry on during the hardest summer of our lives. He was a big part of it, and I remember saying to him the night before chemo started that he could leave if he wanted. I’ll always be grateful that he didn’t skip a beat and said he wanted to stay and help out. He is a special young man, and I’m so glad Quinn has a big brother figure to look up to.

Today I’m going to work on lesson plans and schedules and newsletter and bus list templates. I’m going to try and head to the Giving Room as it has been weeks since I’ve been there.

Tomorrow teachers and staff in my district head to school. We start with what I call the “Pep Rally”, bring food for the food pantry, then head to our buildings for meetings and set up. I’m also opening my classroom for my new batch of kinders to drop off supplies and ease any worries.

I’m still debating what color hair to wear tomorrow… pink? Silver? Brown? Blonde?

May today’s last day of summer be a long slow one, may i get all I need to get done today crossed off my list, and may I continue to heal.

In Jesus’s name, amen.



Empathy vs Sympathy

I’m in the detox bath and have taken sixteen supplements already, and wrote down about fifteen things I would like to do today as I gear up for school.

Do I know how to kick off the weekend or what?

My CA125 markers came back and dropped 3.3 more points. My oncologist said that because I’m in “normal range”, decreases will be harder to see.

I’ll take it.

Something came to me the other day that’s important to share.

It happened while watching John McCains funeral. I caught only a speaker or two, and turned it off after a few minutes of Joe Biden.

Don’t get me wrong, I have respect for how he carried on after so many life shocks in his life, but his eulogy made me upset.


Because he stood in front of the grieving family and told them he knew how they were feeling, how it was like being sucked into a black hole inside your chest, and it was all consuming. That the pain was sharp and so hollowing. That nothing can ease the pain. That in six months from now everyone else will have moved on but they will smell something or see something and feel the pain they felt the day he died.


He said other things too, nice things, but man…

When you are sucked into a black hole of grief, having someone narrate it and say just how awful it is may not be the thing to hear at that moment.

He was putting his experience of grief onto them.

Everyone is different.

Obviously, I think we all know the pain and heartache that comes with death.

Having people speak out and over you detailing just how horrible you should be feeling or they think you are feeling doesn’t help.

Same with cancer.

When people send cards or say, “This must be so hard, I don’t know how you do it.”, it makes you feel a little worse in the next moment.

You may have been having a great day, and suddenly your narrative is painted differently and you think…”Wait…Yes, it is hard. Wow. How am I doing it? This really sucks.”

But when people say, “How are you?”, you get to paint the narrative yourself.

People are storytellers.

Some people love to tell stories that portray themselves as victims, or stories that are sad, or even sadder than your story.

“Oh, you have cancer? My aunt had cancer. She died after a year. It was hard. Chemo was so rough on her….”

Some people tell stories that can fill you up.

“Oh, you have cancer? My aunt had stage four. She is still doing great after twelve years!”

Some people don’t tell stories, but instead sit next to you and just share your space.

Those are sometimes the best shared story moments.

Let’s try to stop saying, “You must be feeling so ______ right now.”…

And instead simply ask how people are feeling.

If you’ve never felt that way because you’ve never experienced whatever brought on the emotion, you’ll have something called sympathy, which is feeling sorry or sad for them.

Instead of saying, “I feel so bad for you…”, sometimes just saying, “I’m here for you” can be so much better.

If you’ve had the similar experience, then that’s called empathy. You’ve been in similar shoes… but not the same shoes, because everyone’s story is their own.

Instead of saying,”Oh, when I had chemo it was horrible. I was so sick and couldn’t work and man, I thought I was going to die”, it may be more helpful to say, “I had chemo too. How are you doing?”

I know Joe Biden meant well.

People usually do.

Words have power. They can either bring people down or lift people up.

And sometimes, no words are needed, and simply sharing space and sitting quietly can be beautiful and healing too.

Today I’ll try to cross items off my list, get Quinn an outfit or two for school, and maybe fix my cracked phone screen. It’s day three, and I’m hoping it’s an easy one.

Today may all of our words lift others up, and continue to heal.

In Jesus’s name, amen.



PS. Here is a great video from Brene Brown, who I absolutely love.