Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Shrinking Circle

A couple of months ago, I posted a piece to my personal blog in which I explained how I've experienced growing and expanding circles of people since Chloe's diagnosis.

I'm feeling like it's time to shrink my circle again, but also feel like we need to share with you, our much larger circle, what's going on.  Last week I came to the difficult decision that I need to take a short leave of absence from my teaching position.

Christa and I have sort of struggled with how much of our personal journeys to put in this place that has become, more or less, "Chloe's Care Pages."  We've made a lot of our family journey quite public, but now that we're struggling with some things personally, we're questioning how much to put out here.  Yet, in the end, the health of each of us individually contributes to the health of our family collectively.

For the past couple of months, probably since Chloe was inpatient at DeVos the first weekend in October, Christa and I have been running with a deficit - sleep, energy, patience, and the like.  Since Christa works half time she doesn't have the opportunity to take a family medical leave, so I knew if one of us was going to take extended time off from work it was going to be me.  Many different people from different parts of my life have encouraged me to take the time off, but my standard refrain has been "I just need to make it through parent-teacher conferences, then it will be okay." 

About two weeks ago I woke up with a tightening in my chest and a slight cough. I thought I was getting a cold as it continued through the week until I ended up with a minor panic attack while driving to work on Friday morning.  That confirmed what I had been thinking in the back of my mind, too much stress.  The thought of rescheduling my 26 parent-teacher conferences that were held last Monday and Tuesday was too much, so I just pushed through.  The tightening in my chest disappeared for the weekend, but returned about an hour before conferences began last Monday.

Tuesday morning I realized that I had almost made it through conferences, my goal for the past months, but that it wasn't going to be enough.  When I finally admitted to myself that I can't keep this up, the tears began to flow and wouldn't stop.  I held it together through the evening of talking with my students' parents and found some time to talk with my principal after my last conference.  As I expected, she was very understanding and encouraged me to take the time.

I'm finding there is a great deal of guilt that goes along with needing to say that I just can't do this -- keep up with family+cancer and work together.  Yet, in the end, I know that this is what I need to do.  I need to be able to feel that I can spend time with one of the kids when they request it, instead of putting their requests off while looking for available time, which doesn't come.  I need to know that I can give Christa and our relationship the time she/it needs right now as this seems to be "mile 20 of the marathon" and we've hit the wall.

A couple of decades ago, my great aunt Ebba (from whom Chloe gets her middle name) said to me:
"Where would we be without prayer?"
On that note, please pray for...
  • Chloe, that she continues to heal from the effects of the chemotherapy that she received last week.  This dose hit her pretty hard and she's been tired and hasn't wanted to eat.  Pray also for her to mentally be able to keep this up for a couple more months.  The trips to GR have lost their appeal to her and she and I will be there by 8:30 AM again tomorrow morning...
  • Henri as he continues to heal from his mono and seems to be needing a lot more of our attention than usual. 
  • Martha as she deals with feelings of jealousy and has told us "I wish I had cancer so that I could..." more than once in the last few weeks (and patience for us so we can just listen and not get upset when she says that).  
  • Christa as she works to deal with feelings that have been locked away over the past five months and comes to grips with the fact that we have two more months of this marathon.
  • Me as I shift gears and "work" to support our family in a myriad of ways.  Specifically, I need to slow my brain down (hopefully that will allow me to sleep, which I haven't been doing), focus on one thing at a time, and get out for a run more than once a week in an effort to reduce the abundance of stress that I've been carrying the past few months. 


Cory Timmer said...

Praying often for rest and whatever else you need...

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

Mark, Cory, and the Timmer girls

Jen Brouwer said...

While I know Jake will miss you, I am thankful you know when to hit the pause button to take a break. We do pray for your family, we are part of your prayer warrior team.

jcamenga said...

My prayers continue for you and your family.

Renee Schuur said...

So glad you made this decision!! I will continue to pray for you and each member of your precious family!!
P.S. tell Martha she did great in her Video ( on the porch), my girls (4and7) loved it too!!

Anna said...

Praying for you all. Panic attacks are scary! You really did need to do this.

Amy Devanney said...

Great decision to take care of yourself and your family. We pray for Chloe every night. Thank you for your specific prayer requests. We will add those. My heart is with you.
Amy Devanney