Back at school the following Monday I was pretty glum. I spoke to my Head Teacher and the head of HR and told them I was disappointed that my plan wasn’t going ahead.
I then re-read the letter Mr X had sent my GP, it was clear I had got the wrong end of the stick and misinterpreted how to think things through. The letter stated that the best option was a skin sparing mastectomy and to place a breast implant into the subcutaneous pocket to optimise cancer treatment and give options for a delayed reconstruction.
It didn’t mention my plan.
I became more anxious than I’d been before and left a message for the breast care nurses. You phone an answer phone number and leave a message and they phone you back. I was in school, in my office when the nurse phoned back. She was gentle and I told her I just didn’t understand why the surgeon wouldn’t do a bilateral mastectomy so she explained again that surgery carries risks and the priority had to be to remove the cancer. I didn’t feel as if I was being a brat in not getting my own way but what I considered safe and they considered safe were a country mile apart.
In teaching and in geography teaching in particular we plan ahead and mitigate for risk in the classroom and out. Every fieldwork or visit has to have a risk assessment, what could we do to minimise the impact of disaster and increase the safety of our students – it didn’t matter if you were doing an urban transect, analysing coastal defences or studying the velocity of a river you have a responsibility to identify potential hazards and solutions so that everyone stays safe. I felt I had a further responsibility to my year 13 A level students and got frustrated with some of the group when they didn’t bring their work in to be marked. I decided to tell them that my time was limited and if they wanted me to get their work assessed and returned to them for improvements they had to get it in as I wasn’t going to be in school for several weeks. One asked why and I just told them in a matter of fact, no drama way “I have cancer and need surgery”. They looked shocked and I wondered if I should have sugared the pill but they are young adults and needed to understand why I had to have their essays in order for them to maximise their marks and prepare for public exams.