68: Life goes on and back to oncology.

As my parents were more sorted life continued in the summer term.  Instead of weeks until the public exams my colleagues and I started to count lessons.  As part of my job I look after Newly Qualified Teachers.  They have to have a formal observation once per half term, feedback, action points, weekly meetings with their mentors as well as attending professional development sessions.  Everyone was on track to meet their assessment points, some were making greater rates of progress than others, some were more receptive to feedback than others, some were looking to finish their NQT year and move on and some had worked so well that they would gain a promotion in their second year.  Another part of my role involved initial teacher education.  We had a couple of school direct trainees who were doing well and had secured jobs, one with us and one with a local school.  I was planning ahead for ITE for next year and after speaking to the Principal we opted into the Teach First programme.  Teach First

This was a new avenue for us as it meant that we would take on a graduate who had had an short but intensive training period from June to September and would then join us on a 60% timetable.  This was new and exciting.  The Principal and I met with a TF representative, later we met with the “participant” who would be joining our science faculty.  I had to attend a meeting in Bristol and was inducted into the ways of Teach First.  We had decided that we would reduce our school direct routes into teaching and develop greater links with the Plymouth Marjon University and University of Plymouth by offering PGCE places in a variety of courses.  In days of diminishing resources and finances this is a good plan as it gives us a wider cohort to work with and generates funding.

Geography lessons were going apace, as a school we had introduced new teaching principles which is a format by which we were going to plan, deliver and review lessons – the structure was a dream, very sensible, dead easy to follow – good old fashioned teaching to facilitate good old fashioned learning.  Developmental drop ins – 10 minute drop ins to a lesson, by two colleagues were introduced too.  This was a step on from incremental coaching.  All colleagues would have notice of a drop in and know who was coming in – in advance.  I was part of the team doing DDI’s and it is a simple yet very effective way in which to improve teaching and learning.  With the teaching principles in one hand and 10 minutes in a classroom, watching what was going on, looking at students’ books, talking to students and get the overall picture and then in the feedback give one achievable step which would enhance teaching and learning.

Whilst all of the above was going on I received a letter to visit oncology.  Why this should make my heart sink I just don’t know but it did.  The day came and Nick I turned up in the oncology clinic.  A lady I knew from my days at Lipson was the new receptionist and very friendly.  Once again I felt like a complete fraud… in the waiting room there were some very poorly looking people.  I was in my school suit of armour complete with lanyards.  It was the usual routine… be weighed in the corridor so I disrobed as much as decently possible… my weight was about the same and the health care assistant laughed and said that in this clinic they were more likely to be worried about rapid weight gain or loss and that a few pounds here and there didn’t make any difference.  Soon enough we were called in and a female doctor met us.  This lady was very interesting as she had come from a palliative care background.  She asked how I was getting on with the Exemestane and I groaned and moaned about all the side effects – hot flushes, aching joints, tiredness so she suggested I try another drug.  She examined me – top off, arms up, good old feel of the cannonball, under my arms and my good side, top on.  No lumps or bumps (other than the big lump of cannonball).  We talked about our jobs.. I said how much I enjoyed mine, which she found surprising as most teachers didn’t in her experience, she said she was ready to leave medicine as she’d been in it a long while. We then discussed options.  Tamoxifen was an option… BUT... it could lead to uterine cancer AND… it would be closely monitored.  I’m ashamed to say I started to cry and said I don’t want that, I don’t want cancer of any type, form or shape ever again, I don’t want to risk anything which could cause ANY form of ANY cancer to return.  I was a bit shocked at myself, as was Nick and I think she was too.  We agreed that I could try the last of the aromatase inhibitors… Anastrozole.  I would have to stick with it for at least three months and I could have a month off the Exemestane to get it out of my system before starting the new drug.  It was a deal.  She also told me I have a very low chance of recurrence and with my new prescription in hand and the thought of a month off all drugs we were away – tears tried up, smiles on, school armour firmly in place.

Author: fionaosmaston

I live in Plymouth, Devon with my husband Nick and near my parents Sandy and Sheena. Our three children, Marcus, Phoebe and Miles are grown up. I am a geographer and love teaching Geography. My current role is as an Assistant Vice Principal in an inner city comprehensive school where I lead on coaching and initial teacher training. In August 2017 I was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma and following a skin sparing mastectomy and endrocrine/hormone treatment I am now awaiting a final reconstruction. These views are my own and writing this story has helped me come to terms with where I am in this interlude of life which has been dominated by breast cancer.

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