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Homeschooling and Cancer

First day of school 2014-15.

We are nearing the end of our sixth year of homeschooling! A few years ago I wrote about what we love about homeschooling. All of those things still hold true, but as we have experienced this cancer season of life, we’ve come to have a new appreciation for what we’re doing.

Is this lifestyle always easy? Absolutely not. But, we feel that whatever sacrifices we have to make to our wants in life are worth it to be able to to continue in this journey.

This season of life has been exceptionally eye opening and has had many pros and cons, especially when it comes to school and the emerging big kid personalities of our children.

Jacob making granola

Our eldest is now 11 and very self motivated. This means he needs a significantly smaller portion of direct teaching than the other two. He’s also less likely to be distracted, and is trustworthy to work on any independent work without me having to micromanage him. This guy is a voracious reader and has worked his way into (parent-approved) YA and above material. Because we have chosen to educate at home, he is able to spend a significant portion of his day immersed in historical fiction, fiction, classic literature, and supplemental school reading and is quickly becoming a talented writer.  Jacob is quick to complete a task with a good attitude and has even taken over some of my own jobs – his favorite is making our weekly homemade breakfast granola!

Our middle guy is currently the epitome of a distracted child! He actually requires more redirecting than the youngest, but when truly motivated is a very diligent worker. He has different strengths and desperately needs more wiggle time than I’m sure he would get in a conventional school setting. Other than being physical, he is very drawn to music in many different forms. We have found that listening to music during school time improves his concentration and lessens his irritability, and he could easily spend hours each day at the piano. Eli has a compassionate old soul and is the first to offer help when someone is unwell. He has spent many hours over these last months checking on me and writing me heartfelt cards.

Eli at Lego Robotics class

Our sweet girl has an equally different personality to the other two. She’s still at the age where she adores school work. She has a very sensitive heart and if there ever was a child created by God to have a ‘words of affirmation’ love language, it’s this girl. My ever burgeoning card and note stash is evidence of that. She has an artists heart and her free time is filled with drawing, coloring, doodling, and making things for others.

Homeschooling during cancer has been a bit of a challenge, but it has also been a huge blessing. I have been able to lesson plan a month at a time and usually find a few days at the end of the last lesson period that I’m feeling well enough to sort out lessons for the upcoming month. I try to get everything ready, including all pages I need to copy and supplemental library books procured, so the month will run fairly smoothly. We drop history and art as needed and simply work on them on days I feel well enough to spend the time doing those subjects.

Rachael's notes and cards

Michael and I also recently discussed how much more difficult this season would have been if I had been faced with getting the kids up and ready for school (including breakfast, hair, lunches, etc.) each morning and then being available for them at the end of the school day. I realize plenty of people live their lives successfully that way – even during major life altering illness – but I think it would have been so much harder for me. For me, the logistics of cancer were actually made slightly easier by having my children home. There was always someone home to provide help or assistance in any way necessary. I was also able to give them bits and pieces of my attention during the day rather than having to focus all of my energy on meeting their needs first thing in the morning, and then again having a rush of energy, chattering, and needs to be met when school let out.

The most challenging thing we have faced in regards to this education lifestyle has been the ever present need for childcare. Something we would have needed far less of if the children had been at school each day. Thankfully, God has blessed us with some amazing local friends! On the days when Michael isn’t available (sometimes I take the kids to his office, other times he comes home) or wants to attend an appointment with me, we have friends who homeschool and welcome a few extra kids into their day, we have friends who have young children and are already at home with them and can take ours in, we have a high school friend who can come over right after school for late afternoon appointments, and we also have a recently retired from the military friend who is able to help out.

For less ‘personal’ things like lab draws or pharmacy visits, they just tag along with me as they always would. They’ve had a few “Are you out of school today?” questions, and I have been absolutely surprised at how well their answers have been received. Some of them have even spurred conversations with the adult who inquired!

While I stand by the fact that cancer is absolutely not a road I would have chosen to travel, we have been blessed the entire time.


Four Months of Hair Growth

Are you getting tired of these hair updates yet? I’m definitely still in awe of how my body is recovering, but I don’t want to overload you with updates on how I look…

I continue to be amazed at how my body is recovering. I did take a full month off of most activities after my recent surgery (I’m glad I did, because it was truly necessary), but I feel great now. I have even been back to exercising again for the last couple of weeks. We have had lovely weather recently which has made it even nicer since I am able to go on family hikes and explorations. I have also taken the children to a few of our local homeschool group’s Friday park outings. They’re held at different parks each week, so it has given us a chance to get to experience new-to-us parks and trails, and helps us feel like we truly have rejoined the civilized world!

I love that I’m feeling less self conscious as each day passes. I am naturally very much a plain Jane and though I do still garner a stare or second take often, there isn’t as much blatant staring happening. And often it’s not children (who likely haven’t been exposed to bald women!) who stare. Along with my plain Jane-ness I am also very non-confrontational and do not posses the gift of quick wit. This has left me feeling very exposed and vulnerable a few times, but thankfully, not many.

I do wonder what goes through someone’s mind when they do stare. Are they curious what kind of cancer I’ve had, do they wonder what’s wrong with me because I don’t look sick, do they think maybe it’s just a butchered hair cut, or something else entirely? I am thankful for friends and family who have continued to see me as they did before. I am thankful for new friends I’ve met on this journey. And I’m thankful for all those stares – maybe they’re teaching me something I don’t even realize.

I have an oncology appointment at the end of next week where I will receive the results from my latest CT scans and bone density scan. I would appreciate if you would continue to keep me in your prayers.

15 Years

September, 2014 - Air Force Memorial, Washington, DC

My dearest Michael,

15 years ago you promised to always be mine. Sometimes I wonder if you really knew what you were getting into!

These 15 years have flown by like a flash. But in that flash there have been some really long years and some really short years.

We have had three babies together. Babies who are growing into lovely people with beautiful hearts.

We have endured countless separations across many time zones, some short and some incredibly long in more than just span of time.

We have experienced profound heartache and intense heartbreak.

We have laughed together and wondered how we would survive a storm all in the same day.

We have shared emotions that span the spectrum. These 15 years have held an incredible amount of joy for us. But they have also held an incredible amount of sorrow and hurt.

You have endured more than any husband ever should have to endure.

You have been patient with me as I have yelled at you over absolutely nothing. You have been kind to me when I have been the epitome of ugly – saying and doing [intentionally] hurtful things. You have been humble when I’ve arrogantly told you I was displeased with you.

Michael, you have been selfless in helping me foster relationships and fellowship outside our home. You have been my biggest fan, and a most devoted cheerleader in all my endeavors, even the silly and short-lived ones as some of them have been.

You have gently guided and encouraged me in our homeschool journey. You have always forgiven my shortcomings and mistakes.

You have always been quick to remind me that you signed up for FOREVER when you made your vows to me.

You have a sweet spirit and you are a compassionate, loving father.

Michael, you have shown me what unconditional love really looks like. You have lived it every day of our marriage – even on the days I’ve told you otherwise. You lead our family with a Godly strength that I admire.

Thank you for being you!

I love you HEAPS!

Three Months of Hair Growth

April 1, 2015

I’m quite pleased with the way my hair is coming along! I am pretty sure it’s already thicker than it was before I ever started losing it (I think a lot of it has to do with the essential oils and supplements I have been using)! However, though I did have some, there is significantly more gray than before! I knew there was a possibility my new hair would be different, but somehow managed to miss ever considering the gray factor… Everything else seems to be pretty much the same as before, though. The main color and texture don’t seem any different at this point.

April 1, 2015

I’ve begun wearing headbands nearly every day. I feel like they help me look girlie but they also provide a smidge of a cover up for my wonky (same as before) very stubborn natural part. With long hair, my natural part caused my hair to fall in such a way that it wasn’t ever really noticed, however, this short hair really shows it off! It parts in two places – dead center for about an inch, then takes a jog over to a right side part! The ‘cow lick’ in the front makes it very obvious, so I’m just covering it up these days!

I have eyelashes again, too. They even seem thicker than before. I feel like they’re somewhere between half and fully grown in now. My eyelashes weren’t super thick before, and they were very light in color, but they were pretty long, so I’m hoping they end up as long as they were before.

And my eyebrows are getting really close to a natural look. I’m not embellishing them nearly as much as I was a couple of months ago.

I’d love to know (if you’re willing to admit) how old you were when you started graying. Did you experience any traumatic life event that you feel exacerbated it?

How I Used Epsom Salt and Essential Oils During Chemo

Cancer, more specifically, chemotherapy, was a beast. I wrote about some of the ways it affected me, but I really didn’t have much energy for telling too many of my tales.

I found myself very achy and physically exhausted most days. I’ll share more about how I used essential oils topically and aromatically in another post, but today I want to share with you how I found some relief from the aches and that horrible allergic reaction I had in November.

My very favorite essential oil for my achy body during chemo was a Young Living blend called Aroma Siez™.

From the Young Living website: “Aroma Siez™ is a relaxing blend that is excellent for massaging away life’s little discomforts. Well suited for use after exercise or at the end of a trying day, it also provides soothing comfort for the head, neck, and tired feet.” It contains basil, marjoram, lavender, peppermint, and cypress essential oils.

My favorite way to use this blend was combined with epsom salt in a hot bath.

My recipe is simple:

  • 1 cup epsom salt
  • 8 drops Aroma Siez™ (or your favorite oil)

Combine in a glass jar or glass measuring cup and stir until blended. Let sit for about 5 minutes to allow salt to soak up the oil. After 5 minutes begin filling bathtub and add infused salt to the bottom of the tub while it fills.

It may be necessary to swish the salt just a bit to help it dissolve.

Relax in your bath as you normally would!

Be sure to stay hydrated during and after the bath. Epsom salt can be dehydrating.

**If you would like more information on Young Living essential oils and how they have helped our family, hop over to my Young Living page.

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