Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Elephant in the Room

So I finally get the saying, "the elephant in the room." I know that this idiom is based on the idea that an elephant in a room would be impossible to overlook; thus, people in the room who pretend the elephant is not there have made a choice. They are choosing to concern themselves with irrelevant issues rather than deal with the looming big one. And when I say "they," I mean "me."

Humor me for a minute while I explain how I noticed this elephant. Yesterday was the first day for teachers to be back at SWIC -- we had a divisional meeting (which I was slightly late to -- a whole other story!), a department meeting, a union meeting, etc. You get the idea -- lots of meetings. I am actually excited for the semester to start: all summer I have been focused on the fact that I have breast cancer and dealing with the doctor appointments that go along with that (not counting the feeling bad days). Since school ended in May, I have had two surgeries (something I had never experienced before this summer). I've experienced a serious infection that happens to only 1% of surgery patients. I've got toxic chemicals going through my body now (OK, maybe that first round of chemo has exited my system by now!) -- and this is coming from someone who usually doesn't take an aspirin. My skin is breaking out everywhere -- seriously, my scalp (my scalp, people!) has pimply-like things on it! And I have a complete hysterectomy scheduled for Dec 20, just as the Fall semester ends. So you can see why I am anxious to get back to the one thing that I love doing -- teaching (OK, and writing a dissertation!)

Back to the elephant. In my department meeting yesterday -- and I must add that I work with the most fabulous people -- I ended up sitting near a colleague who just had a baby (baby was with her!) and another who is pregnant. And that's when the elephant creeped into the scene. While the meeting was in progress, I was sitting there thinking, "Oh my god. I have cancer. I -- Dianna -- have cancer. I won't ever have a baby. Ever. How can these people go on and have a meeting -- like everything is normal and right with the world -- while I am having a major life changing experience?" So for the the rest of the meeting, I felt like I was sitting there with my pal, the elephant (breast cancer). They were talking about important department business and I was thinking about the things the elephant represented: getting IV's in my arm, freaking out over anesthesia before each of the surgeries, being wheeled into operating rooms, reading year old magazines in waiting rooms, being told that I needed chemo when I didn't think I needed it. Well, you get the idea. Somehow that damn elephant was making me have this internal "needy" crisis. And like the definition of the idiom suggests, I think that I haven't always dealt with the "looming big one" -- the elephant/ breast cancer. I keep getting hung up on the small, more irrelevant issues -- stressing out about my skin, hair, etc.

And that's about it. I made it through the meeting but I think I am going have to truly really deal with that elephant or it's going to be hard to teach and interact with folks. And I am not sure what I mean when I say I need to do this. Not everything in my life is about breast cancer but I think about it a lot. And I mean a lot. That's why teaching is good for me. I put 200% of myself into helping students develop their voices as writers. I think the elephant will fade to the background a bit more if I concentrate on teaching -- and the dissertation.

In dissertation news, though, I got my hands on a $5 copy of an old NCTE publication -- A Long Way Together: A Personal View of NCTE's First Sixty-Seven Years -- this memoir has some fantastic comments about how first-year writing was taught in the early 1900's, including some comments on some early "themed" courses (on the politics of WWI).

See -- just talking about this book, I can see the elephant moving a little further back behind the crowd in my head!


  1. I can only imagine how you must be feeling. That's a lot to process for sure, and there's nothing easy about it. I wish I could be more help, but I wish you nothing but the best!!

  2. Thanks to you both. I feel better this morning. I think writing that out helped get rid of the elephant a little. I need to remind myself that I have it way better than tons of other folks diagnosed with cancer (of any kind). My chemo is not as toxic. I will live.

  3. Right now you are living with the elephant. Someday it will be gone. Prayers to you that you may continue to enjoy the scenery while riding the elephant.