Saturday, October 27, 2018

Side Effects: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

When last we met on this blog, I was concerned about my hair falling out and about gluing my fingers together. Rather than waiting for the anxiety provoking event of hair loss to happen, I called my hairdresser and asked her to give me a buzz. As much as I anticipated crying and gnashing of teeth as I saw my gray locks fall to the floor, that wasn’t the case. Much to my surprise, I actually  like my new look.  Now I can shake my head like my dogs do rather than blow drying my hair. When my head was completely buzzed, Donna asked Lucy to give her a quasi-buzz in solidarity. Such is the nature of a true partner!

Even though I had been looking forward to attending the 5th annual Network for Public Education conference in Indy for the past year, my anxiety about Sherlock, my hair loss, and my finger cuts was pretty much off the charts. What I didn’t count on was additional side effects on my skin. When we got to the hotel in Indy, almost on cue, the skin on my face started peeling, and my face felt as though it was on fire. That has now been replaced with an itchy rash on my arms and chest that is driving me bonkers. Last Tuesday when I went in for my chemo, my oncologist decided to let me skip my treatment to give me and my skin a break. Side effects are the gift that keeps on giving.

Back to the conference...public education advocates attended the NPE Conference, and the experience was positive, inspiring, and energizing. Despite all of the negativity that the news brings us on a daily basis, the conference was warm and hopeful and collaborative. On a more personal note, this was the first year that NPE gave an award for grassroots activism (in my name), and I am still blown away by that honor. “The award will be given out every year for teachers, parents, and other activists who display courage, tenacity, and heroism on behalf of public education and the common good.”  This year's winners were the teacher-activists from SOS Arizona who won the right to put a referendum on the ballot about vouchers.

As you have probably noticed, I am used to getting attention as a smart-ass,  but getting attention (and a standing ovation) for something like an award in my name was unexpected and mind-blowing, and I am still at a loss for words for what this meant to me.

Phyllis Bush gets a standing ovation at #NPE18indy before bestowing the first annual grassroots awards that bears her name.

When I first began this cancer schmantzer odyssey nearly two years ago, I had lots of concerns. Every time that we went for my doctor appointments, I learned not to anticipate what might happen because no matter what I anticipated, it was always something different.  I have learned that I can deal with sensitivity to cold, lactose intolerance, neuropathy in my feet, peeling skin and rashes, a recalcitrant colostomy bag named Sherlock, and who knows what other side effects are coming down the pike.
In the words of Roseann Rosanna Danna, “If it's not one thing, it's another. It's always something.”

Despite the crap sandwiches that I have been served lately, I am fortunate to be surrounded by family and friends whose love and support make me realize that there is good in the world, and it is worth fighting for.


  1. It was an honor to meet the Phyllis Bush I have read about in Diane's blog and to find out you are from Fort Wayne, where I spent 12 months in my hospital laboratory internship many years ago. Thank you for your perseverance and tenacity in fighting for our students and our public schools!

  2. I love you to the moon and back, Phyllis Bush! ❤️