Lessons from the Sweats

On Sunday night, I went to bed with the night sweats. On Monday morning, I woke up with them. Since the beginning of the new semester, I had missed nine days of school. To clarify, this teacher doesn’t like missing school, especially nine days in one month, but cancer. I had finished my radiation Friday and planned to return to school Monday. I don’t like breaking plans. I missed the kids. I didn’t have sub notes. I couldn’t stay home another day. I was going to school. Sweaty or not, I pulled my hair into a ponytail. Only later would I notice my horrifically crooked eyeliner. I looked like shit. I would wear a mask.

Back in 2021, I had cap and gown portraits made at Houston Baptist. The photo package included a mask with the lower half of my face. I bought it, and it’s so creepy. My smile is oversized. See? An understated message. I would fake it till I make it.

My students are working on research papers, a good plan considering my absences. Monday would be a workday. I would be available for consultation at my desk where I would sit and play catch up.

Before classes started, I searched YouTube for Snoop Dogg and clicked Dr. Dre’s “The Next Episode.” How appropriate. With the tunes on my overhead speaker, I wrote the kids a note and displayed it on my overhead projector. “I probably should have stayed home,” I said, “but I needed a sense of normalcy.” What is normal? I thought yet again. I signed the note, “with love.”

Between the gangsta hip-hop on my speaker and the ridiculous mask on my face, my students may have been more concerned than ever before. So much for faking it. My note said I needed a silent study hall. Never mind my music. Of course, they wanted to know how I was doing.

I’m not good with “How are you?” Especially with people who really care. The kids really cared. When I’m not okay, a super-sensitive version of myself sometimes appears. When my mouth opens, sometimes so do my tear ducts. I think I cried in every class that day, just trying to say I’m okay.

A student created meme.

I CLEARLY was not okay. I possibly hit an all-time low. F-bombs exploded overhead, like a battle cry as I worked from my desk and tried to concentrate on grades and missing assignments, failures and emails, lesson plans and life. The kids seemed to get me, and through the sweats I made progress toward some goals. In the end everything was okay.

Back at home, renewed energy conquered my sweats. I decluttered a corner of my world, put away misplaced things, and patted myself on the back. Action lead to action. And Tuesday was better, and with each day came strength. Cancer has definitely been teaching me a thing or two. Here’s a favorite:

I can do hard things.

96 thoughts on “Lessons from the Sweats

  1. Oh, Crystal, I’m SOooo sorry you’re having to deal with all this. You’re a hero. You will get through this and be fine again. Keep that can-do spirit burning, take strength and solace from the affection and concern of your students, and know that this too shall pass. 💕💖

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my gosh! You are so strong. That mask! Kind of freaked me out when I first saw it. Thought the mouth part had been cut out and was confused 😉 I think you had to do what you had to do in that moment. You pushed through and made progress. I hope you were able to get lots of good rest after that rough day, friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s cool how your students understood you weren’t feeling so well and compensated. I’m glad you’re feeling better, Crystal.
    “Come what come may. Time and the hour runs through the roughest day.”

    Of course, you know this line, but for the rest of us, it’s from Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Actually, I could do with one of those smiley masks right about now. It’s the flu, not cancer, but the effect is almost the same. Yeah, we did get the flu shot ‘way back in the fall, but it must have been a weaker strain that usual. After two weeks, I’m finally feeling sorta OK. I’m finally feeling as though I can make it to March, sorta intact. It’s nothing like what you’ve been experiencing, of course, but I can commiserate with you. Bless those wonderful students of yours! They’ll hold you up.


  5. Crystal,
    I am so sorry this is happening. I agree the kids know and somewhat understand. Go slow, and although I know it is hard work will wait. Do what you can do. I know how hard it is. My students knew and cared when I came back to school after my strokes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Most days I’m okay, but he radiation hit me harder than I expected. Definitely taking everything slow and saving energy for my comeback. Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers, Shay.


  6. Crystal, from your creepy mask to your tears and perseverance, my heart goes out to you. My prayer is that each day will be better and soon this season will be a fading, bad nightmare bursting out into the sunshine of recovery. Because you have invested in your students during the good times, they have overflow of better days to return to you. 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You’re an inspiration to me, Crystal. Sweats, F-bombs, all of it. I understand so much. I’m with you on this journey. Students are amazing (can be, lol) and resilience is not easily obtained! I pray for you daily. I sold my house and moved closer to the hospital. I hate not being in a school, I get angry,…But for God. I’m sorry you are dealing with this my friend. I’d love to catch up with you about our journeys. I’m moving forward with next treatment and I’ll think of Byers in the Hood and how the sweats WILL give us lessons! Much love, prayers, and hugs! Karla 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Karla, you’re an inspiration to me. I have no doubt you get angry, but for God. One thing I’m noticing (that I’ve never really dealt with before) is how connected mental health and physical health are. I’m praying for your needs and believing in miracles and looking forward to our catch-up (with fries and hip hop and Jesus). Much love and big hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Crystal. I needed to hear this today! It’s so true how connected the physical and mental health are and their importance in our healing. I’m so ready to feel the strength to walk and be active as I used to be. Please take care and know I’m sending prayers and love as we hip hop on! 💕🥰🙏🏻❤️


  8. Your experiences make me think of a lot of things, Crystal:

    1. How many days do teachers drag themselves to work when most people would never dream of going? Part of it is our sense of duty not to let them down, and the other is what are they supposed to do all day unless we drag our sorry-looking asses down there and write a lesson plan? Most people have no idea.

    2. Kids and the power of human connection are the elixirs we most need when feeling low physically and emotionally.

    3. It’s healthy for you to share your experiences, and it serves us well when compassionate folks (not just those who ask how we’re doing on autopilot) surround the wagons with their support.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Ah, my friend, you seek Coolidge’s “return to normalcy?” That is, you yearn for those days when – It – wasn’t a factor. Both in the challenges and in all the unanticipated strengths you’ve summoned to answer them. And will summon too.

    Eventually, sure, you’ll get there. We all will get there, actually, as you’re far from alone in this journey.

    Before then, though, there will be tough days and good ones too. Over time, the bar will slide towards the latter. You seek it and we hope it.

    Naturally, emotions lag events. Thus, difficulties shake loose despair. Yet even along the depths, the engine revs, readying improvements. You already have seen it happen repeatedly.

    No exhortations to courage. What would be the point of doing so? You already have it, Crystal, and you rise with it each morning.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Everything has meaning, if we are willing to find it. And sometimes we don’t have to look very hard, the universe knocks at the door and says here, here’s some real meaning. Cancer does that. Losing something or someone I love does that. Big lesson, “I can function despite having no choice over how I experience this.” Wow. What a lesson. Take care my friend. Thanks for this.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I love the mask! Your tears are beautiful and healing and I know your students were so relieved to you. Crystal you an definitely do hard things. I say this to my kids and clients all the time. We are built for hard shit!
    Crystal you are built for hard shit!


  12. You are a strong woman, Crystal. I remember one of our teachers returning to school after a period in a psychiatric hospital. It was very hard for her but she showed great kindness to me whose mother was going through the same, Sending you a hug. K x


  13. Crystal, you are a Poster Girl for Strength and Perseverance under Pressure. I pray God blesses you with continued healing, kind support from those around you, and moments that make you smile and laugh, as you wait for that coveted clean bill of health.


  14. I admire how you detail what you are going through dealing with cancer. I sense both your vulnerability and strength. As a retired teacher, I know how tough it is to walk into a classroom when you’re not yourself. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Your strength is contagious. Count on my prayers.


  15. Man. I felt everything you said here, Crystal, and I shed a few tears.

    I understand wanting to have some sense of normalcy; it makes things seem less dire. I understand crying when someone asks, “how are you?” It’s like all the stress of the situation comes flooding to the front.

    You’re super brave to be going through this AND working, but I also understand why that’s probably necessary, not only financially, but also socially and psychologically.

    I feel like I’m rambling. Really, I just want to say, I understand this entire post, and I hope you’re doing well 💕


  16. Hi Crystal, I am so grateful you wrote this poignant blog post. You are beyond inspiring and your courage amazes me in every way. I am a new follower and will look forward to updates.🤍🤍


  17. I truly believe you are mending from love within and around you my beautiful Crystal. We all are sending you love. I can’t remember the source on this but know it’s truth … “The term Kintsugi is Japanese and refers to a process of mending of broken pottery. The process originated during the fifteenth century when the Japanese shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa made the request that his broken pottery be repaired. A creative artisan sprinkled gold powder into the resin used to glue the pieces together. The result was a piece of pottery more beautiful and with more character than before it had been broken.”


  18. Sending best wishes your way. I am on a leave of absence for the reminder of this year glad to be home and will be my husband for his cancer operations (Tumor) removal, etc. I took off for many reasons. Wishing us best the best.


  19. You are amazing! I love that oversized smile, it matches your heart. May you be blessed and strengthened each day. You are a healing force that begets the same. 🙏❤️❤️❤️🙏


      1. We all are in need of prayers Crystal. Continually sending special ones up for you. Big Hugs with Healing Love! 🙏🙏


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