This post has nothing to do with an amazing new product. I haven’t an incredible teaching idea to share. I’ve nothing to sell or giveaway except perhaps . . . hope! As I approach the beginning of a New Year, I want to reflect on the many blessings of this past year and tell you a story, about the strength and the power of a community.
When I started blogging in early 2012, it was merely a way for me to connect with other teachers, share ideas and maybe earn a little extra cash to offset the obscene amount of money I was constantly spending on my classroom and students. But it quickly became much more. To an outsider, even my family and friends, it was strange that I had the ability to develop close friendships and connections with teachers all over the country and world that I had never met. But that is exactly what has happened. Over the years I have developed friendships with men and women I would have never had the joy of knowing if I had not started blogging and creating teaching materials. It has made my world much smaller and much richer in friendships. And I can say that and people can hear the words come out of my mouth, but unless you are in this world, unless you’ve had the joy of meeting your online friends in real life at a teaching conference or a TpT conference or blogger meet-up, then you really don’t get it.
People outside this ‘world’ certainly don’t get it. I mean, seriously, how can you call people who you see maybe once a year some of your best friends? It’s not possible. The friendships can’t possibly be that strong. Do you depend on these people? Are they there for you when you need them? Or is this just another one of those internet/cyber fantasy worlds. I can guarantee you it is NOT like anything else out there.
The community and collaborations and friendships are very real and very strong. So strong and so real that when one of our members hurt, we rally. I’ve seen it many times. A teacher has a student fighting a disease, another has an injured spouse or child . . . What do we do? We rally! We raise money! We pray! Never in my wildest dreams, did I think for a moment that one day I would need this community to rally for me, but they did.
As some of you may or may not know, on September 29th, 2015 I walked into my school and told my principal, “I’m leaving. MacKale has cancer, and I don’t know when or if I’ll ever be back.” My 12-year-old, my amazing, beautiful, athletic and vibrant boy had been diagnosed with Ostreosarcoma. A 17 cm tumor had been located in his left tibia. While MacKale had lived his whole life with hemophilia, he had lived fully despite it. And as if his bleeding disorder wasn’t enough, he now had cancer.
My world came crashing in on top of me. I remember hiding in my closet and hearing MacKale’s hematologist (who had in an instant become his oncologist) tell me, “ . . . I think we might be able to save his leg.” We went from believing his clotting medicine wasn’t working, to discussing how we were going to keep him alive and whether he would have his leg amputated in a blink of an eye.
I was scared! I was angry! I was devastated! I felt incredibly alone. I didn’t know what to do, but I knew, without a doubt, that I needed prayers for my MacKale. I needed prayers for his brothers and prayers for Mike, my husband, and for me. I didn’t want one or two prayers. I wanted MASSIVE amounts of prayers . . . I wanted God to hear me loud and clear. I wanted Him to hear from everyone. I wanted him working overtime and the only way I knew to get those kinds of prayers was to enlist ‘my people’ into the fight. So during the hour and a half ride to the hospital for MacKale’s first round of chemo, I wrote a post begging for prayers. My teacher ‘friends’ throughout the country and world who read my blog, TpT teachers, my online teacher family stepped in, my Franklin and CAPS team — they all carried the news far and wide. They shared that post and every update after. They asked their teacher friends, bloggers asked their readers, their churches and their families to pray for MacKale and our family and suddenly, I didn’t feel so alone anymore.
Still scared . . . still devastated . . . But I knew without a doubt, I was not alone. When I look back on that original post, the first comments . . .were from my readers and teachers and other bloggers in this enormous online teaching community. It was those very same friends that have carried me through the last year. Teachers I never ‘knew’ are near and dear to me, because they cared enough to reach out and share their own story or send me a note letting me know they had added me to their church’s prayer list.
I can not in anyway shape or form begin to tell you all the demonstrations of kindness that were shown to me. I can’t list every possible person who sent a card, texted or called to see if I was ok. Quite often in the middle of the night when I lay sleepless listening to MacKale breath, it was those late night texts, Facebook IMs and emails that kept me sane.
It was teachers doing what teachers do best . . . ‘taking care of someone else.’
Deedee spoiled my boys with candy and Legos.
Jennifer filled my Facebook and Pinterest boards when I couldn’t. Maria did stuff to my blog that needed to be done that I don’t understand and didn’t know needed to be done. She kept it going. She check in on me. She listened . . . She was there whenever I needed her.
And her sweet husband made MacKale laugh . . .
Mary told me it was ok to be ticked at God and to get mad . . . She and Jodi sent me notes and texts when I was alone. I don’t know how they did it. But at the times I felt the worst, they’d be there. Cheryl organized a group of my favorite bloggers who put together a packet of ‘must-haves’ and goodies that would make Mac more comfortable and our hospital stay easier.
Patty never failed to send Mac notes with jokes. These were the jokes he would tell the doctors and keep us laughing and maintain our sanity. She single-handedly rallied TpT friends and teachers to send MacKale and I a big box of LOVE in time for his surgery. So many teachers sent us notes and gifts and made those hours before and after his surgery go so much faster. I can’t even begin to list them all.
Abby and Elizabeth had an online party that raised money for Osteosarcoma research. Kim and Annie kept me in Starbuck $$$. Lori, Leigh Ann, Debbie . . . They cared for me . . . Checked on me . . . Loved me! And sweet Holly . . . she was a prayer warrior like so many others and that sweet spirit was carried on in her son, Colton, who saved all his birthday money to buy MacKale a robot that he could work on and put together when he couldn’t do anything else.
And on the day of MacKale’s limb salvage surgery, my phone blew up with so many emails, IMs and text with pictures of these amazing teachers . . .
In my own Franklin Elementary family . . .
and even from teachers far far away . . . amazing teachers like all of you. They donned their Team MacKale shirts and spread the word and rallied strangers from every corner to pray for my sweet boy.
It was 14 grueling hours waiting for that tumor to be removed and his leg to be rebuilt . . .
but I had my teacher family in my corner . . .
praying for us and forever supporting us.
I truly believe that God planted me where I needed to be in 2012 so that when MacKale got sick, I would be surrounded by a community of teachers that would care for my family as only teachers do.
As for MacKale, he completed his chemo in June and we both finished the last 10 days of school together. He returned to his school and I went back in my classroom after leaving nearly 9 months earlier. He is stronger and getting stronger everyday. While there is no ‘remission’ label for osteosarcoma, we are happy to say that as of today, there is ‘No Evidence of Disease.’ Osteosarcoma is a beast though. It has a tendency to rear that ugly cancer head when you least expect it, so we will continue to have scans every three months to monitor MacKale’s health and any evidence of it returning. But no matter what happens . . . no matter what comes our way . . . I am know that I am blessed to have my teacher family and friends there, praying and supporting us through it all.
We are a community that strives to make things better. We deeply care for our members. We pray, we rally and we take action to support one another. It’s what teachers do everyday . . . even when no one is looking. It’s who we are!
There are no words that can fully expressed what you have all done for me and my family this year. I am, of course, humbled by the outpouring of love an support we have received. As a family, we are constantly wondering what it is that God wants us to learn from all this . . . what is it that he wants us to do? We continue to look for those answers, but until then, I know that when I look towards the new year, my goals for now will be to be more intentional and thankful . . . intentional in my prayers, intentional in my time, intentional in my words and in my giving to others. Thankful for time, thankful for faith, thankful for family and friends–and thankful for all of you.
Many blessings for a Happy and Healthy New Year friends. Believe me when I say, I love each and every one of you dearly.