Gratitude on Back-to-School Night

Gratitude on Back-to-School Night

It’s always interesting how different memories attach to different events in our minds. This does not typically happen in the moment.  It’s usually later that certain events take on a different significance.

My best example of this is from 2011: my thyroid cancer and Back-to-School Night.

There isn’t a logical link, and I know the “important” dates: when I was told there was something suspicious on my ultrasound (September 9), the fine needle biopsy that followed (September 19) and the surgery to remove my thyroid and the cancer (October 26).

Sometimes I think about having thyroid cancer on these particular days and sometimes I don’t.

Mostly I think about having thyroid cancer when it’s Back-to-School Night.

I couldn’t tell you the exact date of BTS Night in 2011, but I know it was either September 19 or within a couple of days of that.  The reason I know this is because I had to wear an outfit that incorporated a scarf that night.  The scarf was to hide a terrible rash on my neck that was an(other) unwelcome result from the fine needle biopsy that told me for sure that I had thyroid cancer. The rash was from the chemical they used to clean my neck before they stuck me (twice). At that point, my thyroid cancer was not public information, and I didn’t want to explain the rash (or how I got it) at BTS Night.

In that moment, the rash on my neck that everyone could see was worse than the papillary thyroid carcinoma inside me that only a handful of people knew about.

I think about this every year when I am getting dressed for BTS Night.  And so I was thinking about it twice this week.

I went through a lot of feelings at school this week – to name only a few: nervousness about how BTS Night #2 would go, exhaustion by the end of the week (there was also a late night board meeting in between our two BTS Nights – not my best calendar planning), and worry about issues needing my attention.

But the most important feeling I had this week was gratitude. BTS Night reminds me to be grateful that I didn’t have to hide anything or that my health didn’t dictate my outfit.

Much more importantly, it reminds me to be grateful for my good health – and also the good health of everyone who matters to me.

And it also reminds me that not everyone is so fortunate.

Even though everyone always tells me my surgery scar is invisible, I see it and look at it pretty regularly. And when I do, the tiny cancer (approximately 7mm – the size of a watermelon seed) that lived in me for an unknown amount of time before it was removed in 2011 flits through my mind.  I know so many people with cancer much bigger and scarier than mine – either their own or their child’s. And I know if mine flits through my mind regularly, their minds can never fully be at ease.

And, so, Back-to-School Night reminds me of all of this.  It reminds me think outside of myself (especially the every-day challenges that come with leading a school) and send up some thoughts to The Universe for all those who are affected by cancer or other serious illnesses, for those who have lost loved ones to cancer and for those who survived it. It’s constant and it’s everywhere, and it needs our support and action.

And, feeling grateful for good health when we have it – and when those close to us have it – should be constant and everywhere too.


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Wore this on my right wrist both BTS Nights to help remind me of gratitude and the many amazing people I know who are doing and have done hard things: the gold ribbon is the awareness symbol for childhood cancer



September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month.
Please be aware!

About Childhood Cancer: Cancer is the second leading cause of death in children (after accidents). About 1,250 children younger than 15 years old were expected to die from cancer in 2016. About 10,380 children in US under the age of 15 were expected to be diagnosed with cancer in 2016. (source)  
Only 4% of federal funding (through the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute) is dedicated to childhood cancer. #ItsNotOK #MoreThan4 #AwarenessFundingCures


About Thyroid Cancer: The chance of being diagnosed with thyroid cancer has risen in recent years and is the most rapidly increasing cancer in the US tripling in the past three decades.  In 2017, it’s estimated that there will be about 56,870 new cases of thyroid cancer (42,470 in women and 14,400 in men) and about 2,010 deaths from thyroid cancer. (source) #CheckYourNeck





Don’t Share The Panic

Don’t Share The Panic

I was recently having dinner with friends and we were talking about our schools (we’re all educators). One friend told us about something she recently had to tell a colleague:


“Don’t share the panic.”


I knew this was a gem (and a blog post) the moment I heard it.


This is so real, and so important.


Don’t share the panic.  If you’re feeling worried or anxious or concerned, how does it help to get someone else all up in arms with the same feelings?  It may help you in the short term, but it doesn’t help the greater good and it certainly doesn’t help the community you’re part of.  (And if we’re talking about schools, it one hundred percent does not help the students.)


The big project I’ve been writing about is a good example of this on a large scale.  Over the course of it, there was so much panic for those of us leading it and countless times (as I have written about previously) when it felt like it was never going to happen.  Yet, we only shared those feelings with a very small group of people.  We didn’t share that with everyone.  And everyone was better off for it.


I’ve been thinking about the distinction a lot.  I think it’s always valuable and necessary to share information and facts, but it is usually not helpful or necessary to share feelings and opinions.  It would not have benefited anyone on our staff or in our community if they knew I felt panic about our big project at times.  It would have only made them feel panic too.  It would have created doubt, and ill will, and concerning feelings.  It would have served no purpose.


On a small scale, this concept can be applied every day in little moments.  You don’t need a big project to remember not to share the panic.  I think if we are focused on moving forward and looking beyond ourselves, we will share better energy with each other.  We will share facts and information, which are not always positive, but they are real.  We can work with facts and information, and we can use them to make decisions and to progress.


Our feelings don’t really help us do this, and sometimes they get in our way of remembering our priorities.  Sometimes we get stuck in how we feel and we end up spreading panic instead of spreading positive energy.


It is not always easy, but when we stay focused on what matters most, I think it helps us remember to not share the panic.  And, I think it helps to remember that moments of panic are just that: moments. The panic is not permanent.  It will pass.


And, until it does, please don’t share it.



This one is dedicated to my grad school friends.  “Don’t share the panic” is one of many gems that came out of our monthly dinners during the last school year.  It’s always real when we’re together, and it’s always great. xo



Except for the 38th lesson in my 38 Things I Know for Sure post from February, I had not previously written anything about this project while it’s been going on.  I think part of me never felt it was safe to do so because the outcome felt so uncertain so often.  There’s certainty now and so this is my third post relating to “the big project.” (The first was Failure and the second was Failure, Part 2.)  It’s also very important for me to say that I have not been alone in undertaking this big project, and I hope nothing I ever write on the topic makes it seem that way.  As I wrote in my 38th thing I know for sure:  “Persevering with a team – especially a team embodying mutual respect, hard work, attention to detail, good sense and good humor – makes persevering the only option even when it feels like it isn’t.”