We lost my mother on July 15 after a long battle with lung disease and everything that comes with it. Pulmonary Fibrosis lead to a lung transplant in 2014 which lead to a host of auto-immune issues, which lead to very aggressive end stage colon cancer that took her very quickly. I'll write more about the transplant process another time, but my sister found the following on my mom's iPad. It was likely written some time after my dad passed and It's rather eloquent.
By Wanda Campbell
I seem to have been “called” to reach out to those who have suffered the loss of a loved one. I try to pass on some things I have learned. So, I'll share with you a few things I've learned and hope they will be helpful to you.
Rest! As difficult as it may be, rest. Body, mind and spirit are exhausted afterwards and cannot heal without rest.
Be patient with yourself! Take the time to grieve rather than pushing your grief away. (Grief seems to demand to be heard and will find your heart, mind and spirit whether you want to allow it or not. Pushing it aside only delays everything.) Take all the time you need!! There’s no time table on grief.
Focus on the good memories and don't allow unpleasant ones to overtake your memories. (For me, this required a great deal of effort, but I knew I had to erase or control certain images and memories of those last days with Bill in the ICU. Disconnecting him from life support was excruciating. I was actually comforted by the fact that he was gone within fifteen minutes. I knew then I has made the right decision.)While I have never been able to erase many of the unpleasant memories,, they are no longer foremost in my mind and do not haunt me as they did during the first days and weeks after Bill’s death.
Expect some friends, family and acquaintances to feel your time for grieving has lasted too long. (They simply do not have the capacity or experience to understand.) Take all the time you need.
Expect some friends, family and acquaintances to be uncomfortable around you. You may feel abandoned. It is their inability to cope with their own grief and to observe your grief. They choose to distance themselves from you because the task of standing with you is too difficult for them. It can be painful, but try to be understanding. Most likely, there will only be a few who stand with you through it all. Try not to be resentful. Be grateful for the few who stand by you.
I was caught off guard by my children’s and grandchildren’s struggles to deal with their grief. I eventually realized they had never experienced a great loss and had no coping skills. Fortunately, my children communicated their difficulties and we were able to help one another. If nothing else, pray. I firmly believe prayer helps us process difficult times in our lives.
Try to recognize when and if you need help. It was five months before I realized I wasn't doing as well as I thought. I am thankful I had the good sense to seek help. In my area, Hospice has an excellent grief counseling program. Consider participating in a program if it is available.
Work hard to not get “stuck” in one of the stages of grief. It can be very difficult to move forward if this happens. Many people stay in the anger stage or denial stage and cannot move forward.
If you ask “Why me?” remember that many must ask this question. I have and the answer always comes back as “Why not me?". We must acknowledge that none of us is granted immunity to the harshness of loss, illness, tragedy or death. We must find a way to continue living our lives with a grateful spirit. Those who don't accept this usually remain angry and become self pitying.
Continue to do and increase the things that bring you pleasure. Focus on those things that are your personal endeavors. For me, it's music, church, family, friends, reading, crochet and knitting. I continue to sing semi-professionally and in local choral groups and my church choir because singing is so much a part of the essential me.
In my position at Music School Director at CSMA I work with an amazing faculty with a wide range of experience, strengths, weaknesses, etc. Given the schools motto of “Arts 4 All” we also need a wide variety of teachers; from just out of college to very experienced; from the “I can work with anyone” type to the “I only take the most serious students with the most committed families”. We do it all and have it all.
A common thread for everyone, including myself, is the lack of formal experience with business etiquette and customer service. Now, working for a school, our teachers do not have to do a lot of the work they have to do in their home studios (collect payment, scheduling, etc.), but they still have to organize and communicate regularly with their students and families. It can be difficult as a musician who has been trained to have the greatest respect and deference for teachers to work with a student or parent that don’t hold music teachers in the same high regard. Because of this you almost have to adopt a “manager” type role when working with your students (clients!). Below are some of the skills I apply to my own studio and that we encourage our teachers at CSMA to use. Hopefully you will find some of it useful!
Remember You’re the professional!
I say this a lot! This means that you are trained professionally and have professional level tools to impart musical knowledge to your students and you deserve the kind of respect that comes with that type of education. This also means that you have to act in a professional manner at all times!!! Be on time, be prepared, communicate in a timely manner and stay calm in all situations. These things mean something!! Nevermind the fact that this sets a great example to your students, it’s expected in any job. If you are not reliable, how can you expect your students/families to be reliable?
Set Expectations and Stick to Them
Faculty often come to me for help when there is a difficult student. It could be everything from a student who doesn’t practice to one who has more profound behavioral issues. The best way to handle it is to set expectations and stick to them. This way you can easily expect the same from others (i.e. student, parents). Classroom teachers understand this very well and many classroom teachers have a standard “3 strikes and you're out” policy. This also works for the private lesson studio.
Makeups: This also falls under the “Set Expectations and Stick to Them Category”. You’ll need to decide a make up policy that works for you and stick to it. If at all possible do not make exceptions to your policy. If you do, make sure the student/parent understands that this is an exception and you are granting it because of xyz extenuating circumstance. Businesses are strict with their policies in order to create a culture where they treat every client the same. The private lesson teacher should do the same.
In Person: This is always best! You can read someone’s body language and make sure you get an affirmative that they understand what you are saying. We all know this is not always possible so we rely more and more heavily on written communication.
Written: Written communication is great for quick questions, confirmations, etc. It is NOT GREAT for solving problems!! It can very very difficult to discern someone’s tone of voice through written communication. And if that person’s native language is NOT english, then it’s even more difficult. If there is a problem, it is always better to meet and discuss in person. You can then follow up in an email detailing what was discussed.
Don’t ever write an email when you are angry. If you need to get something of your chest write it, put it away, and read it again after you have calmed down. Chances are you will find you wrote something unprofessional!!
NOTE: I am a habitual conflict avoider, and this is one of the most difficult things for me personally. Consequently, I have learned this lesson more than once the hard way. No matter how hard you find it, it is always better to deal with issues in person!! And remember, You’re the professional!
My last chemo treatment is tomorrow! Now that I'm coming to the end of it, I thought I'd share what the experience was like for me. Everything you read gives you an idea, but it's always the ubiquitous "it's different for everyone", which is really not helpful. It probably IS different for everyone, but certain things are completely controllable by you and your attitude.
What Chemotherapy is:
What Chemotherapy is NOT:
Tidbits Nobody Mentions About Chemotherapy
The next step for me will me an axillary lymph node dissection. They will go in and take out more lymph nodes and test each one for signs of cancer. Best case scenario, they find nothing, or all they find is dead cancer cells. Depending on the outcome I will be done, or there will be some radiation therapy.
Thanks for reading! Hopefully it's mildly informative.
I can taste things!!!! Last week I basically lost my ability to taste anything that wasn't super salty or super sweet. Today it seems to all be back! Which has now lead to some pretty extreme anxiety over what to have for dinner tonight.
A lot of people have talked about a metallic taste in their mouth from chemo. I have not experienced that at all thank goodness. Mostly, everything just tasted like nothing last week. The exception was miso soup, normally something I really like, but was the most revolting thing I've ever tasted when I tried it last week. So, no more miso until chemo is over. I don't want it to ruin a good thing.
Daily Log is updated here for those that are interested.
It seems a little strange to start off a post about a haircut, but it's a big change for me and is one step in an interesting journey I've been on this summer.
On June 10, 2016 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. What?!?!?! I know, nuts. By the time we got to that point I pretty much new it was coming. I found a lump and since I hadn't had my first mammogram yet I decided I should go ahead and have it checked out. After being immediately sent for a second mammogram and a biopsy I knew it was a good possibility. And here we are!!
I had surgery in July to remove the lump and some surrounding tissue. That was successful as they got the entire thing and the margins around the tumor were "clear". However, they also took one lymph node during the surgery and found cancer there. Given the size of the tumor and the fact they found it in a lymph node my cancer is classified as stage IIb. Good news, that's still considered early detection, bad news, instead of just radiation following surgery I'm also having chemotherapy, hence the haircut.
On August 19 I had my first chemo treatment. It's been an interesting process. If you are interested in a more detailed account of how the treatment is going I'm keeping a treatment journal. Feel free to read along. I'll try to keep up with it as much as possible.
I've already learned a few lessons here, hopefully if anyone else is going through anything like this some of these things might help.
Back to the haircut. I decided to do it for two reasons. First, an excuse to do something drastic and fun. Second, because I figure it will be less traumatic when it starts falling out. I don't think I've had hair this short since the 9th grade. Next on the list is to plan a celebratory trip when this is all over!!
The last week has been pretty tense in my home state, and equally tense on my Facebook stream. I've bitten my tongue so many times it's a miracle I can still speak. I have spent more of my life living out of The South than in it, but I self-identify as a southerner, and I hope for all the right reasons. I'd like to share some of the reasons I am extremely proud to have grown up in the south and hope that some of you might also see what I see. Perhaps it's time we start focusing on what we do well so that we can begin to realize that some of the things we don't do well still need work, and now might be a good time to start.
And with that, I'll end with a football video. I'm biased, but no one does hype videos better that Georgia. Consider watching this one not because it's a football video, but because the narration is very powerful and speaks to the right way to react to last week's tragedy in Charleston.
I LOVE playing musical theater. It's exhausting and usually means 6-8 weeks with no days off, but it's by far the most fun I have as a musician. I FINALLY got to play Les Miserables for the first time in March and April (a show I idolized when it came out and immediately learned every tune while in high school). I'm pretty sure the piano book is still in the piano bench at my mom's house. Anyway, here are some photos of how I spent the last two months, and some of the amazing people I spent it with.
For the new year: a list of some of the things that are making life awesome right now.
The Bitter Southerner: Every Tuesday this glorious publication comes out with another story about the cool things people are doing in the south. You can read about their mission of bringing great stories about the modern south and it's inhabitants here.
Two of my favorites are Acadian Azaleas, about southerners predilection to taking photos in front of azalea bushes, and the story of Atlanta rapper/barbershop owner Killer Mike.
Podcasts and Audio Books: I'm kind of obsessed with both of these things right now. Favorite podcasts are The Dawgcast, a very entertaining look at Georgia football by two fans. Serial, which of course everyone is obsessed with nowadays and Gravy, a podcast by the Southern Foodways Alliance which focuses on stories of the south through the food we eat.
I'm also completely obsessed with the Audible app. Mostly because it allows me to "read" like 4 books at a time while driving, washing dishes, folding laundry, and writing blog posts.
Cheers and Happy New Year!!
One of my Alma Maters has a very "to the point" motto: For God, For Country and for Yale. While I can totally get behind this, every fall I'm reminded of the south's unofficial motto of "God, Country, Family and Football, but not necessarily in that order." It's football season y'all and once again, I'm all in. . . and completely alone out here on the west coast when it comes to understanding the need to schedule my life around Georgia games.
While I love living in California, have an amazing job, amazing friends, and no plans to leave this enchanted place in which I live; every fall I would give anything to be able to see some live southern college football. How did I get this way you ask? Well, when you consider my past, it's really no wonder. I'm mean really, when you're in marching band from 9th grade to your senior year of college, how can you not become a fan of football?
My parents were never big college football fans. I don't come from a long line of worshipers at the alters of Danny Ford or Vince Dooley as many of my friends do. But from about the age of 5 to age 22, my life centered around high school and college football every fall. I grew up in Clemson, SC from the mid 70's until I went to college in 1991. Many of the fond memories of my childhood center around Clemson football. They won a national championship when I was 7. I remember (I'm not sure where) sitting in William "Refrigerator" Perry's lap at age 7, diligently trying to explain the difference between treble clef and bass clef to him. (He was in my dad's music appreciation class at the time.) I remember getting tempura paint from Mr. Knickerbocker's or Judge Keller's and roaming the tailgates at home games, painting tiger paws on peoples faces to earn enough money to by a ticket to go the the game. In high school/college my dad helped me get a job as a tutor in the athletic department where I tutored Clemson football and basketball players in music appreciation. I remember attending the 1990 Georgia vs. Clemson game my senior year of high school, standing at the top of the upper deck when Clemson beat Georgia and feeling the entire stadium rock, not knowing at the time that I would end up attending the University of Georgia the next fall and swiftly changing allegiances.
In 1991 I went to the University of Georgia for undergrad, and promptly joined the Redcoat Marching Band. This university quickly became "home", the people very quickly became "family", and the primal belief (fact) that all things Georgia are Godly and good, and all things Florida are evil incarnate quickly became "religion". These aspects of southern college football are a real and palatable thing. I can't tell you how many times I've been in a random airport, or even another country wearing a Georgia shirt and someone came up to me, shook my hand, and greeted me with a hearty "Go Dawgs!" I've even had fans of rival teams come up to me in airports, or the streets of San Francisco, shake my hand and respond with "Roll Tide", "Hoddy Toddy", and in one delusional fan's case - "Anchor Down". These greetings are the football fans way of saying "Howdy, fellow football fan, I acknowledge your passion, but hope we will beat your ass to the ground in our next meeting on the battlefield."
So with a couple of weeks behind us, the two teams I have rooted for for most of my life have both had a glorious win, and a heartbreaking loss. And so it goes. . . Go Tigers! (except when you play Georgia) and most of all Go Dawgs!!
I'm currently rounding out my first two weeks as the new Music School Director at the Community School of Music and Arts in Mountain View, CA. I've worked for this place as a teacher and program administrator for over 12 years and now find myself as the head of a department, or more specifically the head of the Music School. While I've only been in this position a week or two, there are some notable things that happen when you are suddenly in charge.
All in all, it's very exciting. I'm very lucky to have this job, and to be involved with such a great organization. And to think, all this happened because 13 years ago a good friend of mine, Daniel Wood, called a fellow struggling freelance musician and said, "Hey, there's this school that needs a theory teacher, are you interested?"
I am a musician, teacher, non-profit program director, transplanted southerner, cancer survivor and college football fan. And will probably write about all of it.