Question for K-8 public school teachers

arbojenn
arbojenn Member Posts: 118
edited March 2014 in Breast Cancer #1
I need to ask you this question as doctors have no idea what a classroom teacher does: they think we are like professors and stand in front of the room and that our duties end when the kids leave for the day or for specials. I am hoping you will give me your opinion as to how “fit” I will be to do all the bending, lifting, turning, etc. when I return.

I had to have more than a double mastectomy. I had a local-regional recurrence in my reconstructed breast. This involved the chest wall and the skin. The reconstructed breast was removed and left a huge gaping hole. The “good” breast was removed and some of the tissue was used to fill up the hole. As much involved tissue as possible was removed from the flap used in the reconstruction and rotated to fill another area. I am not sure what they did to the back: I had to have a chunk of my back removed, too. This extends almost to my spine. The incision is one continuous line from the right side, across my chest to the left, then continuing around to the back. There is a little side road that travels up to my collar bone. I have had previous abdominal surgeries, so a tummy flap and the flap from the other side of my back (had a lat the first time) was out of the question. So to cover the front, the remaining skin was separated from the muscle below and stretched. I needed a skin graft to cover the back. After this heals, I will be doing radiation and femara. Right now I do not see where I am going to get the energy to go back to work. I have been reading the school emails about everything the teachers need to do—you know all the legal paperwork, getting books, chaperoning, with budget cuts cleaning the classroom, etc and even more with the swine flu epidemic—and I just want to crawl back into bed. I am only four weeks out of surgery so maybe that has something to do with it. Still do not have complete motion or ability to lift.

Anyway, teachers, I would like your thoughts on this. Our benefits person told me I would not be allowed to return to work if I had any restrictions. She said even a restriction like “must use a cane” would prevent me from returning to the classroom. Luckily, I have disability insurance, but I kind of like to have a plan about what to do.

Thank you so much and sorry for the grossness and length of this post. I appreciate your taking the time to read it.

Comments

  • zahalene
    zahalene Member Posts: 670
    Honey,
    I am not a teacher (although my mother was through all my growing up years), but one thing seems clear to me. Your health and healing come FIRST. If you feel that your job will in any way compromise your return to the best you can possibly be, then forget it. Especially if you have financial support and options for getting by without working.
    You might check with your school and see if you can do some tutoring at home or some other support service for your school if being totally disconnected from your career makes you unhappy.
    God bless.
  • BunnyJane
    BunnyJane Member Posts: 213
    zahalene said:

    Honey,
    I am not a teacher (although my mother was through all my growing up years), but one thing seems clear to me. Your health and healing come FIRST. If you feel that your job will in any way compromise your return to the best you can possibly be, then forget it. Especially if you have financial support and options for getting by without working.
    You might check with your school and see if you can do some tutoring at home or some other support service for your school if being totally disconnected from your career makes you unhappy.
    God bless.

    Teaching_Disability
    I was a teacher for several years. There is NO WAY that I could tend the duties of a teacher AND receive BC treatments, and try to get well. While only you can decide, I'd recommend that you focus on your healing first and consider short-term disability. Best of luck with your recovery. Jane
  • mickeymom
    mickeymom Member Posts: 117
    teachers
    I had a single mastectomy that was very uneventful before school was out last spring. I took a two and a half week leave of absence to deal with it and then went back. I didn't have anywhere close to what you are dealing with and I struggled with needing people to pick things up and move things around and all the regular things you have to do at the end of the school year. It was very trying and I had a tough time with the fatigue. I started chemo in June and won't be finished until Sept. 24. I have only been back in school for 5 days this year and again, the fatigue is starting to sneak up here and there. I had my second to last chemo yesterday so again - 2 days off from school, but it seemed pretty crazy to me that I was looking forward to chemo so I could take a good long nap all afternoon. The fatigue is the worst and you can overdo it pretty fast and get yourself in trouble.

    Is there anyway you can take a leave of absence? My school actually had me set a return day way in the future, much longer than I knew I would need, and then when the doctor thought I was good to go back, or for you, when you feel better, reset the end date for the leave. I sounds to me like you need more time to recover and if you over do it, you'll just end up needing more time off. It would be good if you were well recovered before you start radiation too. The others are right - your health has to come first! It's like the airplane safety instructions about the oxygen masks, take care of yourself first and then help your children because you won't be able to help them if you can't breath.
  • lanie940
    lanie940 Member Posts: 490
    I'm so sorry for what you
    I'm so sorry for what you have had to go through. I agree with the others, YOU and your health come first. Take your short term disability. I think in my area of PA teachers on leave get 3 semesters off.
  • Calleen
    Calleen Member Posts: 411
    lanie940 said:

    I'm so sorry for what you
    I'm so sorry for what you have had to go through. I agree with the others, YOU and your health come first. Take your short term disability. I think in my area of PA teachers on leave get 3 semesters off.

    So Sorry
    You are having such a hard time... I didn't realize until reading your posts how much Teachers have to do!!! I am wondering though about your State Laws and the school saying you can't come back if you have any restrictions.... Not sure but I think you should be covered under FMLA and be able to return for light duty and they have to accomidate you??? Just a thought??? But as the others have said your healing comes first...
  • dyaneb123
    dyaneb123 Member Posts: 950
    Calleen said:

    So Sorry
    You are having such a hard time... I didn't realize until reading your posts how much Teachers have to do!!! I am wondering though about your State Laws and the school saying you can't come back if you have any restrictions.... Not sure but I think you should be covered under FMLA and be able to return for light duty and they have to accomidate you??? Just a thought??? But as the others have said your healing comes first...

    Yeah That not being allowed
    Yeah That not being allowed to return with any disability doesn't sound right. Once your medical team clears you to return, I dont see how they can say you can't. I've come to school with crutches before(not BC related ) and nobody blinked an eye. I'm working full time while completeing my last chemo next week. But then I have 35 days of Radiation to get through too. I'm thinking of working a 3 day week during rads. I can do that because we have a sick bank so we can borrow extra sick days when we need them. You do what you need to to take care of yourself, but I believe I'd talk to your sick leave expert or your NEA representative at your school board office to find out what you can or can't legally do. Your in school people may not know what they are talking about.
  • cabbott
    cabbott Member Posts: 1,039 Member
    504 covers you
    Did you know that the same law that covers your handicapped students in a regular classroom under 504 also covers you? If you need a cane or a wheelchair or some other accomodation to do your job, but still have the energy and ability to do it, you have a case. Shucks, you don't kick kids out of the classroom for having a cane with a broken leg or even two broken arms. You write up what accomodations they need and make do. If you can't do what teachers do (lack of energy, illness, and so forth), you have grounds to request disablity. Getting the long-term disability takes about 2 years and requires a lot of paperwork and a good social worker to plead your case. Many teachers have decent short-term disability plans that will help give you something while you wait for the longer term program to kick in. Sometimes a good benefits person can help. I'm not too sure about yours since that one doesn't want you in the classroom if you have a cane. Maybe you need to talk to your doctor about what you really need. Your health comes first for sure. Shortly after radiation ends, you will know if you will be able to return to work or not.

    Another thing that plays into the picture is how close you are to retirement. I had a gym teacher once that was able to take two years on sick leave followed by short term disability, get to 25 years, and then retire on partial pension after a knee injury. I'm sure she wanted to keep working and getting full pay, but her knee was a pain (literally!) and keeping the medical benefits and resting enough were more important than getting to 30 years. Her teaching would have been too painful.

    If you have a union rep to help you go over the possibilities, it would give you some added clout with the benefits personnel, should you need it. If not, you might talk with your local agency that handles disabilities. The Adults with Disabilities Act does protect folks with cancer from being fired if they can do their jobs. They may also help with getting disability if you need it. They also may know other options that you should consider. They may have access to a good lawyer.

    Another option would be to take a different teaching position in the school or outside of it. Our Internal Suspension Supervisor doesn't get paid as much as a regular teacher (at our little school she is part-time), but she mostly sits and supervises a handful of students that study at carrels and don't talk. That's a lot easier than a classroom teacher for sure. Tutors work one-on-one after school if you need part time work scheduled around doctor visits. Sometimes teachers are hired by testing companies to grade tests online. I know our tests are sent to Texas for scoring, but I'm not sure that the scorers live there since the tests are scanned, put online and scored by 3 scorers that live elsewhere. Maybe you have to live in Texas, maybe not. It's worth a phone call if you need a job change. Even folks on disability are allowed to make some cash if they aren't working full-time or at the same job.

    Good luck!
  • arbojenn
    arbojenn Member Posts: 118
    Thank you!
    Thank you all so much for your input. I have a lot to think about! Right now, I am thinking I will take my disability leave until my radiation is over and I have recovered. Then, I will see if I feel up to getting back in the classroom or not. Thanks you guy, so much!