This entry was submitted by Elizabeth Mabon Grass of Jackson Heights, NY:
My metastatic breast cancer story began in December 2004. I awoke suddenly during my biopsy. Two strong white coats shaking my torso, fighting to get tissue, but I was numb to feeling. I became a warrior at that moment. But there is another side of me that is very strong and quite beautiful, which cancer has not defeated: my creativity, my love for children, and of shaping rhythm and tone with them.
As a musician, my creative life centers on making music. Creativity kept me strong. I taught music in a Brooklyn High School where teenagers learned life through drums, rhythmic chant, and talent shows. It led to my teaching in a NYC international high school where immigrants fluent in 28 languages sang tall to acquire English. Creativity sent me to South Africa to make music with township children who are talented in string, dance, and singing.
So now, the choice stands in front of me. Go back to work or file for disability or retirement? I am now in my 11th year of fighting breast cancer. I did not work this academic year as a high school music teacher. Instead, I opted for a year of “restoration of health.”
I do have my fears about going back to work. As I continue to battle against it [cancer], my creativity is strong and whole and will live on in the voices, songs, and shouts of others. But I can’t help but to wonder: “Will the pain get worse? Will the drugs interfere in my daily functioning?” I have found that my pain is worse in the mornings and sometimes it takes me an hour or more to get moving freely again. “Will I be able to make it to school on time every day?”
Despite my fears, I believe it is worth my honest effort to return to work. I consider returningto work as vitally important to my health. The advantages of directing young foreign voices to sing far outweigh my fears of infection or side effects from continued chemotherapy. The transformative effects of making music with my young friends has been extremely positive. I’ve gained relationships with so many children and adults through this intimate process of making music together.
Do you and Elizabeth share a similar experience? What was your experience like when you went back to work? Share your comments here or on our Facebook page.