Adult learning has not only become a passion but this week it helped serve as a coping mechanism for me. As it happened, my siblings and I were met with some very unwelcome news of a loved one’s health. Initially, words like “highly concerning for malignancy” and “perhaps a matter of months” left us reeling. I suddenly found myself engulfed in a wave of emotions raging from grief to panic at the thought of navigating this experience. I began to imagine the months ahead and speculate as to how I would add this to an already burgeoning work/life schedule. If indeed a finite amount of time now confronted us, I might need to make some tough decisions as to how I would be utilizing this precious commodity in the upcoming months. Possibly, I would not be able to complete my current class in adult learning.

Sometime later a different perspective was offered by another physician. This one, not nearly as dismal as the first. This brought some relief but the reality was there remained some big decisions for my loved one to make and I could tell from the look on his face that he was counting on his children to help him make it. I cried, I prayed and somehow managed to maintain focus. I decided to utilize some of resources I’ve been learning about in my classes. I went online and began pulling information together. I investigated the risks of transthoracic needle biopsy to determine just how likely complications such as bleeding and pneumothorax were and if mortality was associated with the risks. I added videos to my YouTube playlist. I found all kinds of articles on lung cancer and saved them in a reference folder. My sister gathered information from friends on Face Book, some of them physicians, others had personal experiences with cancer. The siblings met and talked; we shared our thoughts, fears, feelings, knowledge and lack thereof. We determined to get as much information for my father as possible, consult with another medical oncologist and help him make an informed decision. I stopped racing ahead and projecting into the future, contemplating decisions that didn’t need to be made right now. I realized that my experiences as an adult learner had helped me cope and regardless of whether I remained enrolled in current coursework, I would remain an adult learner. It is a part of who I am.

I have the sense that I am like the surfer who, though wanting the experience of “riding the wave”, has suddenly caught a glimpse of it out of the corner of his eye and is contemplating getting off the board and heading for the safety of the shore. I’d like to remain on the board and ride this wave all the way in but I realize I just might wipe out. All I can do is take one day at a time, do my best, stay focused, practice what I know and hope for the best. If I wipe out, I know I’ll try again. If I don’t, I’m going to be one happy, grateful surfer dude!

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9 Responses to

  1. Oh, Wally….thank you for sharing what is happening with your life! Isn’t it amazing how the skills and tools that we’re developing as learners in this course can have a powerful affect on our personal lives? This is a true example of how your PLN is working to support you. The way in which you cope will certainly be of value to someone else in the future. I know that you will be a resource for others who may have few networks of support!

  2. How nice to hear from you, Laurie. Thank you for reading my blog! I miss you so much and hope that we will reconnect in a future class. Your work definitely inspires me. How is your “moocing” coming along?

  3. bwatwood says:

    Hang in there, Wally. Our parent’s aging is part of our life as well. I lost my dad last year and have to deal long distance with my mom’s failing health. Siblings are both a blessing and a curse! 🙂 I agree with you…practice what you know (and have learned) and hope for the best. That…and hang on to the good memories.

    • Wally Wallace says:

      It’s so good to know that you are watching as we continue in this journey, especially since you invested so much in our learning. Thanks for the kind words – much appreciated.

  4. Life often brings struggles that have few positive sides. One may be that you are helping your family be learners too. We hope you can stay with us for the rest of the ride.

  5. Joanne Even says:

    A year ago this very week, I had taken time off from both work and school to be with my parents while my Dad underwent an 8 hour surgery to remove his cancer-riddled esophagus. I ended up spending more time in Connecticut than I had planned, but I have never regretted being there for Mom and Dad. My sister was unable to be there, so we Skype’d with her from my Dad’s hospital room on several occasions. It was a rough time for all of us, and it’s cliche to say this, but it’s times like that when you realize what is really important in your life. I’ll keep you and your family in my thoughts.

    • Thank you, Joanne. You offer some wise words for a time such as this. I remember you mentioning your Dad’s brush with cancer so I understand how you can relate. I appreciate your kind words. It’s funny, I used to touch base with Dad at least once a week – now it is pretty every day. Savoring the moments!

  6. Oh I am so sorry to learn of your struggles Wally. How difficult! I am thinking of you as you endure this process. I agree with Joanne that you will never regret the time spent with family. I hope that you can figure out how to balance it all but know that time is also precious.

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