Monday, November 7, 2011

The List

I've been working on a fairly big list lately and today I ticked off the last of it.

My young friend Olivia says August is the evil month but this year it was a week in October that nearly caused my downfall. I had taken a study day to work on my final Masters presentation and so I was at home when the phone rang at 9.15 on Monday morning. It was my dermatologist ringing to say that a routine biopsy I'd had during the holidays had come back positive and I had a melanoma on my leg that would need to be removed as soon as possible.Given that my mother was diagnosed with melanoma at exactly the same (to the day) age as I am now and had subsequently died a very painful and undignified death from the disease, this was pretty traumatic news for me.

The following day, Tuesday, I was due at a job interview for the Acting Principal position at school. The surgery was set for Thursday in Melbourne. I had to come home for the school fete on Saturday and then back to Melbourne on Sunday to give a presentation for the final subject of my Masters degree. The week after that I had a school camp and at the start of the next week, which is today, my final 7000 word Action Research Report was due.

I hadn't started the presentation and the report was no more than draft notes.
I allowed myself the luxury of an hour of wild, morbid thoughts and solitary sobbing. Then my wonderful husband came home from work to assure me I'd be OK and my good friend Lyle arrived with chocolate and coffee and the benefit of her own experience with overwhelming situations. She told me to make a list and tick off one thing at a time.

My training in positive psychology kicked in and told me I couldn't change the prognosis of the disease by worrying about it and I refused to let my amygdala be highjacked. So I wrote the list and only allowed myself to worry about one item at a time. I chose to think positively about each obstacle and to remain calm.

And so, one hurdle at a time was crossed. I did the interview and got the job. I had the surgery. I did the presentation (and got a perfect score for it).I went to the fete and wrote the report. I had a great time on camp and today I had my stitches out in the morning and hit the submit button on the Uni assignment this afternoon. In between I caught a cold and lost my voice for a week, but the list is done!

Starting tomorrow there is a whole new list of things waiting to be done and I know I will be watching for new melanomas for the rest of my life. But this list, that felt so seemingly impossible a couple of  weeks ago, is done. My pathology is clear, I've completed two years of fairly gruelling study, I have tenure in my job (and an upcoming pay rise!) and more importantly, I've felt the warmth of kindness from friends and relative strangers who have gone out of their way to help me get through the list in one piece.

So what's this got to do with education and hindsight?

Easy; it's a lesson in stereotypical positivity and it's added to my lessons to live by.
  • Have faith in your own ability.
  • Depend on good friends and family.
  • Ask for help.You'll be surprised where that help will come from.
  • Don't farseek, take one step at a time.
  • Be positive. Visualise the best possible outcome and even if it doesn't work out that way , you'll sleep better in the meantime.


  1. We all need to stop and remember these points you've made. We absolutely need to believe in the amazing powers of our body and spirit, I agree! Thank you for sharing your story :D

  2. Thanks for your feedback Jessica. There are some things that can't be changed by positivity but they can't be improved by negativity either so the choice seems simple to me :-)