I’ve always loved school. Call me a brown noser or keener or whatever you like, but I love investigating and learning and understanding new things. I spent too many years at university because I loved being on campus and amongst peers who were keen to learn, and I loved teachers who were excited to share what they knew. From elementary school through university, I even worked part-time in libraries, which makes me the ultimate nerd.
As an adult, my love of learning has not abated. I have taken continuing education courses of all kinds over the years, and have gone to conferences just for fun. I surf the internet not to escape reality but to know more. I am far from the best chef, for example, but I sure know a lot about cooking techniques, ingredients, and other cultures’ foods.
So imagine my delight when, upon being diagnosed with leukemia last year, I discovered a whole new world of learning opportunities out there. I have dubbed these opportunities “Cancer School”. And no, I don’t mean internet health research. That’s a minefield I avoid, choosing instead to save my questions for my brilliant cancer specialist whom I have trusted with my life since she saved it not too long ago.
One of the best things about Cancer School is that you don’t have to talk to your classmates about your illness because it’s just understood. Initially I feared hanging out with cancer survivors would be a downer, but I’ve realized the opposite is true. My classmates may be bald or pale or rail thin, but they’re living with an illness, just like me. They are often funny or engaging or smart, or sometimes they are deathly dull and painful to talk to just like me (and many others without cancer). And, like me, they may want to forget about cancer for the afternoon. I can share a lovely day with an amiable group and learn something that may improve my quality of life.
Cancer School offers free classes of all sorts. I have attended lectures on managing fatigue, on eating well with cancer, and on returning to work. I could learn to apply makeup to mask the effects of my illness, but I’ve never worn makeup so why start now?
The cooking classes, held in a space donated by the local high-end cooking school, are my favourites. Fellow cancer club members and I make ourselves a healthy, immune-supportive meal that we get to enjoy together at the end. But I feel bad about the day I showed up to one of these classes not realizing I had just dripped my raspberry smoothie all the way down my shirt. Unfortunately, the stain looked remarkably blood like. How could no one have told me? In retrospect, I can’t believe my classmates gagged down what I had helped cook that day. Upon arriving home, I realized to my horror that I looked like I’d hemorraghed all over myself. I’m so sorry, cooking-school classmates, and no hard feelings if you pick another chopping partner at the next class.