Monday, March 22, 2010

Brain Saga 3

This is a continuation of what I wrote in Don't Mess With The Brain and Brain Saga 2.

I returned to school in Fall 2007. The math department managed to secure funding for two quarters of study that did not require me to teach. This was important as I wasn't able to speak well enough to teach. I was very disappointed that I would not be able to teach, but hopeful that my speech would improve and I would be able to teach soon.


The next challenge was to find a place to stay. I only had a couple months to find housing and my options were very limited. I was beginning to get discouraged when a woman contacted us. She was a mature grad student in a small two bedroom apartment who had three grown children. We talked by phone and felt comfortable with each other so my mother and I traveled to Davis and met her. She and I instantly hit it off. She served us water from the water filter, and after observing a fly landing in my water I commented that there was a fly in my water. My mother, who was alert for any signs of insanitary conditions, assumed it came out of the water filter, and was about to take me home before the misunderstanding was explained. I then proceeded to have a seizure after my mother left me alone with my new roommate for a bit. I guess I gave my mother several scares at that point. But my roomie dealt with the seizure well, which made my mother feel better, so I officially moved back to Davis and returned to school. Many people thought even that was impossible, but with a lot of support from many people, I did it.

I returned to school and loved it. The mental stimulation that had been lacking during my recovery in Seattle was back. My classwork was about a year behind the cohort I originally entered with, so I got to know the new first-years, while still remaining in contact with the class I had come in with and the class before it, which I had already become buddy's with. I had an adult tricycle to get me around town and campus. We had customized it to fit my needs and my mother got me a T-shirt with a drawing of a trike and the caption "chicks dig my ride."

As I was officially disabled I was strongly encouraged to meet with an accommodations coordinator to make sure that my legal rights to accommodations would be met. I was a bit reluctant to exercise any of my disability rights because I viewed this as an experiment and thought that accommodations would compromise the integrity of my experiment. But my family and friends convinced me to at least look at the options. My doctors said that I would need someone to take notes for me because I couldn't write notes and pay attention at the same time. They also said I needed twice the time on exams and broken up over two days, because it took me longer to write and I got more easily fatigued. It turned out that I had to declare what I needed at the beginning of the quarter and then I could use it or not as needed. So I did that. I had someone take notes for me and sometimes I got a little more time on exams, although that was not often needed. The notes were of limited help, for note-taking is such a personal thing. You just don't get anywhere near what you get when taking your own notes. I soon stopped reading most of the notes because they often took too long for me to figure out. Not that that reflects in any negative light on the note-takers. I am thankful to them and they all took far clearer notes than I ever did.

My goal was simply to see how far I could get. I half expected to have to drop out in the middle of that first quarter, but I didn't. I had a vibrant social and academic life. But by the end of the Fall my chemotherapy was seriously interfering with my life, so my doctor and I decided to take a "chemo vacation."

During the winter quarter my roommate moved away and I moved into one of the department's administrator's house. This was good because it had more room, a dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer. It was only one story, and I already had a good relationship with the landlord. On the other hand, I missed my old roommate and the exercise the stairs provided me, and it was farther from campus. My family was quite happy with the lack of stairs.

I had difficulty with a professor that quarter. It started out with the midterms, which were take-home exams, and he kept changing the rules to appease first year students who were complaining about how hard the test was. This created a problem because those who completed and turned in the test early were not able to turn it in again and so it was easier for the students who turned it in later. I happened to be one of the ones who turned it in early. That'll teach me TO procrastinate! I wrote a polite email to the professor and the administration complaining about it. I did fairly well on the test, but that was not the point: I believed that the test was unfair and I, as an academic, had the responsibility to say it. The finals for that class turned out to be scheduled late in the evening. I get incoherent and disoriented later in the day so I emailed the professor and asked for a time earlier in the day. I didn't get a response so I tried again. He finally responded at the last minute suggesting the same time but on another day. I figured he had misunderstood my problem and replied with a more thorough explanation of why that did not work. I got no response until it was to late. It got finally worked out so that the test did not factor into my grade.

I got about a B average in those two quarters. Not what I was once accustomed to but more than expected, so I was pleased. But I still wasn't able to teach and my funding had run out. So the next quarter I did not officially enroll and instead just sat in on classes. The battles I had in the previous quarter had exhausted me and I had trouble keeping up and understanding the material in the classes I was sitting in on. Near the end of the Spring I had a major seizure and ended up spending the night in the hospital, feeling very grumpy. Apparently I acted like a petulant child to the nurses and doctors. I don't remember that whole period very well but I was apparently not thinking at all clearly for at least a month. It was getting hot in Davis, and I was clearly needing more care so I went back to Washington.

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