Teaching is my calling. I’ll never forget my years as a paraprofessional because I always wanted to be the teacher. Each teacher inspired me in different ways and in August of 2018, I finally became a special ed teacher. I always saw the possibilities of students with disabilities. They are my heart and soul and I will spend my life showcasing their strengths, not their deficits.

My first year of teaching was amazing. I thrived under pressure and loved every second of it until May came around – and I started throwing up.

My first summer off as a teacher was hell. I pictured myself bathing in the hot sun enjoying my fair share of piña coladas and instead I spent most of the summer in cold ER rooms with confused doctors. I had a severe migraine the entire summer, couldn’t eat or see in one eye and spent the majority of my time throwing up or crying. Most teachers don’t want summer to end, but I couldn’t wait for it to be over. When August 2019 started, I threw up for a week and in September, I was symptom-free eager to teach my second year and put the roller-coaster months behind me.

The roller coaster wasn’t over. When mid-October rolled around, I experienced a month-long migraine, went half-blind again, and ended up in the hospital for a week. I was finally diagnosed with Devic’s disease (or NMO) after my MRI scans showed lesions of the brain, severe inflammation behind my eye, and positive blood results. NMO mainly affects the spinal cord and the optic nerves – the nerves that carry signals from the eyes to the brain. As a result, the disease can cause paralysis and blindness.

Though enduring this disease is truly one of the most difficult and painful things I’ve ever faced, sometimes pain isn’t always the worst part about chronic-illness.

My illness has left me feeling inadequate as a teacher. The time I missed from work was time stolen with my students that I’ll never get back. I started to forget my students laugh and missed the warmth their hugs brought to my heart.

I started a chemotherapy treatment called Soliris and though it has prevented another attack, it has made me weak no matter how much I’ve changed my nutrition. I felt horrible day after day by how much time I missed and not being there for my students. So with a broken heart, I had to say goodbye to them and a school that became instant family.

They became the kind of family that when I had a mental breakdown nearing a panic attack on the floor of my classroom, my assistant principal was by my side in a minute holding my hand trying to get me to deep breathe. It was those moments that kept me holding on until the end.

The thing about being a teacher with a chronic-illness is that you have to learn when you’ve done your part, and when it’s time for someone else to step in to give your students the best education possible.

There comes a point when you realize your students deserve better than what they’re getting from you no matter how much you will miss them. Yes, I miss their smiles, their questions, their struggles and their aha moments. Every time I packed up something in my classroom, my heart stung. My student’s tears became my tears, and those last few days wrecked me. I pray the next teacher sees just how unique and wonderful each of them are.

I know I can’t control what this disease does to me, the side effects from treatment, or the fact that I am visually impaired, but deep down, I know I can give so much more and this is why I left. Right now, I’m in the thick of this disease figuring out what works and what doesn’t – and I need to rest. For now, I’ll sub in the district I live in on the days I feel strong and rest on the days I can’t, and hope for disability benefits.

I’ll continue to trust in God’s timing and when he thinks I’m strong enough to have my own classroom again. The prior hour drive weakened me before I even made it to work. I dragged daily, barely able to pull one foot in front of the other and it showed. Feeling embarrassment while walking the hallways was inevitable.

And so, I will wait. I will heal. I will be strong for the students in my future because they will deserve no less.

I know color will come soon where there is a whole lot of grey.

I know I will be Mrs. Wall again.

50 thoughts on “Leaving My Job Was The Hardest Decision Since My Diagnosis

  1. Wow, what a powerful story and what powerful words. Thank you for sharing. I am so sorry that you have had to suffer like this. I left teaching due to a voice disorder that causes me much pain with every word I speak and I had a similar battle with leaving. I love what you say about knowing when it’s time for someone else to step in. So glad to have found your beautiful blog ❤️

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  2. Thanks so much for sharing your story, Savannah. I’m also an educator displaced by chronic illness and while I haven’t been able to do it in 10 years, I will always miss it. I only had a year to teach myself for my illness forced me out. It’s very nice to meet you and I will definitely be back to read more. We “spoonies” much stick together! xx

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    1. Thanks Michelle. Thank you for the well wishes and support. Wow we have such similar stories. I do hope to get back to it soon but I am resting and healing in the way I know is best. Sending spoons and hugs😌💚

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  3. Oh Savannah, I am sending you hugs. I know the agony of making the painful decision to leave your passion, your sense of identity, your kids. I was forced to do the same thing almost 7 years ago. There are days when I feel physically awful and am thankful I don’t have to face a roomful of kids. But there are also days I desperately miss teaching. It finally came down to me realizing I needed to be the strongest I could be for the most important child in my life – my son. Wishing you well on this journey.

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    1. Thank you for sharing Wendy. And yes I couldn’t agree more your greatest calling is your child. Thank you so much for the well wishes. It is time for me to heal💚💚💚

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  4. Savannah, ugh! It hurts my heart to read this, but you continue to encourage me through my own chronic illness/pain. I’ve been battling late-stage lyme disease and now they think I have something major going on with my G.I. but not sure what. So frustrating. Can hardly eat. Nauseous daily. Lost 30lbs. Daily headaches with brain fog/confusion. Memory issues. Anxiety flare ups. I’ve had to back away from the amount of speaking I do at Youth events. That kills me. When I do teach, I’m in so much pain and so weak. So I get much of what you’ve been through. My wife has talked to me about taking a year off, but how? Bills still have to be paid. It’s so stressful. Praying for you to heal and for wisdom for your medical team. Strength and peace in Him.

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    1. Thank you Jason. I’m so sorry you’re going through all that. Have you tried SSDI? I’ve been denied twice but I’m hoping my appeal will work this time because I can’t work right now. But I know the struggle—having to pay the bills but wanting to rest. Maybe try finding online work? Also have you heard of Your Super food powders? I love their Super green and Mellow Yellow. The mellow yellow I drink at night with warmed up almond milk and spoonful of maple syrup. It has helped me sleep better and relieve a lot of stress and anxiety. Prayers for you friend. I hope you can rest.

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  5. Thanks for sharing your story. That’s good you’re taking time out to heal. I pray the Lord opens the right door for you closer to home.

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  6. I am praying for you sister. I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease on 1-6-2012. I too had to leave my previous employment and I have been fighting this disease for the last 8 years of my life. Praying the Lord lifts you up, heals you, and gives you strength! God bless you!

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  7. I pray that the hand of the Living God will reach down to the root cause of your situation and bring forth a miracle in the name of Jesus Christ.

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  8. I’m a speech language pathologist. I totally relate. I hope things improve for you. Being a teacher is something no one can ever take away from you. I had to change things around as my disease progressed. I went from early intervention to elementary and now high school to better meet my needs and my students’ needs. Thank you for sharing.

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  9. I cannot imagine what you are going through… I cannot even pull myself together upon seeing my husband suffer as well these past few months.
    Be strong sister… Praying for you from the other side of the world. 🙏❤️

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    1. Thank you so much PEevee. Really appreciate it :-) I hope your husband is well. Such a tough journey. Stronger together💚

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  10. I wish so much things were a lot better and saying hang in there sound so trivial. I pray that you fine peace with everything and I pray there is a job that is the perfect fit for you in every way. May God give you strength and hold you up and keep you cradled in His protective arms. Blessings

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  11. Thank you for so honestly sharing such a painful time. You are still teaching those of us who really read and listen to your message. One day you will also be back up in front of a class but never forget that once a teacher…always a teacher. That is just how God made you.

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  12. I used to be a Teacher Aide in special ed, and loved it so much. My health forced me to leave, and even though I know it was the best decision for me, my students and colleagues, it broke my heart. I still feel sad thinking about it now, but try to hold onto the memories, experiences and joy that time in my life gave me. All the best with your health, and I’ll pray that you teach again some day, and enjoy the hugs, challenges and triumphs once again.

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  13. Teaching is a very high calling. I hope that you can understand that through your blog you are continuing to walk in that calling. The hugs feel diff than in person, but your raw, passion and authenticity gives away your heart: Like all true Teachers.

    Be blessed,

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  14. I wish there was something more I could do than make a small contribution and tell you that I feel for you, that I admire your courage. I don’t pray because I don’t know what I believe, but I do care and you are in my thoughts for whatever they may be worth. I wish you strength and healing. XX

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  15. I prayed for you little sister. As a teacher I understand how much students and being in the classroom means. I will pray for your healing so you can return to teaching.

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