A Thousand Paper Cranes and Other Acts of Kindness

     As I sit here in my hospital room waiting for my second round of chemo I am reminded of the overwhelming support I have received from so many people these last few weeks.  I have, as you may imagine, experienced a variety of emotions every day, but luckily, the emotion I have most been filled with is absolute amazement at the kindness and caring of so many people.  I wanted to take time out to reflect and thank those people who have shown me so much love and kept me in good spirits.

First of all, it is rare for a high school teacher to feel the respect and admiration of one´s students on a regular basis, especially if you teach US history in an international school. The importance of Sam Adams, the Civil War, and McCarthyism is difficult to impart on students who have never, or may never, step foot in the United States.  I don´t teach English or Math or Science (the classes the colleges tend to care the most about), nor do I work in Elementary where the students hug you, hold your hand, and make drawings that say “I love you, Mr. Jon”.  As most teachers know, moments of meaningfulness can seem few and far between during the daily grind of the school year.  But since I have been diagnosed with cancer, I have more perspective on all of this and now am 100% sure that I was meant to be in a classroom.  When I received the bad news, I was not sure how to let my students know what had happened to me since I didn´t want to upset them. It all happened so quickly that I actually never came back to school between my diagnosis and my first chemo session.  Luckily the school notified the students, parents, and staff and since then I have been flooded with emails, books, magazines, tea, TV series, Burt´s Bees chapstick, posters, flowers, baked goods, and suggestions for alternative medicines (will post separately on this at some point), etc.  The Nido community has truly been amazing and helped to reaffirm that I love the world of international teaching.  So many people that I don´t know very well, or have never really met before, were offering to donate air miles for family members, dropping off Apple TVs at the house, picking fresh flowers, and paying for organic vegetables to be delivered on a weekly basis.  For all of this I am so, so thankful.

Overall, however, the emails and letters that have surprised me the most are those of my students.   Their words have brought tears to my eyes on many an occasion.  I never knew that so many young people look up to me and want to be like me; it is so flattering and at times, overwhelming.  I´m not sure I have done anything to receive all these accolades.  I also find it sad that you don´t find out these feelings until something bad happens.  Why can´t we all tell each other how much we care when things are going well???  Two weeks ago, a Japanese student of mine started a paper crane folding campaign in order to send good luck to me and another young teacher with thyroid cancer.  I decided to go to lunch and help fold cranes, and also I knew that I needed to see the students.  I wasn´t prepared for the onslaught of well-wishers and in the end needed a de-facto body-guard, in the form of my department head.  It truly was wonderful and it gives me strength to know that they are all supporting me and that I have made a difference in the classroom.  I also highly enjoyed walking into my room and seeing the pink decorations and posters that they had put up for my visit.  I particularly enjoyed the giant poster on the door, proclaiming, ¨WE BELIVE IN YOU, MS. TIMMS¨.  Ah, yes- those are my students after all!

I also don´t want to leave out the tremendous comfort of my closest family and friends: Your emails, phone calls, Team Eli T-shirts, my sister Ali´s daily ¨Hit Me With Your Best Shot¨ messages….  I never would have imagined such love coming from so many different places all over the world.  Keep it coming!  I also want to thank Renea and Elliot who cooked a fantastic dinner for my family this week and also helped to shave my head.  I would never have been able to get through that traumatic experience without you guys!  And now for a quick shout out, of course, to the two people who haven´t left my side since it all began.  My gentle giant, Jon, has been truly tremendous and I´m so happy that I met such a funny, warm, patient, and giving person.  Your love puts a smile on my face every day.  And also, my mom came down three days after my initial diagnosis and has been such a good support system.  We don´t even have to talk about cancer, but just do crosswords, laugh about old family jokes, and explore the city: all of this helps me to live in the present and keep me sane.  (Although living in a house with your fiancé and his future mother in law can sometimes lead to conflict, as I´m sure you might imagine…)  And there are more visitors on the horizon: my dad and sister are coming down later this week and Randi is coming at the end of the month.  I can´t wait!

Alright, well I think that´s enough love for one blog entry.  My bald head and I are going to read some more trashy magazines (more fabulous donations from well-wishers) and wait for the nurses to come drug me up again.  I´ll leave you with a video clip from one of my favorite feel-good movies that pretty much sums up the theme of this blog post.  (Ignore the Merry Xmas message at the end as I do not believe that Xmas paraphanalia should appear at the same time as Halloween….)  Speaking of, I need suggestions for Halloween costumes if you have any.  Originally I was thinking to go bald, but maybe I´ll go for a fun, cheap, non-Eli wig for something different.  G.I. Jane and Sinead O´Connor are still options though.  Happy weekend!


Add Yours
  1. Katherine

    One of my all-time favorite movies. 🙂

    We missed you and your mom (and Jon, Ali, and Dustin, of course!) here in Oxford, but thought of you throughout the weekend. You would have loved the food – fried green tomatoes, fried catfish, deviled eggs, pimento cheese . . . in other words, low-cal. Your dad represented the Timms family well, and we were so happy to have him here.

    Re. the wigs, I love the blond, McCaleb voted for brunette. Both look shockingly realistic!

    Your blog entries are wonderful, and I find them reassuring. So glad you’re surrounded by so much love. I have a package for you, to be delivered by your dad.

    Much love! Kate, McC, and Ellie


    • eliswift4

      I cant wait to see pictures and definitely am sad I missed out on the good. Although my stomach right now would never survive southern comfort good! I can’t wait to hear stories about the Timms/deidrick clan at the wedding. I’m sure they had quite the time!


  2. Kate Elortegui

    Love hearing about all the love, Eli!!! You deserve every iota of it! And I also love hearing that you do feel you belong in the classroom. WE always knew that, even if you did decide to dabble in the culinary arts for a while. So happy it seems you can do both!

    Keep those beautiful blog entries coming! xxoo from CA….


  3. Missy Josephson

    Eli and Jon, we are praying for you daily and following your blog Eli. Your words are so beautiful and full of positive hope. We are in Houston for the week. So glad your family could visit you. Keep up the fight, you are an inspiration. Love you both Missy and Phil


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