A Teacher's Fight
- Despite battling cancer, Chicago public school teacher Jason Ocol wants to continue teaching his students in-person even though the Chicago Teachers Union voted to restart virtual learning.
- Those battling cancer can be more susceptible to catching COVID-19 and having more serious health complications if they contract the virus.
- While battling cancer, it can be hard to focus on anything except your treatment. However, it’s important to take a moment and focus on something that makes you genuinely happy.
Recently, the Chicago Teachers Union voted to halt in-person classes and instead go back to virtual learning. Nearly 75% of the union agreed this was the best solution, considering rising COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant. However, Ocol was one of the few who disagreed with the decision, and wants to continue teaching in person despite his ongoing battle with an undisclosed cancer.Read More
While the decision has all but been finalized, Ocol is still expressing his concerns to the Chicago Teachers Union and City Hall. His argument is that there are no known cases of COVID-19 within the school where he teaches, and none of his students have COVID-19. While this may be true, it’s important to note that the virus has been rapidly spreading over recent weeks, and those battling cancer are at higher risk of health complications if exposed to the virus. Despite this, he believes he owes it to his students and their parents to continue teaching in the classroom.
“I have done the remote learning for more than a year with the students,” Ocol said. “I have seen the limitations and the challenges that a teacher has with remote learning. It’s not really effective.”
COVID-19 & Cancer
In recent weeks, COVID-19 cases have spiked across the country due to the new omicron variant. Because of this, it’s so important that those who are immunocompromised, such as Ocol, prioritize their health and stay safe during the pandemic. Those who are immunocompromised can include those with preexisting conditions, those who have cancer, or those who have gone through cancer treatment. This can make them more susceptible to catching COVID-19 and having more serious health complications if they contract the virus. It’s recommended that those who are at higher risk try to limit their exposure to big groups, maintain COVID-19 guidelines, and get vaccinated.
The CDC also recommends that immunocompromised people receive an additional mRNA COVID-19 vaccine following the 2-dose primary series. This is different than the booster shot. Studies indicate some immunocompromised people do not always build as high a level of immunity after vaccination as immunocompetent people do. An additional dose may prevent serious disease in people whose immune system may not have responded fully to the initial 2-dose series.
“It’s very important (to get your booster shot), since we know some cancer patients do not mount a sufficient immune response after the first series of shots,” Dr. Nina Shah, a hematologist at the University of California San Francisco, previously told SurvivorNet.
Continue Doing What You Love
While battling cancer, it can be hard to focus on anything except your treatment. However, it’s important to take a moment and focus on something that makes you genuinely happy. Clearly in Ocol’s case, his joy is linked to his teaching career. No matter what you enjoy doing, experts recommend you try to take some time out of your day a few times a week and really enjoy those special pockets of joy.
“We know from good studies that emotional health is associated with survival, meaning better quality of life is associated with better outcomes,” Dr. Dana Chase, a gynecologic oncologist at Arizona Oncology, previously told SurvivorNet. “So working on your emotional health, your physical well-being, your social environment [and] your emotional well-being are important and can impact your survival. If that’s related to what activities you do that bring you joy, then you should try to do more of those activities.”
Whether it’s going to a movie, having a picnic in the park, or in Ocal’s case, teaching in a classroom, any activity that brings joy can really make a difference in one’s cancer battle.