School teacher returns full-time to classroom almost 5 years after brain tumor surgery

(In article mentions an "out-of-body experience" as she watched nurses and doctors working on her body)



April 13, 2019 - Reported [here]. Scottsbluff, Nebraska.— “I’m having more good days than bad days,” Scottsbluff High School teacher Kelli Larson said. “My struggles are private because I never want to be the victim, so I basically put a smile on my face and do the best I can every day.”

Larson has been teaching since 1999, but in 2014, she had to step away as she underwent surgery to remove a tumor on her brain stem. During her surgery, she says she had an "out-of-body experience" as she watched the nurses and doctors scramble to stabilize her body. The next memory she had was opening her eyes and only being able to hear.

Through grit, hard work and perseverance, Larson learned to talk, write and walk again after her surgery.

“I persevered,” she said. “That’s why I just stay positive. I’m lucky to be here because not everyone in my situation survived and I did. I try to make the best of every day.”

Larson is in an 18-month MRI cycle to follow-up and ensure there is no tumor growth. While that experience influenced the person she is today, Larson never lets the brain tumor and the residual effects define her.

The 2018-2019 academic year is the first year since 2013 she has returned to the classroom full-time. While she struggles with the side effects of the nerve damage, there is less downtime between those occurrences.

“I know that it’s temporary,” she said. “I recover more quickly. I know if I’m having a bad day, it’s not a day anymore. It’s an hour or two whereas it used to be bad days. Now it’s like spells or episodes but I’m able to recover.”

After gradually working up to return full-time, Larson still faces daily struggles.

“Some of my struggles would be just tired. I get really tired still,” said Larson. “My blood pressure is still messed up so when I get up, I’m dizzy, light-headed and can’t see.”

Despite these daily struggles, Larson’s return to the classroom continues where she left off — building relationships with her students.

While she has taught math and science courses simultaneously throughout her career, this year, she is strictly a science teacher. Larson teaches biology and anatomy and physiology.

“I’ve never taught biology or A&P, so this year was my first year full-time and it’s also I took on two new subjects. It’s been a big switch all around — new school, new subjects.”

After recovering from the brain tumor, Larson said she has strength and confidence to take on new challenges.

Recently, Larson discussed the nervous system with her students and she was able to take her experience and learn how everything is affected.

“We just got done with the nervous system, so I got to go through the brain and the cranial nerves and everything that got damaged. As I’m teaching I’m like ‘Oh, yeah. That makes sense.’”

As part of the lesson, Larson related her life experience to the concepts.

“When you’re coming at it from a perspective of having been there, you have a whole other perspective, which was pretty cool,” she said.

Although sharing her personal experiences with her students to help them understand the concepts is important, Larson hopes they learn the lessons beyond the classroom.

“The anatomy part is good, but I’d like them to see what grit, hard work and perseverance looks like as well,” said Larson. “I hope that they understand that the life skill of working hard and persevering will be used in their life more than knowing cellular respiration.”

Larson added through the students’ journey of life, they will experience situations where they will be required to find their inner strength to push through and “I hope they would see not to play the victim role. Life is hard and life is not fair, but how you react to that and don’t become the victim is what I hope they see.”

With the academic year nearing the end, Larson said she learned that change can be positive. She also learned that life is not about a career. It’s about making connections.

“I’m here for a reason,” she said. “God didn’t take me and so I hope I’m making a difference for somebody.”

As Larson searches to find her purpose, she looks at the positives and is thankful to share her passion with her students and enjoy life’s moments with her family.