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A Year of Challenges

Mr. Gillian stays positive in tough times

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Mr. Christian Gillian has been teaching at CI for 21 years, first as a counselor and now as a math teacher. He has had his ups and downs throughout his years of teaching; however, this year – one of health scares, fires, and floods – has been the most life-changing for him.

Before the school year started, Mr. Gillian noticed a lump on his right hip. Initially he thought it was a cyst, and in October he had surgery to remove the lump from his hip.

A week after the surgery, the doctors informed him that what he initially thought was a cyst was a level 2 sarcoma, a growth that contains cancer cells but is still in the earlier stages. He was told he needed surgery again.

The news came as a complete shock to Mr. Gillian.

“I kind of just blanked out and lost my hearing,” he said.

When he got home, he reacted like any person would when they find out that they have cancer. He was in disbelief at first, then sad, then numb.

A few weeks later the second surgery took place. This second surgery was to ensure that there were no more cancer cells where the growth had once been.

During the surgery, more soft tissue was removed from his hip and sent to the lab to check if there were any more cancer cells.

When Mr. Gillian returned days later, he was told that all the cancer cells had been removed.

Between his first and second surgery, Mr. Gillian said that he experienced a spiritual healing.

“I asked all the powers from above for healing and I feel like I received it,” he said. “I actually felt at peace afterwards.”

After the second surgery, doctors recommended that Mr. Gillian undergo radiation treatment to increase the chances of being 100 percent healed. He thought about the idea of radiation for long time. He was a bit hesitant because he had already felt as if he had gotten healing.

Eventually he decided to go through with it. He was told the side effects of the radiation would be intense burns on his right hip and extreme fatigue.

Due to the second surgery, Mr. Gillian missed most of October and November. He started radiation in November.

When things were just starting to return to somewhat normal, disaster struck again with the Thomas Fires and the Montecito mudslides. The fires started Dec. 4 and the mudslides followed on Jan. 9.

The fires reached within ten blocks of where Mr. Gillian lives in Carpinteria. He was evacuated from his neighborhood.

“I had to pack all my stuff and leave,” he said. “This all happened while I going through radiation and it was super stressful.”

The mudslides made it difficult for Mr. Gillian to reach his radiation treatment in Santa Barbara because of the 101 Freeway being closed. He had to drive the long way to Santa Barbara – it took him 6 hours each way – to get his treatment. He later took the train when they opened.

Radiation finally ended in February, but his energy levels were tremendously low. It also left him with second- and third-degree burns on his hip.

“This (the cancer) was caused by me pushing all the anger deep into my body over the years,” Mr. Gillian said. Through this experience he discovered how to release his anger without taking it out on himself or others, he said.

Mr. Gillian has always been seen as a positive and upbeat man to those who know him, and even though he has been through a lot this year, he still maintains a positive attitude.

Meditation was one way that Mr. Gillian was able to push through the pain and worries. By meditating he was able to focus on the present and not the future and the “what-ifs.”

Jasmine Cortez, a senior, had Mr. Gillian last year for Pre-Calculus Honors and this year for AVID-4.

“He seemed a little upset when he came back to school,” Cortez said, “but he still breathed life into us by keeping a positive attitude in the classroom.”

Ms. Terrie Romines, a fellow math teacher and classroom neighbor, has been friends with Mr. Gillian for 21 years. She offered support throughout all of these experiences.

“I was very concerned when I heard about the cancer cells and I did whatever I could to help while he was away,” she said.

“I think this has been the hardest year anyone can go through,” Ms. Romines added, “and he has come through it amazingly well. He’s just shined through it and made the best of the situation.”

Through these tough times, Mr. Gillian has had a strong support system here at CI and he is thankful to everyone who has been there for him.

“Everyone from Dr. Senesac to all the counselors, secretaries, teachers in the math department and all of my students have been very understanding and helpful during this year. I am in a place of being thankful and grateful.”

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