October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month!
Jennifer Waddell, school nurse
Dr. Wright L. Lassiter Jr. Early College High School
In 2006, I had my first mammogram at age 41 and was asked to come back the next day for a biopsy due to calcifications seen on the image. I turned out to have early-stage breast cancer and underwent two lumpectomies, sentinel node testing and six and a half weeks of radiation. I had only been living in Dallas for a few months and didn’t have a support system here, but the people I worked with were very kind and supportive throughout the process. One co-worker drew a happy face with 33 clear stripes that I filled in after each radiation treatment so that I could have a visual marker of my progress. I knew how lucky I was to have been diagnosed so early in the cancer’s growth, but it was still a life-changing experience. For about a year, every pain I had made me think “Cancer!” I had to have many biopsies over the next several years due to MRI or ultrasound findings, but, thankfully, they were all negative. My breast, now with an implant, is permanently altered and numb due to the surgery and radiation. My tagline on the lifelong experience is, “You’re done with cancer before it’s done with you”. But I’m alive, cancer free for 13 years and back to yearly screening mammograms. My advice is to get your mammogram every year. I thank God for my family support and prayers of people I didn’t know well and the excellent care at UT Southwestern.
Linda Varhola, office clerk
Mockingbird Elementary School
In 1981, I was a 31-year-old mother of a 5-year-old daughter in kindergarten and was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be here to raise my daughter. I promised the Lord if He saved my life to raise my child, I would help people with cancer. Since then, I worked in a hospital with sick patients. I was keeping my promise! Then in 2001, my daughter had graduated from college with a master’s degree. I was still working in a hospital. In April 2002, I was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. Of course, the first thing I thought was, my daughter is now a grown woman and now it’s my time. I had a mastectomy and chemotherapy; I missed 11 months of work. When I returned to work, my job was eliminated. I believe when one door closes, another door opens. I got a job working in a hematology–oncology physician’s office as a medical secretary. I was working every day with cancer patients, who became my work family. We cheered successes, we cried at recurrences, and we cried when they lost their battles. I was where I was meant to be, keeping my promise. I am now a 38/17-year cancer survivor. Over the years I have moved to different states to live near my daughter and grandchildren. That is how I arrived here in Dallas, working with students in the office at Mockingbird Elementary School.
Nelda Griffin, Substitute
My cancer journey began in November 2016. I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer (the big and bad one, they say). But God showed up and showed who was the biggest and the baddest. I was told that I was cancer free on April 14, 2017, after four rounds of chemo and 33 rounds of radiation. Glory! So, I give God the glory and I am very grateful for the support of family, friends, church family, Dr. Emmett-Birdwell, Dr. Juarez, and the staff at Methodist Dallas.
Patricia Washington, social worker
Special Education Department
“You have breast cancer.” Those words are words that I never thought that I would hear. I was absolutely shocked, frightened, and devastated beyond belief. This was not my first mammogram. Every mammogram that I had done in the past, produced negative results. And now, I am hearing from a strange doctor that I have breast cancer. I cried, cried, cried, and cried some more. There was no “known” history of breast cancer in my family. I say “known” because I was raised in a family in which children were never included in adult conversations. I do know that practically all of my mother’s seven sisters had died when I was a child. I was never given the privilege as to the why or how they died.
I would be lying if I said that I did not question God, “Why me?” I was raised by a Christian, loving mother. She raised her five children in church, and I was exposed to God at a very early age. I knew Him as my Savior and Healer. So, I could not understand why I was given this cruel diagnosis. I reminded God that I already knew of His magnificent powers. I reminded Him that I had served Him all of my adult life. It seemed natural for me to ask Him, “Lord, if you are trying to bring someone closer to you, why not give this to someone who does not know You?”
I did not want to tell anyone about this diagnosis. A funny thing about being diagnosed with cancer is, you feel that you are to blame. There is a stigma attached to it. Some people may think that you are contagious or will talk among themselves about what you may have done to “deserve” this. I did not want to worry my mom who had already suffered the demise of her husband, youngest child, and granddaughter. So, I did not tell her. She found out about my diagnosis just prior to my surgery. I thought of my own two children, Rodney and Kim. Would Kim become an orphan? I thought of the grandchildren that I may never get to see. As a Social Worker, I was always taking care of others. Yet, because I felt embarrassed to admit that I had this disease, I carried the burden/secret by myself. I felt so all alone and scared. I continued to work every day and tried to keep a smile on my face. I didn’t even want my church family or closest friends to know of my secret. I remember lying in bed one night, thinking over and over in my head, “Was there a terrible sin that I committed and forgot to ask God to forgive me?’ I also asked my doctor if I had done anything to bring this disease on. He informed me that just being a female placed me at risk.
My surgery was performed on February 24, 1997. It was referred to as a lumpectomy. The lymph nodes were removed and tested to see if the cancer had spread. My entire family was with me at the doctor’s office to hear the results. We joined hands and prayed right there. We had church and shouted in the doctor’s office when the results came back negative. My mama, the forever optimist, told my doctor, “If she had told me about this earlier, I would have prayed this thing away and she would never have had this surgery.”
My doctor recommended that I undergo chemotherapy as well as radiation treatments. He explained that because I was a younger, African American woman, these treatments would be preferred because of the high morbidity rate among African American women with the disease. Because I had never heard anything good about chemo, I wanted to think about It for a while. My son, Rodney who is so intelligent, immediately said, “No, mama, you WILL go through the chemo and radiation.” He reminded me of how much he needed me in his life. Our roles became reversed and I became the child, listening to my “parent.” My treatments lasted from April to November of that year and I never missed work
I received some phone calls from other women who had survived. One lady brought gifts to my house. I joined a support group that met monthly. I was one of the youngest women in this group. Many of them had been survivors for over 20 years. I gained hope. We cried and laughed together and listened to each other’s stories, fears, and successes.
One African American woman told me that she never liked her hair, so she had asked God to take out all of her hair and give her some better hair. I pondered over this and one day, in private, I prayed to God and asked Him to please, don’t let me lose my shoulder length hair. I promised Him that I would be a witness for Him and provide testimonies about His goodness. I believed that if my hair came out, everyone would know what I was going through. I did not want their sympathy or for others to talk about how bad I looked. I kept my prayer to God, a secret. I scheduled all of my treatments on Fridays because I was warned that I would feel sick and weak. I could have the weekends to recuperate. I drove myself to treatments each time and went to work afterwards. As the medicines went through my veins, I read scriptures and prayed each time. I would expect to feel sick. It never happened. My blood counts were always “normal”. My doctor had given me a prescription for a wig. I never got this prescription filled because my hair never came out! My family members questioned that I was getting the proper treatments because I was not experiencing the expected side effects. My niece, Melanie, who is a Nurse Practitioner, accompanied me to one of my chemo treatments. She questioned the Oncologist about my medications. One day, I disclosed to my family, my promise to God. It was then that it became clear that He had truly heard and answered my prayers.
There was a long time that I could not and would not talk about my breast cancer experience. While most people do not understand this, breast cancer survivors, will. Today, I am an advocate for early screenings and mammograms. My lump was so small, you could not feel it. So, mammograms are important. Every year, a survivor goes through the fear and anxiety that it could return. Now, I am NOT in remission, but rather a SURVIVOR who has been HEALED! I am no longer ashamed to talk about my experience. I try to encourage anyone who is going through the pain of having to deal with this diagnosis. I have spoken at churches, on parking lots, in the grocery stores, and anywhere people need to hear that there is hope and that they, too, can survive. Thank God!
Sheila Sanders, administrative assistant
Dallas Environmental Science Academy
My name is Sheila Sanders, and I am a survivor! I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2011. I notice a knot in my right breast and I said to myself, “Oh, it will go away.” Time went by, and the knot was still there, so I made an appointment for a mammogram. That same day, they did a biopsy, and they told me that they would contact me in a couple of days. Well, the doctor called and told me that it was cancer, and that I need to schedule a appointment for surgery. After surgery, there was radiation and then chemo. I made it through it ALL with support from family, friends, church family and Frazier Family. You have to trust in the Lord and have HOPE!
Dr. Sherri Fetter, assistant principal
Eduardo Mata Montessori
My name is Sherri, and I am a breast cancer survivor. My story began in June 2013 when I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. I wasn’t sick and just really couldn’t believe it when the doctor told me. I didn't know anyone with breast cancer, and it had never been on my radar. I definitely didn’t understand the lingo that was being rattled off by the different specialists. The following 18 months of my life were a whirlwind of doctor appointments, emotions, scans, biopsies, surgeries, chemotherapy, reconstruction, hair and nail loss, radiation, side effects and medications—lots of medications. Hospital stays became affectionately referred to as “resort visits.”
Family, friends, and colleagues provided the strength, love and guidance for my journey. A support system is the most important part of going through cancer treatment; no one should fight alone. My strength also came from my students and my attempt to maintain normalcy in my life. I realize how lucky I am to have so many on my team.
At this point, I am over six years post diagnosis. I just earned my doctorate, and I am ready to see what the next portion of my life holds. Each year, I form a team of family, friends, and past/ present co-workers to participate in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. This year I will march with the five-year survivors. My hope is to bring awareness to others about this deadly disease and ease the fears for those that are fighting this beast. Each day I remember to think positively and be strong, because being strong is the only option. The Power of Pink - I am a Survivor!
Tamara Thomas, teacher and Athletic Coordinator
D.A. Hulcy STEAM Middle School
My name is Tamara Thomas, and I am a 10-year breast cancer survivor. I was diagnosed in 2009 at the age of 35. Breast cancer doesn't run in my family, and after genetic testing I found out that we don't carry the gene, so hopefully I will be the only one. My journey has been long, and even though I'm in remission, my health still suffers due to the chemicals in my chemotherapy medicines. My children were very young, so my mother stepped in to be my caregiver since I was divorced at the time. Cancer doesn't just affect the patient, but also the whole family. Your body and mood change due to the drugs; there were times when I didn't want to talk to or be around anyone. After my rounds of chemo and radiation, I experienced problems with my platelet counts because my spleen was malfunctioning and had to be removed. From 2009-2013, I experienced 23 surgeries, two skin grafts, and a failed reconstruction, but not once did I sit and feel sorry for myself. I had no time to do those things because I knew GOD had so much more planned for my life, and one day, I would be able to look back and see what he brought me through. Everything that has happened to me has made me a stronger person. I can recall my family telling me after a surgery the doctor informed them that he wasn't sure if I would wake up, and seven hours later, I did. Today, I live my life to the fullest with no regrets, thanking GOD every day because I know some lost their fight. I try to enlighten those that are fighting now with any bit of advice that I can give.
Trevelyn Everitt-Gyure, campus instructional coach
John J. Pershing Elementary School
My name is Trevelyn Everitt-Gyure, and I am a breast cancer survivor. My journey began at the end of July 2015. Summer of 2015 was coming to a close, and I would soon return to teaching. I had put off my mammogram as long as I could, so I reluctantly made an appointment and was less than thrilled to be at the office for this appointment. I was called back to the x-ray machine where I endured the pain and humiliation of the process of being squished and tugged in order to fit your breast into a machine that clamps onto you. The last thing the technician said before she walked back to the booth to hit the button to begin the x-ray was, "Don't move." I remember uttering back to her to not worry because the machine was holding me hostage. It was with great relief that she opened the machine and set me free. I was then asked to wait a minute while the x-ray was reviewed to ensure it was acceptable. The technician came back to the waiting room and said they needed additional pictures. With annoyance, I agreed and stated I needed to be somewhere soon. After the second set of pictures, they asked me to get dressed and wait for the radiologist. I remember thinking, "Wow, they are very thorough," which should have clued me into what was to come. I recall going into the office as the doctor sat at the computer with my x-ray up on the screen. He introduced himself and then said, "Do you see these white spots?" I responded that I did see them but was unimpressed by the x-ray. I was about to have my world changed forever as he turned and looked me in the eye and said the words I prayed I would never hear, "You have cancer." Did he just say what I think he said? I responded with "What?" "Are you sure?' My world was forever changed. Nothing mattered after this announcement. I do not even remember driving home or how I told my husband that I had just been diagnosed with the "C" word. My head was spinning, and I felt like I was in an alternate universe. I was too shocked to speak or even cry. I drove home gripping the steering wheel in complete silence.
The following day, I returned to the radiologist’s office to have a biopsy. There was a light in my dark tunnel, and it was the fact I had previously set up an appointment with a cancer specialist to discuss my family history with breast cancer and the appointment was the week after my biopsy. As I was leaving for my appointment to meet with the cancer specialist, my phone rang. I did not recognize the number so I answered the phone not knowing who would be on the other end. To my surprise, it was the radiologist and he was about to rock me to the core. His words confirm what he had said to me the week before, "Your biopsy came back positive; you have cancer". This could not be happening to me, why me? After our conversation, he sent all of my results to the cancer specialist so they would be waiting for me as I arrived. The cancer specialist read the results and thoroughly explained the type of cancer I had and what options I had. The information seemed to come in waves and rolled over me like a steam roller during our meeting leaving me completely overwhelmed. Slow down. I thought. I needed to digest all of this information. I had family member who had died of cancer and thought I had a good understanding of this gruesome disease. Boy was I wrong. There was so much I did not know or could even comprehend. My nightmare was quickly becoming my reality. I was determined that cancer was not going to win. I would fight like I had never fought before; my kids needed their mother and I was not finished making this world a better place for people. The two-year nightmare was about to begin. Within two days, I had my first surgery, a lumpectomy. Now, it was a waiting game, what type of cancer did I can and most importantly, did the doctor get all of it out of me? Every time the phone would ring, I would feel a sense of dread as information was coming so fast and it was never good news. Decisions needed to be made within minutes and all I wanted to do was withdraw.
As time moved on, I had serious decisions to make, decisions that had consequences whichever way you looked. The first body altering decision was the hardest for me, one in which I never thought I would have a hard time making. I had always stated that if I had breast cancer I would elect for a mastectomy. However, now that the decision was having to be made for real, I could not say yes. I just needed time to slow down and let me take a break from so many life altering choices. I struggled for weeks with this and researched medical journals hoping to find another option. I made the ultimate decision and elected to have a double mastectomy in order to minimize my chances of a reoccurrence. I also decided on this in order to avoid radiation and chemotherapy. I am a person who does not like to take medicine or ingest any chemicals into my body. This surgery occurred in October of 2015.
I was angry. I felt like I had lost part of my womanhood. I thought, "Now what? How do I go back to looking normal?" After meeting with three plastic surgeons and researching numerous options, I found the perfect doctor and solution for me to rebuild. This surgery would entail rebuilding with my own tissue. The doctor would remove tissue from the back of my thighs and from by stomach, reattaching the veins of the tissue from these spots to the veins that ran down my chest. I knew it would be a long surgery and recovery would be very difficult but would be worth it in the long run. This decision meant that I would not have to worry about implants needing to be replaced or the chance of cancer they are linked to. This surgery took place in May of 2016 and lasted 11 hours. Post-surgery, I spent three days in ICU and another three days in the hospital. I had five surgical sites and four fluid drains hanging out of me, was unable to stand alone, could not walk, get out of a chair or sleep in a bed. It was a rough road, but I knew I would heal and be back to normal soon enough. This awful disease was not going to win and could only keep me down for a short time. I did heal and was ready to start a new school year. There were more surgeries to follow in order to finalize the reconstruction. On average I had a surgery every six months for two years totaling six total surgeries, the last being May 2017.
I am now 2 1/2 years cancer free. My body is full of battle scars which are a reminder of the hardest fight in my life, but cancer could not win. I share my story in order to help other women battling this horrible disease. There is hope, keep fighting because you will win.
Rosalind Black, substitute
I am a substitute teacher on extended assignment at Science and Engineering Magnet at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center. I have been cancer free six years this Nov. 7. My left breast was spotting, no lump or thickness. On Nov. 5, 2013, my birthday, I was called by the doctor who had performed the biopsy on my right breast confirming it was cancerous like my left. Thank God the cancer was contained in the ducts in both. I could have waited, but why tempt fate? Then, a Level 3 tumor was found under the right breast, also totally contained. Looking back at my past mammograms she could see the tumor. It had not grown over the years, just sat there waiting to break free and spread. No one had ever said anything about it. We were shocked. As everything was contained and I had good tissue margins, no radiation was required, and a new blood test eliminated my need for chemotherapy. I had to take one daily pill, which causes my hands to hurt, for 10 years. I gladly bear that small discomfort. I never asked, “Why me?” I never shed one tear. People thought I was crazy for being so happy. I was joyous. It was found, it was treatable, and I could serve as an example to other women that your life can go on. They are only breasts. I keep saying I am going to get my prosthetics (I had a double mastectomy, no implants.), but after being heavy chested so many years, I am enjoying my freedom. I heard one woman refer to her “ugly scar.” I view mine as my beautiful reminder of my blessing from God! My bumper sticker is a pink ribbon that proudly says “SURVIVOR!”
Deborah Bowles, teacher
W.T. White High School
.. It’s all a new experience for me. I am currently undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer every Friday this first semester of the 2019-2020 school year. My partial mastectomy occurred two days before we had to report back to campus. As a teacher, this was very daunting to me, because classroom set-up and beginning of the year workloads are heavy duty items to deal with under even optimal conditions. I have been amazed at the caring responses from my principal, Elena Bates, and my vice principal, Kari Miller. I expected to see sour faces and impatience when I told them of the multiple absences I would have to take and the slower classroom set-up this year. Instead, I experienced nothing but concern for my health and offers of support to help me meet my goals. My teaching colleagues have also been amazingly kind and accommodating, doing all they could to help with physical demands of carrying heavy boxes, moving furniture, etc. I began this year fearing I would be a burden to my co-workers, but I now feel like a valued member of a wonderful group of loving and supportive friends. Thank you, Dallas ISD and especially W.T. White staff members, for putting people first!
Andrea (Angie) Alexander, counselor
Dr. Wright L. Lassiter Jr. Early College High School
I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer in 2013. This came as such a shock to me because there is no history of breast cancer in my family. My journey with breast cancer has been a blessing. I was blessed with coworkers who stood by me every step of the way-attending doctors’ appointments, sitting with me during chemo and picking up the slack at work. Friends and family helping get my son to all his school activities and making sure his birthday was celebrated even though I was sick. People who didn’t know me personally but heard what I was going through reached out to support me. I witnessed true love and compassion from my fellow man in my darkest hour. The out pour of affection helped me to heal. This journey has taught me that life is a gift and to live life to the fullest. I no longer stress or worry about anything because your life can change in an instant. I am a six-year breast cancer SURVIVOR and will continue to fight.
Barbara Nabors, teacher
Thomas L. Marsalis Elementary School
My name is Barbara Nabors. I'm am most grateful and blessed to be a six-year breast cancer survivor. I was diagnosed the summer of 2013 with my only child graduating college out of state. I wanted to live. I spoke life. And I am so thankful that I am here today. I remain cancer free and a survivor on a mission. I'm thankful for the support that I received, the friends and bonds made with my fellow “Pinkie Survivors", and their families. After meeting this temporary setback in my life, I decided to become an educator, and became a Dallas Independent School District Employee the following year in 2014.
Adela Sanchez, cafeteria supervisor
Raúl Quintanilla Sr. Middle School
My name is Adela Sanchez. I am a current employee of DISD as a cafeteria supervisor at Raúl Quintanilla Sr. Middle School. I’m here to share with you all my journey as a breast cancer survivor. On January 2007, at the age of only 37 years old, I was officially diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. It was just a few days before I was diagnosed, I felt pain on my left arm as if I were to have slept on it the whole night. I experienced the pain as soon as I woke up that morning, and I decided to seek medical attention with my primary doctor. After being evaluated, my doctor sent me to have a mammogram. It was my very first time ever having a mammogram, because I was still under the age recommended to have one. The following day after the mammogram results were in. I was asked to have a breast biopsy to confirm the mammogram results. That’s when they informed me the results were positive for Stage 3 invasive breast cancer. When I was given the news, I refused to question God, and I was confident that he had a purpose in my life for this, and he would help me throughout this journey. It was something so unexpected, especially since I had no family history of any type of cancer. From then on, corresponding studies were done to find the best treatment for me. After consulting with and oncologist and several physicians, I agreed that the best decision for me was to have a mastectomy. The morning of March 7, 2007, I woke up feeling calm about the procedure that was just about to begin, because I knew God was with me as well as with the physicians preforming the surgery. Thankfully, my surgery was very successful. They were able to remove the cancerous tumor before it spread elsewhere in my body. With the help of my amazing support team of family, friends and doctors, I began chemotherapy and radiation for a year until I was fully treated. I continued consulting with my providers as needed to ensure I was recovering well even after my treatments were finished. Although this was a tough road, I always had faith in God during this journey of my life and knew that God opened doors for me by surrounding me with heartwarming, kind and loving people during my recovery process.
To this day, it has been 12 years since I have been a breast cancer survivor and I continue giving all the glory to God for my life and health. I now have seen life from a different perspective ever since I experienced this and know that God’s purpose was for me to share my story with you all and to remind you that you are not alone!
As a breast cancer survivor, I encourage you or a loved one to seek medical attention if you discover something abnormal in your breast or any other body parts. If you know someone or if you are currently battling breast cancer, stay positive, keep swimming but most importantly, have faith and remember that God is always with us!
Maggie Sneed, librarian
Alex W. Spence Middle School
I am a survivor twice of breast cancer. The first time in 1997, and the last surgery for breast cancer in 2016. I am doing well.
Phyllis Crystal, bus driver
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in July of 2018. The kind of breast I had was BCIS. I didn't have to take radiation or chemotherapy. All I have to do is take a pill for the next five years. I have to have a mammogram done every six months.
Erica Reliford, teacher
Piedmont Global Academy Middle School
During the Summer of 2009, my doctor told me that I had borderline hypertension. He gave me a suggestion of power walking for 30 minutes a day for a faster way for weight loss. I took his advice and power walked Monday through Friday. I am a dancer and always could lose weight fast by exercising every day. I gradually lost weight that summer. I was only attending school at the time. I began working in August 2010 and didn’t have as much time on hand to power walk. However, I was active in the dance ministry at church. I continued to lose weight with portion control. I also wanted to continue to lose weight to get to a smaller size. When I reached my goal, I continued to eat very small to become even smaller. My family began to tell me how small I was getting, and my husband would ask me to stop losing weight. I would notice other people giving me strange looks, but I thought it was that they hardly recognized me at smaller size.
One night, in February 2010, I was lying in bed and waiting to fall asleep. As I turned over onto my stomach, I noticed a small ball under me. At first, I thought one of my daughters left a marble or a small toy in my bed. As I turned over, I grabbed under my left breast to retrieve the toy. There wasn’t an object in my hand. Instead, I noticed this tight, hard, marble sized knot-like lump under my breast, closest to my ribs. I asked my husband to check if he feels the same hard knot-like lump. He said, “Wait, something is not right! You better get that checked out.”
I made a gynecologist appointment to check my breast. The doctor examined my breast and noticed that the marble sized knot moved around. He told me that the result was benign, since the lump moved around when examined. The doctor also told me that women do not walk around with lumps in their breast and referred me to a surgeon to have it removed.
During my visit with the surgeon, he also claimed that the lump was benign. He referred me to the Women’s Imaging Center to have testing and reveal further results of the lump under my breast. Deep down, something in my spirit kept telling me that something wasn’t right. After my imaging, the technicians sent the results to their supervisor (doctor) for review. The doctor did not say anything but the look on his face was not good. The results were sent to my surgeon. My follow up visit for the surgeon was scheduled for a week later after my imaging.
Four days later after my imaging, I received a phone call from the surgeon’s receptionist asking me to come in. I told her that I busy was preparing for a lab exam for school. At the time, I was taking the pre-requisites for nursing school). She asked again if I could come in for a visit that day or the following day. I told her how important it was for me to take my lab exams and my follow up exam wasn’t until the following week. The receptionist told me that she didn’t see an appointment date for me. I finally gave in to her request and scheduled a visit for the same day.
The surgeon entered the room with a nurse and two other medical techs. The first thing he told me was “I am so sorry! I told you that the lump was benign. It turns out that the lump has grown to Stage 2 breast cancer, and we must perform a lumpectomy as soon as possible.” The surgeon explained everything about Stage 2 breast cancer and the next steps to prevent the cancer from spreading. As he talked, I immediately started thinking about what my GOD has in store for me. I did not believe that this was a death sentence. After the doctor walked out of the room, I started speaking out loud, asking GOD for my next steps in life and HIS plans for me. Surgery was scheduled for April 27, 2010.
A few days later, I had dance rehearsal with ministry at church. As I approached the sanctuary, I could not step in. I stood in the door for a few minutes, staring at the ladies rehearsing. Then I turned around, walked to my car and when home. The next day, I received a phone call from the dance ministry leader. She noticed me the night before and found it odd, that I would come to the church and leave without saying anything. I told her about my results. A couple of days later, the dance ministry all came over to my house to hear my story and pamper me with foo massage and pedicure. That following week, I joined group for breast cancer survivors at my church.
My surgery was scheduled for April 27, 2010; four days after my birthday. One of the ladies from my dance ministry, offered to drive me to my appointment for the lumpectomy. Another lady from the breast cancer survivor group also surprise me at the hospital to pray before surgery. After the surgery, and waiting in the recovery room, I received a phone call from my son, that his child had been born. He didn’t have money for a car seat and wanted me to wire him some money. My mother happened to be in the recovery room with me and paid for the car seat with her credit card. That day, I also considered my newborn Grandson as my birthday gift.
During my follow up visit for my lumpectomy, the surgeon explained that we will have to schedule another surgery because the cancer had metastasized to my lymph nodes (in my left arm pit). He will need to clean my margins. During the next follow up visit, the doctor would have to schedule the third surgery to clean my margins prevent the spread of the cancer.
Thanks to the new technology, the doctor was able to save my breast. As a preventative, I went through six treatments of chemotherapy, two months of radiation and five years of hormone therapy. May 2020 will be my tenth year of cancer free.
GOD (The Most High/ Universal) kept me worry free and happy. Family members were always around. Friends kept in touch. My new grandbaby lived with us for the first six months. Church members always checked on me and sent food. I had a friend to help me with my daughter cheerleading practices and rides to school, when my husband was away. I felt so much love and never lonely. I didn’t have time to think about dying. My faith was so strong, I never believed that was sick or could have died. I would tell others that I am taking medication as a preventative, but I am not dying. I have not reached my purpose yet.
Mary Jane Martinez, office manager
Science and Engineering Magnet
Diagnosis: Dec. 5, 2014, with Stage 4 with lymph node involvement. She is currently fighting her battle against cancer.
Treatment: Bilateral mastectomy, total hysterectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, infusions, medication and reconstruction. "I am beginning Herceptin infusions and will start taking Armidex. I've had six chemotherapy treatments and 33 radiation treatments."
Survival tools: Faith, family, friends, pets and painting. My best family and best friend, Nora Aguirre, have helped me remain strong and positive. They' re always there with helping hands, encouragement and kind words. My sister-in-law Regina Armendarez makes the best chicken tetrazzini, my favorite comfort food. Rocky Balboa, my nanday parrot, and Captain Cato, my Boston terrier, comfort me. When I was going through chemotherapy, my husband, Arturo, bought me a watercolor kit and told me, 'Paint your pain away.' I picked up the brush and painted for the first time in my life."
"Don't be afraid to ask for help. It's OK to cry but be sure to remember to laugh. Battling cancer is a humbling experience. Be positive and maintain forward progress."
Love. Mother and daughter warriors against this horrible disease. Never give up the fight. My mother has been fighting for 15 years, and I plan on doing the same. Remember those who have battled or are battling now. They need continuous support, not just in October. I would choose a black, not a pink, ribbon to represent it."
Dolores Washington, financial clerk
Robert T. Hill Middle School
I was diagnosed October 20, 2009. I have been divinely healed and cancer free for 10 Years. I leaned on my faith.
SeAndra Smith-Reese, substitute
Deaf Education Program
Hello, my name is SeAndra Smith-Reese and am a substitute teacher for the Deaf Education Program. I’ve found out that I was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer in 2017. The day after Christmas.
It was devastated to learn it from one phone call that it changed my thinking and life. I’ve gone through various of tests and procedures before having the double mastectomy. I thought it would have been a simple thing to get this over with like a flu or a cold by taking antibiotics, but it wasn’t. I now understand the wording of journey because it has to be a slow process into taking care of self and receiving treatments. It’s was very painful process of healing.
I’ve patiently went through six rounds of chemotherapy and 13 of 18 months of maintaining treatments because my cancer is aggravated. I’ve experienced hair loss, nails falling off, bones and joints pain, heavy dizziness, and loss of appetite.
I came to work while on chemotherapy and was ashamed of being bald. My son, who at the time walked me to the classroom, said it was okay because it was nothing I could have done. I walked into the classroom, and felt the most courageous thing, the students all smiled and encouraged me to keep fighting! From that day, I showed off my baldness.
As of today, I am not receiving treatments and that the cancer is not active! I continued to come to work, to substitute for Dallas ISD because it’s my district! A new cancer survivor!
Julie Godfrey, special education teacher
North Dallas High School
My name is Julia Godfrey, and I am a special education (18 + program) teacher at North Dallas High School. My story begins in January 2003, when I went in for my yearly checkup, an ordinary day. Confident as always, I prided myself on staying active and healthy. The following evening, I received a phone call from the doctor's office shortly after 7 p.m. I wondered why they would call me at this time. I made the call, and the nurse merely said we just wanted to do a comparison from last year’s test. My mind was at ease. The next day, as I waited patiently for the results, hour after hour, still no word from the doctor, I decided to call. It was now long after lunch, but still no word. I grew impatient. I wanted to know, what was going on. The next voice I heard was the doctor, who, in a very soft tone, said to me, “Julia I'm so sorry.” She never used the word cancer; just said I'm sorry. In the months to come, my life changed to surgeries, chemotherapy and more surgeries, putting me all back together. Well, it is now 16 years later, and I am thankful for each and every day of my life. I am giving praise to a power greater than myself, and thanks for the love and care that I received from family, co-workers and friends, but most of all, from my husband, who was my caregiver. He made the disease a little less challenging. Today my message to all women who are struggling with this illness is: Trust your inner you and believe that you're going to make it through. The research done for breast cancer is phenomenal, and more and more women are surviving and living healthy lives. The final words that were given to me by my doctor were: "You beat this. You beat cancer."
Charese Hammons, teacher
Justin F. Kimball E-Tech Collegiate Academy
I will be a one-year breast Cancer Survivor on Oct. 31, 2019. Fight!
Ana Sanchez, teacher assistant
Jimmy Tyler Brashear Elementary
In April 2011, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. At that time, I worked for the HIPPY program, and all my coworkers gave me unconditional support. Thanks to God, my family and friends I was able to overcome that stage in my life. Whenever possible, I share my experience and give support to those who need it. Thank you for including us and recognizing our internal battles we have faced to become a survivor today. It’s eight years of being cancer survivor.
Elaine Leonard, special education teacher
Edward H. Cary Middle School
I was diagnosed in October 2007. I had to be proactive when it came to breast cancer screening. My paternal grandmother died from breast cancer when I was very young. My Mom is a breast cancer survivor of almost 20 years. So needless to say, I felt it was inevitable that I was going to get it. Sure enough, at 45 years of age I heard those words, “You have Stage 2 breast cancer." Fighting for life was never in question. I was ready to do what I had to do in order to accomplish the things I was looking forward to doing. After persevering through four surgeries and 18 months of chemo, not to mention the ongoing testing and monitoring and medications, I was cancer free and have been for almost 12 years now and still going strong. Cancer changed the way I view things. It made me realize what's really important: the love and support of family and friends and taking life one day at a time and living it to the fullest. Never take life for granted.
Avelina (Abby) Garza, teacher
Arcadia Park Elementary
My name is Abby, and my five-year survivorship anniversary is right around the corner on Nov. 12. Sometimes it still feels like it was the longest scariest nightmare ever. It is a very traumatic event, but I continue to persevere, and it is finally starting to get a little easier. I was diagnosed at 32 with Stage 2 breast cancer. Needless to say, it was a shock to me and my family. The darkest days were ahead but also some of the best moments of my life. I had a lumpectomy a month after my diagnosis and started chemotherapy in February. I lost my hair about two weeks later, but never the will to live. I started radiation weeks after stopping chemo. In the middle of all this, I married the most amazing and beautiful woman. She gave me strength when I had none. She also shaved her hair when I had none. She made me feel beautiful when I felt ugly and gross. She's the best thing that has ever happened to me. I wore a wig to my wedding, and though I was in pain and tired from chemo, I danced the night away with my wife, family and friends. I also received a lot of support from my Arcadia Park work family. They lifted my spirits in so many ways. They are truly a blessing. I take a monthly injection and a pill every night. Five-year survivorship is symbolic for me as I will more than likely continue treatment for another five years. But I'm very thankful for each day that I exist with my wife, family and friends. I see the beauty in the little things, and I take nothing for granted. Life is truly a gift. Get out there and live it! I also urge all women to please do self-exams, especially young women. You are never too young for breast cancer. To those currently fighting cancer: fight with all of your might. You got this!
Liliana Valadez, executive director
Parent Advocacy and Support Services
The call came one morning in September 2007. After my first mammogram was “irregular,” a second one with a finding of “microcalcifications” and a confirming biopsy, I was told I had the “C word.” I couldn’t even bring myself to say the word aloud.
In fact, after the second mammogram I was told to wait six months and come back for another one. I thank God for my doctor, Dr. Marci Oliveira, who chose not to wait, but scheduled the biopsy. Although I had cancer in only one breast, I elected to undergo a bilateral mastectomy. I knew that I would someday be the caregiver to my parents, so I could not take any chances that the cancer would return. Therefore, I took the more aggressive route with a bilateral mastectomy. I was blessed as I did not have to undergo chemotherapy or radiation.
My family, friends, and Dallas ISD community supported my journey with love, kindness, and prayers. I am thankful for the experience as it caused me to reflect on life and launch my personal mission to help others with a breast cancer diagnosis. Cancer does not define me, but it did bring a new perspective on life. Scars do not bother me as they are a reminder of the strength and perseverance it takes to beat breast cancer. I celebrate each Oct. 15 as a birthday. Twelve years as a SURVIVOR is a gift.
Leslie Kings, discipline clerk
Francisco “Pancho” Medrano Middle School
My name is Leslie Kings, and I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in 2009. It was devastating to hear that I had breast cancer at any stage. I went to three different doctors before I came to grips with the fact that I needed to start treatment.
I believe I could get through this alone. I drove myself to my first two treatments, having only revealed this information to Jesus. After the second treatment, I decided to share the news with my mother. That did not go well. I also told my husband and daughter. She was my singing, praying angel, after she heard the news. I went through chemo for about a year and a half. It has now been eight years, breast cancer free, as I continue to walk this journey of Life. I thank God for my walk with him every day. Never alone.
Kathy Gray, speech pathologist
Special Education Department
My name is Kathy Gray, and I have been employed as a speech pathologist for Dallas ISD for 17 years. I was diagnosed with the breast cancer in January 2010. I am a nine-year breast cancer survivor. Not only am I a survivor, but I am a triple negative breast cancer survivor. Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is a very, very aggressive type of breast cancer. It is common among women of color. TNBC is more difficult to treat than other types of breast cancer. I had my annual mammogram in November of 2019. My results came back negative for breast cancer. About three weeks later, while completing my monthly self-exam, I discovered a very tiny bump. I immediately contacted my doctor. A mammogram was conducted again in addition to a sonogram. It was BREAST CANCER!
Surgery and treatments began immediately. I am truly blessed.
I encourage everyone to be proactive about their health. If something doesn't feel right, it’s probably not. No one knows your body better than you. I am an active member of Sisters Network Dallas. Our mission is to increase local and national attention to the devastating impact that breast cancer has in the African American community. I was very fortunate to be selected to work with the Department of Defense in Washington, D.C., in July 2018 on breast cancer research.
Katrina Ashley, substitute
I was diagnosed in 2015 with Stage 2B breast cancer. It was an aggressive form that spread to my lymph nodes. I was told that I would have six rounds of chemotherapy, as well as radiation. After this process was complete, I elected to have a double mastectomy. All I can say is this: I never had a nauseous day after receiving the chemo treatments, I did not have to have radiation, and I did not have to take any medicine after my surgical procedure. all of the glory belongs to God because I AM A SURVIVOR!
Tina Hill, teacher
Daniel Webster Elementary School
My name is Tina Hill, and I am a breast cancer survivor. I was diagnosed in May 2005 with Stage 1 breast cancer. What got me through was my faith in God, my family, friends and my mother that is also a breast cancer survivor for over 20 years. I've been with the district for 20 years.
Alicia Lewis, dyslexia interventionist
J.N. Ervin Elementary School
I once confided to my boyfriend, and now husband, George, “I’ve always felt that there’d be something that would change me, that I could tell people, ‘I went through this and now I’m here.’” I just never imagined that that “something” would be breast cancer. I was diagnosed at age 29, no less, and my first year teaching with DISD.
I’ve learned cancer does not discriminate. You can be 5, you can be 55, you can be 29. It doesn’t care. But fortunately, when I found the lump by my right breast in early 2013, there were many people who did care, including the team at Texas Oncology – Methodist Charlton Cancer Center. Because the Stage 2 tumor was fast growing, my oncologist, Dr. Kannan, prescribed two cycles of chemotherapy to shrink the tumor before breast surgery.
The best thing ever was the blue coconut snow cone with a splash of banana that my mom brought me after each treatment. And then, George reassured me that everything would be fine with his words, his presence, and his commitment, but best demonstrated when he proposed to me at my birthday party that September.
On Oct. 24, 2013, my journey to beating cancer continued with a double mastectomy and breast-conserving reconstructive surgery at Methodist Charlton Medical Center. Life after cancer has had its challenges, but I am grateful that I found the lump when I did. Dr. Kannan adds that one-third of her breast cancer patients found their cancers through a self-exam.
My husband and I were featured in Charlton Methodist’s Shine Magazine, and I felt like a superstar. I was able to share my story with others. I made sure that no matter how I felt, I would always wear my Ruby Woo MAC lipstick, show my bald head and flash a million-dollar smile. Throughout my treatment, my husband said, “If you won’t give up, I won’t give up.” So in my vows to him, I said: “I promise not to give up. I won’t give up on you. I won’t give up on me. And I won’t give up on us.” The pink ribbon tattoo on my right forearm is a reminder of these commitments—and of how far I have come.
Don’t think of me as the girl who had cancer, think of me as the woman who beat cancer. This October will mark my six-year “Cancer Free” anniversary.
Arlenna Williams, special education teacher assistant
L.G. Pinkston High School
My name is Arlenna Williams, and I have been employed with the district since April 2007 at L.G. Pinkston High School. I am a breast cancer survivor.
I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer in August 2012. Triple Negative is one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer. I went for my well-woman exam, and two weeks later, I was doing a self-breast exam and felt the lump. I then made an appointment and received the diagnosis. First, I had a lumpectomy, then they removed lymph nodes from up under my arm to make sure the cancer didn’t spread. Then, I had a port added. Next, I went through six cycles of chemotherapy, and last I had 33 treatments of radiation.
I endured this process all while taking care of a quadriplegic son and a busy athletic pre-teen daughter. Going through this process also prompted me to change my eating habit and become a healthier and cautious eater.
Michelle Celis, teacher at W.H. Adamson High School
Sister and mother
My name is Michelle Celis, I teach at Adamson High School. If you click on this link, you will find my sister Mary Jane Martinez, office manager at SEM and my mother, a long-time employee for Dallas ISD. They are both breast cancer survivors although my mom passed away in June from Esophageal cancer.
Regina Gulley, teacher at Kleberg Elementary School
Thank you for the opportunity to remember my mother. She has been a survivor for five years after being given a six-month survival diagnosis. Life is for the living and those who choose to seize every morsel of time. I think of her daily via many shared stories. Her wisdom of loving with logic inspires me and every student I teach to be the greatest person each day. I had the pleasure of parents that continue to maintain relationships decades after I've taught their children. I've also celebrated the future successes of many of my students, which validates that I'm exactly where the universe desires me to be actively living daily.
Daryl Marek, former Dallas ISD employee
I am a former employee of Dallas ISD, and I worked in the TAG program from 2005 until I fully retired in 2018. My name is Daryl Marek, and I’d like to submit my dear wife’s name for recognition on the Survivors’ Wall. Her name is Tina (Zivney) Marek, and she presently teaches fourth-grade math at Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary.
Tina has been teaching with Dallas ISD for over 40 years. She is a dedicated professional and an excellent educator who works hard to ensure her students will always grow and succeed. In September of 2018, Tina was diagnosed with breast cancer. The news was shocking and frightening. But she vowed not to give up nor to give in to this dreaded disease.
That autumn, Tina started a long journey of treatments beginning with chemotherapy. Tina had enough sick leave time accrued with DISD to remain home during that school year, but she wanted to keep on teaching. She desired to go to school daily and teach her students. Tina scheduled most of her medical appointments after normal instructional hours so as not to miss school time with her classes. This long trek of hers with chemo time, radiation sessions, surgery, medications, and doctor visits continued for months through the 2018-2019 school year and beyond.
Tina is currently a survivor but continues the day-to-day fight against her cancer. Her prognosis looks very positive and promising. We are hopeful that all will work out well. It has been very rough for her to travel, and I continue to love, support and care for her. She remains strong in all of this and goes above and beyond her role as a teacher in being the best educator one can be. In addition to all of the tasks, duties, meetings and workload of being a teacher, she works with the Dallas ISD Distinguished Teacher Review (DTR) program and often guides fellow teachers, as well. She is a kindhearted and wonderful person. Tina is truly an inspiration to educators and to cancer survivors. Her drive to overcome obstacles and succeed is a trait worthy of notice.
Analisa Megill, nurse at Celestino Mauricio Soto Jr. Elementary School
It started July of last year after mom's mammogram showed something on it. She went for a biopsy and the doctor called her and told her she had breast cancer the day before I interviewed for my nursing job at Dallas ISD. The journey started with chemo for six months and then a lumpectomy and lymphonodectomy in January. After that came radiation and constant doctor visits. She rang the bell in August but continues to take post-cancer medication that has caused several issues that are considered "normal," unfortunately. She is strong and happy, and I am very appreciative to still have her with me. We had to go through genetic testing since my mom’s mom also had breast cancer. I am at an increased risk and will start getting mammograms at 30, but there was no genetic link.
Fabiola Reynaga, teacher at Barbara Jordan Elementary School
My name is Fabiola Reynaga. I am a fourth-grade teacher in Dallas ISD. My mother Maria T. Reynaga will celebrate her 15th year as a breast cancer survivor this year. She was diagnosed with Stage 2 just about 15 years ago, and we are so thankful to have her here today.
Shakirae Ajaga, teacher at George W. Truett Elementary
I am a teacher at George W. Truett Elementary School and this is the story of my mother surviving breast cancer. My mother, Brenda Ajaga, had worked in the cafeteria in Dallas ISD for 35 years at the time of her diagnosis. It was during the holiday break in December 2014 when she said she felt a lump in her breast. My sister and I both ran our hands over her chest and felt it too. We urged her to go to the doctor and, at first, she didn’t want to go. She relented. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a Stage 2 estrogen dominant breast cancer. She had surgery to remove the cancer that fortunately did not spread to her lymph nodes. After the surgery, she began chemo and then radiation. Because my mom loved working so much, she actually thought she would be able to continue working in cafeteria while undergoing treatment. It’s funny that she thought she could handle it but that is a testament to her strength and willingness to continue to work.
Treatment was brutal. She lost weight, lost her hair, and lost a lot of her energy but she battled through. There were lots of tears shed, uncertainty, worry, and fear, but through perseverance, strength and laughter, she completed treatment and has been in remission for 4.5 years. She had to retire because she didn’t have the strength to continue working after treatment. Now, she spends her days at home with Gidget, the puppy we got her during her treatment to keep her company, watching old TV shows and experimenting with recipes and food in the kitchen. When I asked her what statement she would say to anyone affected by breast cancer, she said, “Stay encouraged and don’t lose your faith.”
Tanisha Turner, teacher assistant at W.W. Samuell High School
Norma Dillard is a survivor of breast cancer she is a heck of a woman she works in the TC unit at W.W. Samuell High.
Mitzi Rodriguez, teacher at Barbara Jordan Elementary School
My mom, Vilma I. Berrios, is a cancer survivor. My mom is my hero. When she was diagnosed, she was the one giving me strength. She always had a positive attitude. She has been cancer free for several years now. I will always be thankful for having the mom I have.
Shantell Grant, project manager for Human Capital Management
Verida Taplin is a graduate of David W. Carter High School and we have been friends since the sixth grade. She is currently a mother, a wife and an educator in Red Oak ISD. Verida discovered a lump by performing a self-exam. While undergoing treatments, surgery and radiation, Verida’s positivity was contagious. I rarely saw her affected by the whole process. I’m sure that she had days when she did not feel her best, but I am so proud of the courage and strength that she exhibited each day. She is currently one-year cancer free. Verida, you beat cancer like a boss!
Mary Jane Martinez, office manager at the Science and Engineering Magnet
Diagnosis: 2000 with Stage 4 aggressive breast cancer with lymph node involvement. Cancer-free since 2005.
Treatment: Mastectomy, chemotherapy and prescription medication for five years.
Her message: Have faith, stay strong and be positive. Live life like today is the last day. Do what you want to do.Do not be afraid to tell people you love them.
Support tools: Faith and family. I told myself, “I am going to beat this,” and I did it for 15 years now.
Heidi Zeko, teacher at Hexter Elementary
My mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago. Her doctors first told her the cancer was caught early and would need little therapy, but after further tests, the cancer was found to be more aggressive than they thought. She was fortunate. After weeks of radiation, she was cancer free. Our family is very grateful for her positive outcome and we know so many families do not have that same happy ending. We honor anyone who has been affected by this horrible disease.
Shannon Hart, dyslexia interventionist, Nancy Moseley Elementary School
Several family members
Breast cancer has been a big part of my life. I have had several family members diagnosed who are survivors of this disease. My mother, my two aunts, and both my grandmothers have received both radiation and chemotherapy treatments. One of my grandmothers succumbed to breast cancer last December. It is so important to get regular mammograms as just in the last couple of days my sister is being sent for a biopsy of suspicious areas found in her scans. This is something that takes a bit of time but can mean the difference between early treatment and survival and death. October is awareness month and it reminds me that it is almost time for my yearly scan. This is a survivable disease, and I will continue to fight for awareness of the importance of mammograms.
Shandaniecia Childress, teacher at Seagoville High School
Little did I know 2011 would be the year of celebrating my graduation from high school, but also the year that my life and the lives of my family would change forever. My paternal grandmother, Alma Childress, was diagnosed with Stage 3B breast cancer on April 4, 2011, just three days before her 67th birthday. While being hospitalized for another illness, doctors discovered breast cancer during a routine medical exam. A year later, April 10, 2012, she began her journey to recovery. She underwent a seven-hour surgery called a Tissue Flap procedure, where her left breast was completely removed and skin from her back was pulled to the front of her body to cover the hole that was created during the breast removal. The plastic surgeon did such a wonderful job that breast reconstruction was not needed. She began a five-year chemotherapy regimen, which included one chemotherapy pill per day and one monthly chemotherapy injection. She also underwent 28 rounds of radiation. At her age, the dosage and strength of medication was not easy on her body. Although she was afraid, she never complained or shed a single tear. She always rallied on: “God is my best medication.” She is now seven and half years cancer free. Thankfully, the cancer never spread to any other place in her body. She gave a whole new meaning to “Fight Like A Girl.”
My grandmother’s favorite saying is “I had cancer; cancer never had me.” Today, we celebrate her life and her battle. We are grateful for her ability to fight and conquer breast cancer. We are incredibly blessed that she is still here with us today, which we do not take lightly, nor for granted. #IAMTEAMALMA #IAMALMASTRONG
Pamela Rainey, administrative assistant, Operations Department
During a self-exam in March 2018, my sister Vanessa discovered a lump in her breast. After further testing, the doctor diagnosed the tumor to be malignant and fast-growing. Vanessa received chemo to reduce the tumor. In October 2018, the tumor did not shrink small enough, so Dr. Birdwell preformed a mastectomy that removed all the cancer cells. Thank God that today, Vanessa is a brave cancer-free survivor.
Jillian Heintzman, districtwide test coordinator, Assessment Department
My mom, Deborah Heintzman, was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2010. This news hit all of us extremely hard. I mean, everyone needs their mom. Watching her mom, my grandmother, battle breast cancer as well was horrible. I prayed and prayed that my mom would not get as sick as my grandmother. Unfortunately, my grandmother lost her battle, but I was determined that my mom would not. We kept our faith throughout her chemo and radiation treatments. She stayed strong and positive during her battle and won! I have so much love for my mom and could not imagine my life without her.
Denise Donelan, nurse assistant, Dr. H.B. Bell Support Service Center
I had a very good survivor friend who walked the Susan G. Komen walk with me a few years ago. She had been cancer free for two years. It was the longest walk she had ever walked. We were going to walk again the next year, but she had been ill again. The night before the walk, she passed away with brain and lung cancer. She fought a good fight. God Bless Lenora Kelley. We miss you!
Stephanie Dunlap, Paraprofessional at Larry Smith Elementary
I would like to honor my mother, Betty Thompson, for being an 18-year survivor of breast cancer. Mom was very courageous during her battle with this disease. She never stopped trying to care for her family and neighbors while she was battling this disease. She continued to show grace and strength during this time. We celebrate her victory and thank God for his grace and mercy towards our family.
Scott Brothers, teacher, Alex W. Spence Middle School
I would like to tell the story of my wife. She is a breast cancer survivor. We found out in March of 2018 that she had breast cancer. She is a big part of my life and the lives of the young ladies I coach at Spence Middle School. When we found out, my futsal and my softball teams sat down and cried with her. We took this opportunity to teach the girls that breast cancer can be beaten. The girls quickly decided that they wanted to support her by dedicating their seasons to her. The futsal team said that they wanted to win the tournament for her so that she could go to Disney with them. They did win, but she was unable to go because of surgery the day before we left on the trip. This is a link to the news story. The softball prayed for her at the first game around the pitcher mound and signed a game ball for her. They won district with a 7-0 perfect season and made it to the semifinal round in the playoffs.
Lisa Jenkins, teacher
Lincoln High School
I am a two-time survivor of breast cancer—2008 and 2018. Both times were very difficult for me, enduring chemo, multiple surgeries, radiation and rehab. This is the short version but there is so much more to my story, and I would be happy to share my journey with anyone who wants to listen. It’s not only a story of survival but also one of thriving through adversity and winning over the enemy of cancer. I was able to return to work in January 2018. Although going back was difficult, I’m glad to be back at Lincoln High School with my choir and modern band students.
I am a survivor. Last summer I had just started a workout plan with my daughter. A couple of weeks later when I was doing my self-exam, I felt a lump under my left breast close to my ribs. I called the mammogram office and was told to make an appointment with my primary care physician. Made an appointment and he thought it was just fluid but gave me a referral to get a mammogram. During my mammogram, they did not see anything because of the location. They then did a sonogram and found it and did a biopsy. I had Stage 1B Lobular Cancer. The wait was hard and full of prayers because I had surgery two months later. I had a full mastectomy on my left side and reconstructive surgery. I had full support from my families (home, church and work) and that made things so much easier with no worries. I was surrounded by positive people. My doctor always told me to do your self-exam because nobody knows your body like you, and I have been doing them since a very young age. I taught my daughter at a young age how to do them. Doing a self-exam is why I am a Survivor today.
Britney Cooks, mobility specialist, Special Education Department
I’ll never forget the words that the oncologist said, “You have cancer.” I stood beside my mother in disbelief in the doctor’s office. I was naive to think that my immediate family would not be affected even though extended members in my family had experienced cancer. My mother, Bridget, was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer and Stage 2 Paget’s Disease in 2016.
I served as her caregiver during her illness. I’ve seen all the stages that cancer can put your through, including loss of appetite, depression and the infamous “chemo brain.” Oddly enough, I have never seen her sad during her sickness. Of course, there were moments where I was tired and wanted to halt caregiving. But seeing her fight every day to stay alive for her children and grandchild gave me the power to keep charging forward. The most peculiar thought about the entire ordeal is that cancer is known to make you weaker and consume your entire existence, but cancer made my mother stronger. I can proudly say that as of 2017, my mother is cancer free. I love you Mama!
Sheila Ortiz Espinell, principal, Gabe P. Allen Elementary School
She’s not a survivor. She’s a super hero! Her name is Adriana Balderas. She is a wonderful teacher assistant at Gabe P. Allen Elementary School. She was diagnosed with breast cancer but has been cleared for over four years now! Her strength still shines through every morning, bright and early as she greets the children until she sees them out in the afternoon.
Nitzy Ocoro, lead counselor
Emmett J. Conrad High School
My name is Nitzy Ocoro, and I am a breast cancer survivor. I was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer in 2013. By the grace of God they were able to identify it at a very early stage so I only had surgery and radiation. It was a difficult time in my life, but my family, church family and friends helped me through it.