Women of Steel: Riverside faculty share their battles with cancer

Amy Bass


When I was 13 I noticed a cyst in my throat. It felt very much like an Adam’s apple, which I knew girls did not have. I then showed my mom, who immediately took me to the doctor. The process was very tiring – I was misdiagnosed three different times before receiving the correct diagnosis.

After finally being diagnosed I found out that there was something wrong with my thyroid and that I had a cyst in my throat. For the next couple of months I marched into uncharted territory. I went into surgery after surgery hoping it would remove the cyst from my throat. Fortunately my cancer was encapsulated, which means it had not broken out yet and spread to my body, sparing time for doctors to treat the cells properly.

As I reflect on my teenage years, I think one of the main things that has brought me to where I am today was maintaining positive thoughts. You can do your medical stuff, but you have to stay positive. This is your fight and it’s not just a physical fight, it’s a mental fight.

Becky Rutherford


I was diagnosed with breast cancer in July of 2013. I was leaving a job at a neighboring county, I had already interviewed at Riverside, and I was not expecting to have any major health issues between one job and the next job. I actually started my chemotherapy 2-3 weeks before I started working here.

Trying to juggle between lesson plans and research was very stressful and strenuous. In spite of that, I believe this experience was one of the best things that has happened to me. I have learned how to be patient with myself and have made stronger bonds with my students. Coming in as a new teacher was hard but my students made it easy.

The way that they handled things was probably in a similar way that adults would handle it. When I had to be out in the beginning to go get surgery, it was around Thanksgiving and my students wanted to have a class party. They brought me flowers and balloons, and I wasn’t expecting them to have any feelings toward my situation at all. However, my students were genuine about. It really helped me gain confidence and feel a sense of togetherness with my students.

Catherine Sebring 


My son suffered with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Our family was in a bind and true test of our strength as we watched him suffer with one of the most formidable types of cancer. My son wasn’t really old enough to understand what happened.

However that was not the hardest thing to deal with. It was the fact that I had to share that diagnosis with my husband. Which was probably harder than hearing it from the nurse. With all of these things going on around me I still found myself counseling at Riverside. I love engaging, teaching, and talking with students. It’s one of the many things I use everyday to keep coming to school with a smile or my face and joy in my heart.

Claribel Galarza-Andujar


Sometimes you just gotta believe that everything is going to be all right. After getting diagnosed with non hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of blood cancer, I found myself in a tough situation. I had career going, being a principal in Florida for 16 years before, and then coming to teach English to native Spanish speakers at Riverside, where I have been for three years.

It was difficult, but in the same sense empowering to know that you have something to live for. My students need me, my community needs me, and I love my job. I could never see myself walking away because of the grace of god and the support not only by the students but the administrators, and some of co-workers.

I also have 3 boys and a caring husband at home, so that keeps me busy. I have so many beautiful things to live and it gave me all the reasons to believe that everything is going to be all right.

By Joshua Nicholson

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