My son was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 1997. Our family would undergo a true test of our strength as we watched him suffer with one of the most common, formidable types of childhood cancer. My son wasn’t really old enough to understand because he was only four.
However that was not the hardest thing to deal with. It was the fact that I had to share the news of the diagnosis with my husband, which was probably harder for me than hearing it from the nurse. With all of these things going on around me I still kept teaching and later found myself counseling at Riverside. I love engaging, teaching, and talking with students. Coming through that experience is one of the many things I use everyday to keep coming to school with a smile on my face.
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 a career going on, being a teacher in Florida for 16 years, the first time I was diagnosed, and then coming to teach Spanish at Riverside, where I have been for three years and diagnosed for the second time with the same type of cancer.
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 my co-workers kept me going.
I also have 3 boys and a caring husband at home, so that keeps me busy. I have so many beautiful things to live for and it gave me all the reasons to believe that everything is going to be all right. Last year I started representing the Lymphoma and Leukemia Association in the school trying to create awareness for this condition.
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.
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 it had a cyst. For the next couple of months I marched into uncharted territory. I went into surgery hoping it would remove the cyst from my throat. Pathology showed it was cancer and they decided to go back in while I was still under and remove the entire thyroid. There were two small cysts on the back side. Fortunately my cancer was encapsulated, which means it had not broken out yet and spread to my body, sparing time for doctors the need 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 treatments, but you have to stay positive. This is your fight and it’s not just a physical fight, it’s a mental fight.