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Kirksville teacher shares her story of survival

Becky Reister

Meet Becky Reister. She teaches 4th grade at Kirksville Elementary. This is her survival story.

I was diagnosed with Stage 2 cancer in 2017. My initial thoughts were, of course, filled with a lot of fear and lots of questions before facing this news. I had never thought about choosing a surgeon or oncologist. It was a lot to take in in a short amount of time. Plus, I was worried about keeping my students on track and finding a long-term substitute teacher. 

My lumpectomy was on September 18, and I stayed home through fall break. I came back with the students for a few days between substitutes, then had surgery to implant my chemo port on October 12. My first chemo was on October 16. I was off work for the rest of the semester. After recovering from multiple chemotherapy treatments, I was released to come back to school in January. I still had to face 33 radiation treatments, but I was able to do those each morning before coming to school. I arrived at the hospital each day of the week (Monday through Friday) at 8 a.m. and had radiation. Then I raced to school to teach my kids! I did this all through January and three weeks of February. 

My students were completely amazing. My first morning back after radiation, I met them after art class. They were so gentle and sweet. I remember getting them lined up and saying,.. It's time for us to go HOME ... then we walked together to the classroom. 

I tried to keep the kids involved in the radiation process. We made a chart with 33 blocks and each day we colored in one block. Students then figured out the percentage of radiation that I had completed. (Got math in every chance I got!) I loved being able to tie in my experience to their math work. For example, I took pictures of the lights that I saw during radiation, and they applied the area model to figure out how many squares in the whole light, then how many squares in the entire room. The nurses asked daily what the kids had learned from what I shared. It was a team effort! 

MY FAVORITE MOMENT ... I got a wig at the beginning of this journey, but chose not to wear it and opted for hats instead. So when I returned to school, I wore CC Beanies to keep my head warm. (I had no idea how cold a bald head can be!) A couple weeks after I returned to work I was in front of the room, and had to pause and take some deep breaths. The kids asked what was wrong and I said I was just hot. I looked up at them and meekly told them that I needed to take my hat off. I slowly reached up and removed my hat to reveal my bald head. The kids simply looked at me, then started clapping. In their fourth-grade minds, they recognized that I was afraid and then gave me courage to move forward. I will never, ever forget that moment. 

The morning of my second chemo, I heard a beep outside and looked out to see a school bus pulling up outside the house. Deborah Campbell came out holding a speaker blasting Uptown Funk, and the rest of the KV staff followed and we danced in my front yard. This is when I first saw the "Team Reister" shirts. 

My Kirksville team, and Madison County Board Members supported me in ways that cannot be explained in written words. It was EVERYTHING. My family was fed and supported during the entire journey. Mike, Sarah, Emma, Laura and I are forever grateful for everything!

#MCS #MCSonFire #MCSKirksville #PaintTheTownPink

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