From teacher to patient

History teacher shares cancer journey

Mary Rather

Kora Ramirez, Staff Writer

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Between being a wife, a mom, a teacher, and a co-worker,  AP United States History teacher, Courtney Parker is also a cancer patient. Parker was diagnosed with breast cancer on July 11, 2017, at the age of 32. She was initially diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in the left breast. She then went for a mammogram on her right breast and they found another lump. Testing positive for the BRCA 1 gene, a gene mutation that increases the likelihood for breast and ovarian cancer, Parker was left with an uphill journey.

The immediate reaction Parker had when being diagnosed changed her life in ways unimaginable.

My first thought was am I going to get to see my daughter grow up. ”

— Courtney Parker

“My first thought was am I going to get to see my daughter grow up. You hear cancer and you automatically think death sentence, but it is so different these days,” Parker said. “It was a very emotional thing because I was never promised another day, none of us are. ”

The first person Parker saw after she got the news was fellow gymnastics coach Stormy Morris. Morris let Parker cry on her shoulder until Parker’s husband was able to show up to be there for her.

“I was worried that my family would be scared, I would be the third person that my mom would watch go through this, her sister and mom survived Breast Cancer,” Parker said. “I was worried about my co-workers, but more importantly my students. What would they think about having a sick teacher, especially when I had so many of them before. Would they be okay as I had to take time in and out. What if something happened to me and they had to hear about it from someone. I was scared.”

Parker’s husband and baby girl kept her going at home. Her athletes and students helped push her through at school. Throughout Parker’s journey she’s always had someone there to raise her spirit.

“There is no way that I could’ve made it through chemo while working full time without the two groups. They treated me as if nothing was different, but would continue to make sure I was taking care of myself,” Parker said.

For Parker, chemo was relatively easy, experiencing very few obstacles throughout her chemotherapy process. However, it’s not that way for everyone going through the same journey. She experienced several weeks of low neutrophils, where she couldn’t receive treatment.

 “My red blood cells stayed border-line in need of transfusion, but I was lucky, never ended up in the hospital, never threw up, didn’t need a transfusion! People I tell that I worked through chemo are shocked, Parker said. “I had my husband and mother at all my chemo treatments, even though I slept the whole time it was so nice to know they were out in the lobby.”

Parker now lives a cancer free lifestyle. Like everyone else she had a few regrets about the entire process. Luckily, in her case it didn’t affect her overall outcome during her journey.

“I am so happy to still be here! I think after radiation is when it’s officially ‘survivorship’. The only thing I would do differently is make them do a biopsy two months prior in May when I thought I had a blocked duct from breastfeeding,” Parker said.

Parker’s experiences have taught her how one’s personal experiences change the viewpoint they receive, and how it relates to her life story.

“I think cancer is just a chapter in my life. I don’t want it to define me. I want people to know me for however they met me, rather it being before, during or after,” Parker said. “But I am also a wife, a mother, a daughter, a teacher, a coach, and a mentor. I want to be remembered for those things too.”

Parker’s message to everyone going through hardships:

“I love you. I care for you. I am here for you.”