Stories

Our Inspiration

Flunk Cancer was created by the family and friends of Shannon McHone, a 2007 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Two year after earning her degree in Elementary Education she was diagnosed with Brain Cancer and, after a valiant 9 year battle, she passed away in April, 2019 leaving behind an army of supportive students, teachers, families and friends. Throughout her journey Shannon made sure that, while a part of her life, cancer would not reduce the quality of life and love that she was able to give and receive. Her legacy of learning and love for teaching continues through Flunk Cancer. Read Shannon’s Story here: https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/shannonmchone

Have a story you’d like to share? Please send this to info@flunkcancer.com

Men’s Health Week 2020

by Kieran Barry

 

According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, second in line only to lung cancer. This week, the American Cancer Society celebrates Men’s Health Week, encouraging men to get screened, become aware of any genetic predispositions, and practice healthy habits.

 

Dr. Jim Wortman, an Assistant Superintendent in St. Mary’s, Pennsylvania, is one of the 1 in 9 men that are diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetimes. Dr. Wortman has served in the education sector for years, completing his Doctorate of Education and Educational Leadership in 2017, teaching as an Adjunct Professor at Gannon University and serving as a Pennsylvania Inspired Leadership Facilitator in addition to his position in the central office. To honor Men’s Health Week this year, we interviewed Dr. Wortman to discuss cancer, treatment, and finding support within the workplace. 

 

When asked about the biggest challenge presented to teachers and administrators battling cancer, Wortman responded “The education profession has a ‘serving others’ focus. Inevitably, a cancer diagnosis requires one to ‘focus inward’ to a much greater degree than is typical and comfortable. So questions arise as to how to balance this need to focus on yourself AND, at the same time, be effective with all that is required of an education professional.” This need to focus inward causes teachers to rely heavily on their support systems. Despite the differences between each school community, it is imperative that every community surround their teachers in need so that their valuable lessons continue to be taught to each student. 

 

While teachers battling cancer must change their serving mentality to one more inwardly focused, their journey leaves lasting impacts on their teaching philosophy. Dr. Wortman says that personal experiences with cancer affect life’s messages and lessons, whether they be what you get or what you are giving. He stated “The intensity increases on both accounts. You see, feel, hear, and listen better as a result of having to face potential life limitations and loss with so many things you can easily take for granted.” This life experience alters the message teachers give, offering their students lessons about more than just math and science. Further, these teacher’s personal experiences enable them to connect on a deeper level with their students as time in the classroom becomes increasingly cherished. 

 

To part, Dr. Wortman left us with his words of advice to take into our everyday lives. He said, “It’s okay to lean on family and friends and to own your own vulnerability. The world is full of kind, caring, and giving individuals just looking for a way to help. But, you have to come to terms with BEING helped. We’ll all take a turn at giving and receiving. Be prepared for both.” This lesson is important for both teachers battling cancer and their students. Sometimes, during these tough times, it’s the teachers that receive lessons rather than the students – lessons of vulnerability, lessons of grace, and lessons of precious time. 

 

Thank you, Dr. Jim Wortman, for offering an inside perspective of the intersection between cancer and education and for your years of serving students and teachers!

-Men’s Health Week 2020

New Normal

Hidden smiles from fabric masks in the grocery stores. Staying six feet away from your friend you haven’t seen in ages. Teachers attempting to cultivate a virtual environment conducive to learning, lacking the ability to give their students a high-5 or a sticker for a job well-done. With most states and countries across the world gradually reopening their economies in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, global citizens are left to wonder what will be the “new normal.” 

For cancer patients across the world, however, this “new normal” doesn’t feel all that different. In fact, active cancer patients and survivors often take many of these same precautions. While fighting cancer, the immune system becomes extremely vulnerable to outside pathogens, especially viruses. Even the common cold can present extreme complications and infections for cancer patients.  

For teachers with cancer there is an inherent risk reporting to work as children are often more susceptible to illness given vast spread due to lack of precautionary measures such as hand-washing and disinfectant. Each school day, these teachers risk their health in an effort to provide their students with stability and a lasting education. 

The social distancing measures being taken as a response to the coronavirus work to protect the immunosuppressed, including cancer patients of all types. Both the cancer and the coronavirus have no boundaries, affecting citizens worldwide. It takes a collective effort to develop vaccines, immunotherapies, and treatments to combat these illnesses. 

Perhaps, then, this “new normal” will bring about more precautions to protect against the spread of viruses, while in turn providing cancer patients with greater safety in their communities through greater precautions. For teachers with cancer, perhaps this “new normal” will benefit their future teachings, enabling them to have a greater virtual impact on their students through the learning curve from the COVID-19 pandemic. Ultimately, perhaps it’s possible that the coronavirus outbreak will teach people the importance of unity in the face of national and global illness. 

During these unprecedented times, Flunk Cancer remains committed to supporting teachers and their families afflicted with cancer. Committed to advocating for teachers to receive higher pay and greater health benefits and facilitating conversations regarding these issues. Committed to connecting these teachers to clinical trials and other resources to ease their journey as they navigate through their new normal. 

We hope that through our support we can enable teachers to remain committed to their goals. Teachers have the ability to inspire the next generation – inspire their students to pursue careers in science and medicine in hopes of finding a cure for cancer as well as protecting against other unknown viruses. Most importantly, we need our teachers to continue to encourage the younger generation to use their voice to create needed change.

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