Here is Becky Harper’s GIST Member Story. Becky always knew she wanted to be a teacher. “I think you have to be called to it. You have to have a passion to be with kids, and you do a lot of giving.” And she did give—22 years to be exact. She taught every first grader who came through her class until 1996 when she was told she had cancer.

Teaching was what Becky loved. “My grandmother was very worried about me, she thought that as a teacher got to be more proficient that she moved up grade levels, and she couldn’t understand why I was stuck in the first grade!”

And first grade is where she wanted to stay, “I always knew I wanted to be with the younger kids. They were eager to learn. They come in as babies and leave as kids.”

After Becky received her bachelor’s degree from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas and her master’s degree from the University of Missouri in Kansas City, she embarked on that 22-year-long journey with her first graders and enjoyed every minute of it. “First graders are real big on hugs, even the little boys.”

But in 1996, when she was diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma, the party was over. “They really didn’t think I would live very long when I was diagnosed. They put me in the hospital right away and started chemo.”

After the dreadful chemotherapy, she was eventually correctly diagnosed with GIST. “Once I got on Gleevec it affected my white blood cell count; I realized I couldn’t go back to teaching.”

Luckily she had a support system to carry her through. “I have been so lucky to have the most wonderful friends. I have a group of church friends who are just so supportive. I study with them and talk with them. If I’m at a sick point, they’ve stayed with me and cleaned my house. It is just amazing to have such caring people.”

For Becky, life doesn’t just end when you lose your ability to work. “I miss the kids and the wonderful teachers that I worked with, but now I’ve got three grandkids. So they keep me hopping!”

When Becky was diagnosed with cancer she had a granddaughter, Theressa, who was one. The day after she started taking Gleevec a grandson, Max, came into the world. Two years later, when she was having a checkup at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, a second granddaughter, Roni, was born. “I call them my Gleevec babies.”

These days, Becky likes to play with her grandchildren. She hopes to be able to spend a lot of time with them and have input in all of their lives. She also spends a good deal of time with her husband, who also has health issues. “We don’t do a lot of physical things. I buy a book of entertainment coupons each year and we go on coupon adventures; we go and find these places.”

Becky understands the concept of time gotten back. Thirteen years before she was diagnosed with LMS, she had a grapefruit-sized cyst removed from her intestines. The doctors told her to see a doctor if it ever hurt. They didn’t know that it was cancer and that it would come back. Becky did go to a doctor in 1996. “The misdiagnosis probably worked to my advantage, it kept me alive [until I was diagnosed with GIST].”

memberstories_greenwood_clip_image002_0004So Becky takes this time and spends it with those she loves. She tries to be a good wife, mother, grandmother and friend. And yes—even a good teacher to her grandkids.

Does she ever think about those kids whose minds she shaped for 22 years? Of course. “I was in a restaurant last summer and the waitress was one of my former students. I recognized her and could not remember her name. I had to apologize and tell her that my brain is not what it used to be. We still keep in touch.”

Whether she is thinking of past moments as a teacher, her grandkids’ futures or soon-to-be coupon adventures, Becky knows how she wants to live her life. “[I] consider each day as a special gift and look for God’s blessings.”

LRG Team
Author: LRG Team