Gifted students raise money

Published 4:31 pm Monday, May 17, 2010

In life, we face obstacles, hardships, challenges and bumps in the road. When this involves your health or the health of someone close, this can be especially hard. One of the things you gain is strength, hope, faith and the reality of things that really matter. This can sometimes mean to step back, regroup and evaluate your priorities, because what you take from an experience you can always use for the better good.

Leslie Wilson is a breast cancer survivor who has been a shining example to many people, including her gifted students at Wilsonville Elementary School, as they watched her fight and win this battle with breast cancer.

Wilson was diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of the school year last June. She quickly had a lumpectomy to remove the cancerous tumor, which was still very small. Soon after the procedure, she discovered a microscopic spread to her sentinel node, or first lymph node. She also carries the BRCA1 gene mutation, which causes nearly 15 percent of breast cancers, and is also a high risk for ovarian cancer. From July to October, she underwent 16 weeks of chemotherapy, and still continued teaching all the while.

“The students were so supportive and caring to me during that time and teaching them kept my spirits high. They didn’t care that I lost my hair and all that stuff,” she said.

Following her chemotherapy, Wilson had bilateral mastectomies, to decrease the risk of the cancer reoccurring, with reconstructive surgery in November.

Her hair has grown back, and she now expresses feeling great with the treatment and surgeries behind her. She recently had her first PET scan following the treatment and it showed no cancer. This June, she will receive a hysterectomy because of the risk of ovarian cancer which the BRCA1 gene carries.

Wilson’s students were quickly compelled to begin a service project to raise money for cancer research in honor of their teacher.

Throughout April and May, the students have planned out school activities to raise money, which they will donate to the Relay for Life May 21 in Columbiana. Wilson plans to walk in the Survivor’s Lap at the Relay. The GRC class made posters for display throughout the school, and their project is being promoted on the school newscast. “Their excitement about this project truly humbles me and means so much.  I just feel so blessed to be doing so well and to be able to walk in the Relay,” Wilson said.

They have also planned “Caps for a Cure,” in which all students who wish to participate can bring a cap to wear and donate money, which the GT students will collect. Many other projects include “Treats for Team Teachers,” “Purple Ribbon Day,” and “Relax for the Relay,” to name a few.

Wilson realizes that seeing her go through treatment made the students even more compassionate for the cause. She prides her GT class, confessing, “It means the world to me that my students care so much and have given me so much love and encouragement. I think it is great that they are involving the whole school. I am very proud of them.”

Kennedy Tolbert is the new community columnist for Wilsonville. She can be reached at