Encouragement is the best medicine

Teacher strives to be light in midst of battle with cancer


Photo by Alyssa Kift

Math teacher Kathryn Diaz stands next to her door filled with notes of encouragement after coming back on campus from chemotherapy.

Story by Lois LeFors and Matt Prieskorn

Everything was grey. Grey needles that protrude from fatigued grey skin. Shiny grey scalpels in the hands of surgeons desperately trying to halt the spread of a persistent disease. Grey skies hold the precarious promise of rain and restoration, and a smile is a reflection and a resolve to remain positive, to persevere despite circumstances brings a burst of color into the world of greyness.

Math teacher Cathryn Diaz found out she has ovarian cancer and is currently on chemotherapy in an attempt to slow the spread of the cancer.

“I was in surgery for about nine hours because they had found cancer and it had spread fast,” Diaz said. “[Chemotherapy] has been rough, but I’m getting through it.”

However, Diaz continues to teach, not only math, but about her experience and how every second matters. Along with that, she encourages her students to strive to be lights and show kindness to others. On her back wall, sticky notes with positive, encouraging notes that anybody can read are stuck to the board.

“When you are forced to be at home for some time, Pinterest becomes your best friend,” Diaz said.  “I found where another teacher did a kindness wall and so I took that idea but made it my own.”

While Diaz was gone for medical treatment, this gave Algebra teacher Nicole Ayers the idea to have staff members fill Diaz’s door with more sticky notes in order to offer her encouragement.

“When I saw those notes, I balled my eyes out,” Diaz said. “I could barely get through half of them because I was crying so hard. They were so encouraging and I am so appreciative.”

Although Diaz struggles with cancer, she continues to fight everyday and pursue the things she loves.

“You just never know what hand you will be dealt,” Diaz said. “Chemo beats your body up and I am always so tired, but I told my students that I will come into the classroom each and every day with a positive attitude.”

Diaz’s students admire her for her perseverance and dedication. Many of them also respect her courage as she maintains a positive attitude in the classroom.

“She’s really nice and forgiving, especially when you slack off. She really helps you and always make an effort to be happy and have a positive outlook, ” senior Abraham Hernandez said. “You can tell when she comes back from chemo she’s tired, but even through that, she’s still positive. She keeps a smile on her face and always says ‘hello’ to you. She is making that effort to go even further to see what we need help on. This is her third time with cancer and it just shows her strength as an individual.”

During this situation, Diaz strives to look on the bright side and realize what is truly important in life.

“Having cancer has made me realize that everybody needs to live every day to the fullest,” Diaz said. “I have a deeper appreciation for life and realize that relationships with people are so important.”