Battling breast cancer, one stride at a time

Jennifer Gough’s life was changing in December 2004. She and her husband Jason were moving back to New York from Texas.
A New York native, moving day back to her home state was one of her happiest.
“My face hurt from smiling,” she recalled to an audience of 500 participants and supporters of the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks.

Jennifer Gough talks about battling breast cancer

Then, it changed even more when her doctor called — that day — with the results of a biopsy: a high-grade malignant tumor. Gough had found the lump in  a breast self-exam. It’s notable how aggressive this tumor was, that it had not shown up in an ultrasound mammogram just two weeks earlier.
Gough, who teaches English as a Second Language in the Bethlehem schools, was the keynote survivor at last week’s kickoff breakfast. She told how services through ACS helped her, and her family, through the difficulty of cancer diagnosis and treatment made even more difficult by a long-distance move from southern Texas that meant leaving students she loved. In a followup interview for this blog, Jennifer told of the tremendous support she has received from the education community and her union.
“I interviewed for the job at Bethlehem the day after my first chemo treatment,” she recalled. “I had all my hair. I got the job and over that weekend, I lost all my hair so that when I showed up for work, my first full day, I wore a scarf. I didn’t know anyone, but from that very first day, everyone was so supportive.”
Through the winter and fall, she recalled the constant support from coworkers at the Slingerlands Elementary School. Every Wednesday, someone brought dinner for her family. Valentine’s Day, everyone “from kids to custodians” wore pink to support her fight against cancer. Donations that day were just under $1,000.
October 2005 was her first Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk at Washington Park in Albany. This year she is coaching the diving team, whose members are joining the soccer team for the American Cancer Society’s largest fundraiser.
Cancer caused changes other than her hair. She jokes about how removing a three-centimeter tumor and surrounding tissues has left her breasts “cockeyed.”
Gough said she appreciates that the union has been a flagship sponsor of Making Strides for 10 years and the focus on increased education and awareness for all cancers.
In December, she expects to reach the seven-year mark of being cancer-free, which with her kind of cancer points to an extremely positive prognosis. Until then she will be raising funds for the walks this fall along the theme of More Pink for your Green, emphasizing the services that can be provided through donations. For more information here’s a link or if that doesn’t work try www.nysut.org/makingstrides.

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