I met Erica in August of 2013 in my second year of teaching at Paramount School of Excellence. She came in as an additional special education teacher to work with grades 5-8. I can remember going to lunch with her, Jessie, and our assistant principal as an introduction to new coworkers. I never would have thought that lunch would end up having such a huge impact on my life.
During the fall and winter of 2013, Erica and I grew closer after I joined robotics as a (more so) assistant. It meant we were spending days and most nights together. In December 2013 I went through a big life change where Erica helped me a lot. I didn't realize that I would be trying to help her in the coming months.
In April 2014, Erica and I were excited to go to California for robotics worlds, but before going Erica was having pains in her back/side. My heart dropped when she shared that her cancer had returned. You think a lot of things when a friend tells you they have cancer. "How serious is it?", "How can I possibly make things better?", "What can I do to help?", and sometimes even worse thoughts. I was happy to hear that she could still go to California but my heart still hurt for her, JR, and Wylee.
I went with Erica to her first chemotherapy appointment after returning from California . I saw her struggle with feeling sick and hating not being able to do what she wanted to do. I would try to visit during some of her hospital stays to keep her company (because they were frequent). I would try to stay as positive as possible. Throughout all of this, the hospital stays, the treatments, and robotics, I also got to see the love she shares with her family. I got to witness her marriage to JR and shared in plenty of happy, great times as well.
I was thrilled when she was announced as cancer free, but I quickly became saddened a couple of months later when yet another reoccurrence was announced. It really was a roller coaster of emotions and continues to be one.
After the most recent reoccurrence, I think the biggest thing that I try to do is be a support system. I celebrate with her when she is feeling good with positive thoughts, and I'm there to listen when she is having not so positive thoughts. When a new plan of action is given, I always try to ask how she feels with the plan. I also try to give positives to that course of action the doctor suggests. I will offer going to chemo, or the hospital if she has to stay, or even to just help with cleaning if that's what is needed; I try to be there in whatever capacity I can be.
I have laughed, cried and been angry at the cards that have been dealt to this amazing woman and her family. More importantly, I have learned from her experience. I have learned that you are so much stronger than you think. I've learned that you can fight and conquer. I've learned that you can advocate for yourself and others.
I've learned there is a Superwoman who can do it all, and I'm lucky enough to call her one of my best friends!