Breast Cancer Awareness: Teacher finds hope from kids following diagnosis

By Racey Burden | Published Wednesday, October 28, 2015
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When Andrea Ishmael was diagnosed with breast cancer in early July, her first reaction was fear. She knew what a breast cancer diagnosis meant.

“It was very scary because my mom is a breast cancer survivor, so I pretty much knew what to expect,” Ishmael said.

Andrea Ishmael

Andrea Ishmael. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Ishmael went to her doctor for an Oncotype DX test – a test to determine how likely the cancer was to reoccur if they proceeded forward without chemotherapy.

Although her cancer was diagnosed as stage two, with tumors in both breasts, the Oncotype DX test showed that Ishmael’s cancer had a very low chance of reoccurrence. She wouldn’t need chemo treatments.

“I really did expect to have to do chemo, but it’s a really accurate test and I fell in that low range,” Ishmael said. “It’s kind of scary because you think ‘I should be doing [chemotherapy]; should I not be doing it?'”

Trusting in her diagnosis, Ishmael had a double mastectomy in September rather than going through chemo.

The worst part about the surgery, she said, was missing her kids at Paradise Elementary, where she’s a second grade teacher. More than once, her husband had to talk her out of going to school when she wasn’t feeling 100 percent.

Ishmael undergoes reconstructive surgery in December, and after that, she can be at school every day.

“It’s been very hard for me to be away from my classroom and away from my kids,” Ishmael said. “I don’t want to be off.”

Paradise ISD has been her home away from home since she got her first job there straight out of college, and Ishmael couldn’t be more thankful for the times she can be in the classroom and surrounded by her friends on staff.

“When people here say they have your back, they have your back,” she said.

The kids especially encourage her.

“To kids, every day is new,” Ishmael said. “If only adults would look at life that way, like every day is new.”

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