Despite having her left eye removed due to a cancerous tumor and a subsequent diagnosis of third stage lung cancer and undergoing chemo and radiation, Cathy rarely misses her evening ABE classes with Kim Hanson. “I am trying to make something of myself,” she said with determination. And she is unfailingly upbeat.
Not asking for sympathy but enjoying any humor she can inject, Cathy just states her situation simply. She was one of nine children in a struggling family. If she asked her mother for something, her mother would respond that Cathy could not have it. In order to be fair, all her sisters and brothers would also need it as well — and there was not enough to go around. So at age 15, she began part-time work in a shoe shop to earn money. She found she liked the work, as well as the money. So, no surprise, Cathy gave up school to continue earning wages. “I could kick myself in the butt,” she said, for that decision.
Last year Cathy began coming to evening classes with Kim. “She is really a good teacher, a good woman,” Cathy said of Kim. Cathy’s favorite subjects are math and reading. Since coming to class she feels she has learned quite a bit. She finds herself reading more. In addition, she enjoys the other students and considers herself the class clown.
Last fall her life changed with the diagnosis of a tumor in her eye. Her eye had to be removed. Her younger sister Charlene, who also comes to class in the evening, “has been with me every step of the way.” Then to top that challenge, Cathy was diagnosed with 3rd stage lung cancer. As breathing is difficult, she had to give up her job. Not dwelling on the illness, Cathy goes on to speak highly of the Cancer Center at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital where she undergoes chemo and radiation treatment. “I like to make them laugh,” she said of the people at the Center.
Despite her throat feeling like it is on fire and being so tired it is hard to get out of bed, Cathy gets herself to class every Tuesday and Thursday. She hopes to eventually pass her high school equivalency. She might have missed a class or two, she is not sure. But, she still insists with a ready smile that she is “trying to make something of myself.” Someone needs to tell her that she already has.
Cathy is an inspiration to us all.