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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Highlands Middle School Teacher: Supported, Encouraged and Ready to Fight

Mrs. Linda Turner, Quest teaching assistant, said, “A positive outlook on anything that we face in this life is a true healer for the mind, body, and soul. If a person is diagnosed with cancer and thinks from that moment on that they are doomed, that is in essence giving up and you must always have hope. That is so important.”

A positive outlook was very important for Mrs. Melinda Greenwood, Quest teacher, when accepting the challenge of her lifetime.

On August 1, 2017, Mrs. Greenwood received the news that she had a slow-growing, brain tumor three centimeters in length. She said, “It was by accident, since I had no symptoms.  It was found on a CT Scan completed by my ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor to find out issues with my sinuses. Unfortunately, they found a tumor as well.  I feel very blessed to have found it early, and to have caught it by accident!”

The doctors took a biopsy of the tumor on August 24, which revealed the tumor was cancer, specifically Oligodendroglia, Type II. According to The Brain Tumor Charity, “Oligodendroglia’s are primary brain tumors which means they have originated in the brain instead of spreading from elsewhere. They belong to the group of brain tumors known as gliomas as they develop from a type of glial cell known as an oligodendrocyte.”

Common symptoms include seizures, weakness in the body, blurred vision, stomach aches, and headaches. Mrs. Greenwood experienced none of these symptoms which was why they did not discover the tumor earlier.

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Mrs. Greenwood underwent brain surgery to remove the tumor in mid-August. Sadly, the surgery was not a success due to the fact that her speech center was located within the tumor. Mrs. Greenwood said, “Removing the tumor would have meant losing my speech completely.” Her speech was not something she was willing to give up. The second option for her was chemotherapy.

Mrs. Greenwood is currently receiving treatment from the Duke Brain Tumor Center in North Carolina and Dr. Henry Friedman, who was featured on 60 minutes several times for his break-through Brain Tumor treatments. Mrs. Greenwood said, “I visit the center at Duke every two months to monitor my progress, and to see if additional treatments need to be added.  In the meantime, I take chemotherapy pills for 5 days every month.  I won’t lose my hair, and I’m able to eat more often.  So far, it really hasn’t been too bad, plus I’ve been able to catch up on my favorite Netflix shows during treatment.” 

Mrs. Greenwood’s has tried to keep her daily routine as normal as possible. She said, “Daily life has been pretty normal, other than during the chemotherapy treatment days.” She has even continued to come to work almost every day. Mrs. Greenwood said, “I’m still at work because I love my job!  Those that are around me know that teaching is my passion.  It keeps me focused on something other than my current issues to continue to work with students when I feel good enough to be here.  As cliché as it sounds, my students, my son, my husband and family, church community, friends and work community are what has kept me so positive and hopeful during this entire situation.”

One of the biggest factors in Mrs. Greenwoods positive mindset is her support system of family and friends. Mrs. Turner said, “The teachers have reached out to her through different ways of support. They have made her meals, offered to watch her son, and sent her home when not feeling up to par.”

The teachers at Highlands Middle School have a generous reputation.

Mrs. Turner especially has done everything she can to help make Mrs. Greenwoods recovery easier. Mrs. Turner said, “I made her a quilt to comfort her while she is resting and gave her some soothing lotions and a candle to help relax her. More than anything I have been very supportive in her journey and want to be a help to her in any way that I can, and I do believe that letting her know that she is not walking this journey alone is so important.”

Mrs. Turner understands Mrs. Greenwood’s battle because she is a breast cancer survivor herself.

Everyone has nice things to say about Mrs. Greenwood. Mrs. Jodi Ludmann, Quest teacher, said, “She is hard-working, optimistic, and organized.” Mrs. Ludmann has known Mrs. Greenwood since she began working with the Fort Thomas Schools. Mrs. Ludmann said, “From the beginning, it was easy to see that Mrs. Greenwood was a dependable professional willing to go the extra mile for the gifted students in our region.” 

Mrs. Turner said, “She is kind, fun and determined to beat this dreaded disease.” 

Mrs. Turner has known Mrs. Greenwood for six years. She said, “I can tell you that she has the right attitude about having cancer, and that is over half the battle. I have shared many things about my journey with her which she has stated has been a great help. So many things have changed over the years as far as treatments, but if you have a great attitude and know you can get better, you will.” 

Mrs. Turner has proved that a positive mindset can make a huge difference in cancer recovery. She said, “When I was diagnosed with cancer, I had lost my mother, father, brother and sister to this dreaded disease and my first thought was I was doomed and I would meet the same fate as my immediate family members. But, I was bound and determined that I wanted to see each of my three children graduate from high school.”

Mrs. Turner is now a 21-year survivor of breast cancer.

Not only are the teachers inspired by Mrs. Greenwood, but the students are too.

Katherine Wilson, eighth grader, said, “Her presence, work ethic, and positivity add priceless things to the school and forever impacts all students she teaches.” Wilson has known Mrs. Greenwood for five years and Mrs. Greenwood has positively impacted Wilson’s life. Wilson said, “Through her guidance, I learned many new things, and was pushed to always ask more questions or find a new way to do things. I always love seeing her in the Quest room, and she impacted me positively in so many ways; I can’t thank her enough.”

Mrs. Greenwood has taken something that is most people’s worst nightmare and turned it into something that inspires others every day. Mrs. Ludmann said, “Her optimistic attitude, her faith, and her caring nature are an inspiration.” 

Mrs. Greenwood said, “My prognosis is good as of my last visit (several weeks ago).  The MRI shows that the chemo may be working, showing no signs of a high-grade tumor.  The area where my tumor is located is mostly ‘dark,’ which means that there are very few cancerous cells in there.  If there are bits of ‘Light’ (meaning the MRI lights up to contrast), then there are cancerous cells.”

Although her tumor has not reduced in size, this was expected because she has only undergone three chemotherapy cycles. Mrs. Greenwood still has nine more chemotherapy cycles to go and will be visiting her neuro-oncologist at Duke in January.

Nothing has stopped Mrs. Greenwood so far and with the attitude she has, many people believe she will not stop fighting. Mrs. Greenwood said, “The biggest take away that I want people to know is that my good exercise and eating habits have really helped me through this.  My chemotherapy treatments and symptoms haven’t been nearly as bad because I continue to exercise and practice good eating habits.  It shows the importance of eating well and exercising regularly!  Also, without a positive attitude, there is no way I could have possibly endured this as well as I have.  A positive outlook is so important. All signs point to good results, I have faith that I’m going to be ok.”

By Chloe Bramble, Highlands Middle School student 

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