Teacher staying positive amid breast cancer fight

Teacher staying positive amid breast cancer fight
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Editor’s note: In honor of October being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, this week The Columbus Telegram is publishing profiles of area residents who are breast cancer survivors as part of our third-annual “Think Pink” series in collaboration with Columbus Cancer Care, which worked with us to find profile candidates. Read previously published stories on our website. Our masthead on the front page will also be pink throughout the week.

When Sandi Seckel first heard her radiologist say they should do a biopsy, she figured it was cancer.

Seckel, a second-grade teacher at West Park Elementary School, has had annual mammograms for the past 20 years, since she was 40 years old. She was diagnosed in August 2020, but said thanks to the mammogram, it was caught early.

“I have a positive attitude, I have a strong faith, very supportive family, a job that I love, and a school family to support me,” Seckel said. “We have a tremendous health care community here in Columbus.”

Seckel has a breast exam at her yearly physical and professionals didn’t find anything. But, it was detected at her yearly mammogram and doctors were able to do a needle biopsy that day.

“Within a week-and-a-half, I had surgery and then they removed the tumor, stage one,” she said. “I have no history of breast cancer in my family. I have no history of cancer in my family. I am the first one.”

Post-surgery, Seckel is undergoing a round of radiation, which Columbus Cancer Care is doing during her lunch breaks. That round will last 33 days, and once it ends, Seckel will do a hormone-blocking therapy for five years, which will slow the cancer if it were to reappear.

Seckel is still able to teach and only missed one day for surgery.

“It is crazy,” said her sister, Peg Schmid, who is three years older than her. “But there was no doubt that she would. She would continue to live her life like she always has. This cancer isn’t going to slow her down.”

Seckel and her sister are close.

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 “It was a shock. I guess you always think it happens to somebody else but it never happens to you or someone close to you,” Schmid said. “Once you get over the shock, then it’s this is the hands we’re dealt, now we have to play our cards.”

Seckel’s husband, Carl, agreed it was scary in the beginning. Now, he said he feels more positive.

“They say that word cancer, and it kind of goes through your mind, you know, what’s going to happen,” Carl said. “It’s been pretty smooth with everything we’ve done here in Columbus.”

He was also optimistic in the beginning the cancer was caught so early, especially since his wife had been doing everything she was supposed to be doing.

After 37 years of marriage, he said Seckel is not someone who would ever stop teaching.

Seckel is grateful for the opportunity to teach.

“My mind is occupied with something that I love,” she said. “If my treatment plan would have been different, if the stage would have been different, or the treatment longer and I had to miss days from school, those days would have been harder for me because I would have had more time on my hands to thank about it.”

From ductal breast cancer diagnosis in August to the end of radiation in November will only be a couple months, which Seckel called “a little blip in a whole life.”

Now, she’s taking joy in the little things, like decorating her house for fall or her students who make her laugh, keep her honest and bring her dandelions.

“Through my faith, I know that I don’t walk this path alone…there is a reason for everything,” she said. “If we don’t ever experience sadness or darkness, we never recognize joy.”

Carolyn Komatsoulis is a reporter for the Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at [email protected].

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