Originally created 05/12/05

A lesson in courage



Amy Roberts walks around her art classroom at St. Mary on the Hill School giving sixth graders individual pointers on their drawings.

After the class, she tells a substitute teacher what the pupils should be working on the rest of the day, then she heads to Doctors Hospital for tests and chemotherapy.

This has been a part of her school year since Mrs. Roberts, 34, learned she had a type of cancer in her breast a year ago that resurfaced in her left hip this year. She has missed a few days for surgeries and medical procedures, but has never stopped teaching.

"My doctor advised me to not make any drastic changes because the more normal my life stays, it'll help me keep my mind off of it," she said. "He said, 'Keep your life as normal as possible - if you can handle it.' I said, 'Oh, I can handle it. I'm not going to quit.'"

To help with Mrs. Roberts' medical expenses, the St. Mary's staff has organized the Saints for Amy 5K Run/Walk, which will begin at 8:30 a.m. Saturday. The run will start and end at the school, 1220 Monte Sano Ave.

Registration will be from 6:45 to 8 a.m. There also will be half-mile and 1-mile runs for children starting at 7:45 a.m.

The fund-raiser was organized by Allison Crow, a third-grade teacher at the school.

Joe McBride, the assistant principal, said 500 people from the school and the community have registered. He said Mrs. Roberts gets so much help and support "because of who she is and what she does for our school and everybody.

"She's so upbeat, full of energy, no matter what's bothering her that day. I don't know how she does it. I'd be on the ground crying and asking for help, but she's up there teaching and doing what she can to continue on. She's very much an inspiration to us. Through all the pain, therapy, radiation treatments, she still comes and teaches."

A former St. Mary's pupil, Mrs. Roberts returned to the school to teach after college. Now she teaches alongside some teachers who taught her and she said the school feels like family. She has been overwhelmed by the help and support she and her husband, Earl, and their 3- and 4-year-old sons have received.

"Parents and teachers have been cooking for me for a year. They paid to have my house cleaned, and they've been praying for me," she said.

Mrs. Roberts said she felt continuing to teach and talking openly about her condition would help her pupils not be afraid.

"Some people don't want to talk about the big 'C' word and they go through it alone. I feel like the more people I have behind me the more support I have," she said. "I just feel like being here shows them it's nothing to be scared of. I'm going to get through it."

Mrs. Roberts said every time she would be out of school, she would return to something new that pupils and staff would be doing for her. The baseball team dedicated games to her and would yell out, "This is for you, Mrs. Roberts," during play, she said.

One thing in particular that touched her was returning to find a chain made from pieces of construction paper that lined the top of the school's hallway walls.

"It's a prayer chain," she said as her eyes watered. "Every time they say a prayer for me - students, classes, families at home - they add a link."

The year has been "tiring, especially with a full time job," but has been easier with help from her husband, her parents and her in-laws, who will participate in the run, she said.

"It's so hard to thank someone who just keeps on giving. They're always there for doctors' appointments, tests - they just constantly give and give and give," she said through tears. "I don't know what I'd do without them."

Mrs. Roberts said the fund-raiser will help with medical expenses her insurance doesn't cover. She is on crutches and won't be running in the event, but she will attend.

"I'm excited. This is a great idea for a fund-raiser, because we have so many parents and kids who run in our school," she said. "I'll be in a golf cart cheering them on. I can't run; they'll be my legs."

Reach C. Samantha McKevie at (706) 823-3552 or samantha.mckevie@augustachronicle.com.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Saints for Amy 5K Run/Walk

WHERE: Begins and ends at St. Mary on the Hill School, 1220 Monte Sano Ave.

WHEN: Saturday; registration 6:45-8 a.m.; 1-mile for ages 10-14 at 7:45 a.m.; half-mile for ages 6-9 at 8:15 a.m.

COST: $10 for half-mile; $15 for 1-mile; $20 for 5K

PHONE: 733-6193