Cancer survivor strengthened through faith, support

The Viking swim team shows their support for Coach Gina Rodriguez during National Breast Cancer Month.

Although we’ve heard of many stories about people who survived the impossible, sometimes it’s hard to believe that these stories happen to everyday people that we might run into on the street, or even those we are fairly acquainted with.

For swim coach and biology teacher Gina Rodriguez, these survival stories became reality when she battled breast cancer nine years ago and survived. Even with only a small chance to live, she was confident she could to fight off the cancer.

“They gave me about a 30% chance to survive even a year, and I’m at 9 1/2 years so far,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a miracle, because with the staging of my breast cancer and the kind of breast cancer I had, I’m just blessed everyday that I’m a survivor.”

Rodriguez was diagnosed with the cancer in April of 2003, and began chemotherapy and radiation only a few months after.

She did chemo every 21 days for eight months and had a full week of very intensive radiation. Through all of this, Rodriguez said the doctor’s weren’t sure if they were going to be able to get all of the cancer cells.

“[During] chemotherapy, you feel like you just want to curl up in a ball and die for about three days,” Rodriguez said. “I did my chemotherapy, my mastectomy, and radiation in Phoenix, Arizona. My husband worked for Baylor College of Medicine [in Houston] and that’s where I had my reconstructive surgery.”

Although it was a very hard point in her life, Rodriguez knew that through her faith, she would survive.

“When I was diagnosed, I just put my faith and trust [in God] and I knew that it was not my time,” Rodriguez said. “It was a miracle that I knew that I was going to be able to beat this because it wasn’t His plan for me not to.”

Due to it being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Rodriguez had a pleasant surprise from her swim team on the day of PSAT when they came into her classroom wearing pink shirts showing their support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“[I wanted] to show appreciation for all that she does for us and that we really do thank her for being our coach,” sophomore Brittany Thurstin said, who thought up of the idea. “She realized that we do appreciate her and she knew that we recognize her for all the stuff she went through.”

Not only was Rodriguez very surprised, but she was very happy to see that her team supported her.

“It was [PSAT] testing day so she was in her room, so we all met down at the pool and we walked as a giant group, “ Thurstin said. “There were like fifteen of us wearing pink shirts that said, ‘We Wear Pink For Our Coach’ and we all walked into her classroom and she read the shirts and then she bursted into tears.”

Junior Alanis King said that Rodriguez has been a positive impact on the team.

“She’s been a huge help,” King said. “She’s so positive and she wants kids, even the kids who just started swimming, to be involved and to find a way for them to compete. She’s just all about helping the team grow and making better swimmers out of everyone.”

Rodriguez said she couldn’t have been happier with her team and their show of support will always be one of the moments that defines her teaching career.

“It was an amazing experience,” Rodriguez said. “Somedays as a teacher, you don’t feel like you’re making a difference. When the swimmers came to the classroom with those shirts on, it was affirmation that, yes, I am making a difference.”

After seeing how much her students supported her, Rodriguez said it helped unite them as not only a team, but as a family.

“It was just that support of them letting me know that, hey we’re in this together we’re a team so it was a great feeling on my part to know that the kids were supportive and behind me,” Rodriguez said.

With support from her kids and the rest of her family and friends, and her faith, Rodriguez knew that in the end, whatever happened, everything was going to be okay.

“It was because of my faith in God, I knew that whatever was going to happen was going to happen and I just needed to trust that He had things under control,” Rodriguez said.