Kids were huge motivator for teacher, young mother during cancer treatments

Julia Rosenberger has always been a teacher of some sort or another. As a swim teacher, a gymnastics coach and even as a teenage babysitter, she worked with young kids and had a passion for helping them learn.Inspired by her father, a career teacher and administrator, and by the excellent teachers she had in elementary school and high school, the 34-year-old resident of Holland, Pennsylvania, now teaches second grade.“Being in a classroom and seeing kids make those gains and learn something new — it’s awesome to be part of that,” she says. “Especially in the younger grades. They love being in school, they love their teacher, they learn so much. To be able to give them that gift is really cool.

When Julia was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer last year, she found that getting back to her classroom was “a huge motivator” for her as she went through treatment.

“It’s so hard for teachers to leave their kids — I call them my kids, even though, of course, they’re not — in the hands of someone else,” she says. The kids wrote Julia notes while she was gone, telling her what they were learning and that they hoped her family was taking care of her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She returned to the classroom after six weeks of recovery from surgery and continued to teach, with short breaks, while undergoing chemotherapy and then proton therapy at ProCure Proton Therapy Center in Somerset, New Jersey.

“I came back and I had a wig, and they didn’t notice, or if they did, they didn’t say anything,” Julia says. “Kids are very adaptive and very kind when they need to be. I loved my class last year and I will miss them forever for that, for how good they were to me. I was tired and they intuitively knew and responded to that.”

Julia had two other little motivators at home: twin girls who were infants when she received her diagnosis and are now 3 years old. She told her doctor, at every appointment, “It doesn’t matter what I look like or what I have to do. As long as I’m here for my daughters, I don’t care.”

Since her diagnosis and treatment, Rosenberger says her attitude has changed. “I try to take advantage of even the smallest things — like putting my girls to bed,” she says. “My family does a lot more things that we know will be important in the long run. We fill our weekends with things we’re going to remember. We take a lot of pictures.”

 

 

Julia also reaches out to newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. “I never would have done that before,” she says. “I was very shy in that way. But now I don’t have time for [being shy].”“It’s hard when you’re young [and get a cancer diagnosis],” Julia says. “It’s scary and there’s not a lot of resources. But other women with breast cancer, especially younger women, have to understand that proton therapy is an option, that it might be beneficial for their health and longevity.”Once a teacher, always a teacher.