October 26, 2013 in Washington Voices

Freeman Elementary continues tradition of noting teacher’s breast cancer diagnosis

By The Spokesman-Review
Tyler Tjomsland photoBuy this photo

Leslie Malloy and cancer survivor Barb Gady, staff members at Freeman Elementary, hug after posing for a group photo with other Freeman employees in front of a pink tractor from Northwest Farm Credit Services.
(Full-size photo)

The staff members of Freeman Elementary School on Wednesday wore varying shades of pink, clutched pale pink roses, hugged and laughed as they gathered for photos around a bright pink tractor parked next to the building.

“Oh, my gosh, look at everybody,” said Leslie Malloy, a paraeducator in Barb Gady’s preschool class.

Thirteen years ago, Malloy began encouraging staff members to dress in pink one day in Octoberafter Gady had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

“Each year it has gotten bigger,” Malloy said. Three years ago, on Gady’s 10th anniversary of being cancer-free, teachers dressed in pink and held balloons as they walked around the track at the high school four times.

Malloy said the idea is to support a friend who was struggling. Since then, other staff members have been diagnosed with some type of cancer over the years and they kept the tradition going.

“That’s the environment here (at Freeman),” Gady said. “It’s very supportive.”

On Wednesday, Malloy said, about 200 students wore pink as well as about 99 percent of the staff – the second time during national Breast Cancer Awareness month. The week before was spirit week and it included a pink day.

Malloy and Gady said this kind of awareness at the school makes it easier to talk about and encourages others to get tested.

“The fact that I’m here 13 years later, it’s because of early detection,” Gady said. She doesn’t really want to be the face of breast cancer, however.

“People forget that I even had breast cancer,” she said. “I don’t want to be defined by it.”

The pink tractor visited the school thanks to Northwest Farm Credit Services, where a parent of a student works. Malloy said the tractor is something that resonates with the kids, many of whom live in farming country. Several students, dressed in pink, stopped to hug Malloy on their way to the buses after school Wednesday and she told them she loved their pink.

“Everyone knows somebody that has struggled with this,” Malloy said.

The friendship and support was evident as teachers posed for the picture.

“It’s just about celebrating that people can go on and live normal lives,” Gady said.

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