VERONA – Verona Elementary School librarian Alisha Hughes was at school in May when she found out she had Stage IIB breast cancer.
Monday afternoon, Hughes returned to school for a reception in her honor and got to see many of the familiar faces she said were with her in the moments following that life-changing phone call.
Since May, Hughes has had a double mastectomy and undergone chemotherapy treatments, as well as struggled with the side effects of many types of cancer drugs.
Despite it all, though, Hughes has remained positive. She said she just keeps moving forward.
Hughes said she misses her job at Verona Elementary, especially working with the students, and was glad to return to the school for the event Monday.
She hopes to be able to return to her post as librarian in January.
“It feels nice to get out of the house,” Hughes said. “Being back has been wonderful and then seeing new faces and the faces of some of the people from last year that helped pick me up when I was down. They have been like my second family.”
During the school’s “Think Pink Week” last week, teachers paid $10 to wear jeans and students and teachers were encouraged to wear pink to show their support for Hughes and all breast cancer patients and survivors.
The money collected was given to Hughes to help with her medical expenses.
Temeka Shannon, Verona Elementary principal, said all of the teachers participated, and some did not wear jeans but made donations anyway.
Shannon believes showing support for Hughes is important not only to encourage her, but also because any of her teachers or staff could be diagnosed.
“This time next year it could be me, it could be someone else on my staff – it could be any of us,” Shannon said. “We just really want her to know that we are with her.”
Fittingly, the Verona Elementary library was decked out in pink Monday afternoon. Shannon and teachers decorated with pink balloons, table runners and ribbons.
Teachers also wore pink and brought pink-frosted cupcakes.
“She is a part of the Verona Elementary family,” Shannon said. “We wanted to do something special for her to let her know we are with her in prayer and in spirit and to encourage her to keep fighting.”
Hughes said she is thankful for the outpouring of support from her family, friends and community, which was especially displayed during the Monday afternoon reception in her honor.
“You have to have a support system,” Hughes said.