Boynton Beach High Relay for Life event spreads awareness
BY ALEXANDRA SELTZER - PALM BEACH POST STAFF WRITER
For the past year, Susan Heckman has been on a journey of surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation while battling breast cancer.
The cancer was caught early, when Heckman spotted a lump during a self examination.
Now cancer free, Heckman, 47, and her husband, Boynton Beach High media specialist William Heckman, say it’s awareness that is most important. And, he says, it’s events like Saturday’s Relay for Life at the high school that do just that.
“The kids in the school here and the staff have been very, very supportive,” William Heckman said. “It’s wonderful. It really is.”
It’s the first time in at least five years that the high school is hosting the event, which raises money for the American Cancer Society. The walk starts at 6 p.m. at the football field and ends at 6 a.m. Sunday. As of Thursday afternoon, nine teams had signed up and about $1,000 had been raised by the students, according to Cassey Stank, a Boynton High English teacher who is organizing the event.
Stank said many staff members, students and family members will participate in the event.
Heckman said he won’t be able to attend, however, because he will be with his wife who is having her last round of radiation today.
But to honor the Heckmans, the students created a 3-foot purple ribbon for the couple and signed it.
The media specialist said he was too overcome with emotion and told the children to leave. Then later, he thanked them.
Susan Heckman, a teacher at Grove Park Elementary in suburban West Palm Beach, spotted the lump in her breast in June. Test results showing cancer came back in July. Heckman had a double mastectomy, reconstructive surgery, months of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation. The Heckmans and their daughter Kelsie anxiously awaited results of the BRCA gene test to see if the cancer was hereditary. It’s not.
Even though Heckman is cancer free, her husband said its return is something they’ll both worry about, even though the chances of that happening are low.
Heckman said he wants the public to know that anyone, no matter how young, can be diagnosed with cancer.
“The more aware we are, the better it is. The quicker you catch it, the chances of you surviving are exponentially better,” Heckman said. “The Relay for Life, it brings a lot of awareness. It also gives the kids a chance to show how much a part of the community they are.”