by Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
Being named 2011 Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year was a proud moment for Deborah Bordeau. She was grateful to be honored, but even more grateful simply to be there, because one year earlier she was fighting the biggest battle of her life after being diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer.
“I was lucky. My cancer journey could have been much different,” says the Oakley Union Teachers Association member, who is now cancer-free. “I was able to fight back. For that I am forever thankful.”
Now her goal is to “pay it forward” and help others by creating a California breast cancer awareness license plate that will convey the message “Early Detection Saves Life” and serve as a daily reminder that mammograms and self-exams are critically important.
“I wasn’t aware of what to look for with my self-exams, so when I felt a lump toward my right armpit area, I ignored it,” says Bordeau. “I never knew that breast cancer could form so high up. One of the things we promote with the plate is ‘Know your body.’ If something doesn’t feel right, get it checked.”
She and three other survivors (Heather Solari, Chere Rush and Heather McCullough) approached state Assembly Member Joan Buchanan (D-San Ramon) with the idea, which resulted in AB 49. The Pink Plate Bill is making its way through the Legislature. Besides raising awareness, income from the sale of pink plates will provide access to life-saving exams for women throughout the state. For more information, visit www.pinkplate.org.
In Deborah’s words
Learning I had cancer…
was a shock. Anyone who has heard those three ugly words “You have cancer” knows what a roller coaster ride that diagnosis can be. A fellow cancer survivor told me “attitude is everything,” and I quickly understood the importance of a strong, positive mindset. I decided to fight early on and not let cancer define who I was. I kept working through my treatments. Teaching became my salvation. It was not only healing for me, but also a life lesson for my third-grade students at Laurel Elementary, who learned: Setbacks in life are a reality, but they don’t have to change who you are. They can serve to make you stronger.
Being named an American Cancer Society Hero of Hope…
was a huge honor. I refer to myself as an “ambassador of hope” rather than a hero. I don’t consider myself a hero. I am just a grateful survivor trying to make a difference.
Money generated from the California Pink Plate…
will allow more women across California to get regular breast exams and mammograms, potentially saving the lives of countless women, especially minorities, who have a high mortality rate for breast cancer due to a lack of insurance and screening. All funds generated from sales will be deposited into the Breast Cancer Control Account, which funds the Every Woman Counts program, administered by the California Department of Health Care Service to provide free clinical breast exams and mammograms to California’s underserved women.
I am fighting…
for those who continue to fight, for those who lost their battles, for our sons and daughters, and for the 28 smiling faces I see in my classroom on a daily basis. I want to involve all Californians in the battle. Everyone jumps on the bandwagon in October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but the fight against breast cancer should be 365 days a year.
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