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Finding peace

Teacher learns valuable lessons from cancer

Mari Katherine Raftopoulos
Cheryl Miller is a cancer survivor who didn't let cancer take away her endurance. She will be walking in the survivors lap Friday during Craig's first Relay for Life to show her strength.
Michelle Balleck

— When Cheryl Miller sees the image of a cactus, she thinks endurance.

And when she thinks of endurance, she thinks of cancer.

Because endurance is something cancer could not take away from Miller.

Miller is a cancer survivor.

She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer seven years ago after finding an abnormally enlarged lymphnode.

This is the reason Miller embroidered a cactus on the cancer support group’s quilt to be placed in the cancer unit of The Memorial Hospital.

“The cactus represents all of the pain we have to endure with cancer,” Miller said. “But, like a cactus, we remain strong.”

Miller found out she had cancer after returning home from a visit to her father, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer and receiving treatment.

“‘Til this day I see that visit as a sign from God,” Miller said. ” He wanted to show me and give me warning for what I was about to face.”

What she faced was a different reflection in the mirror.

After six rounds of chemotherapy and one hysterectomy, it wasn’t the look of cancer Miller disliked the most.

“Losing my hair didn’t bother me. It was just colder in the winter time without hair,” Miller said. “I even used to have competition between my two eyebrows to see which one disappeared first.”

It was the loss of words that made her weak.

“There are no words I could say to explain the way I felt on my bad days after chemotherapy,” Miller said. “I am a very verbal person, but that feeling was just something I could never describe.”

And now that it’s over, Miller – a professor at Colorado Northwestern Community College – said cancer has been a teacher in its own right.

“Before, I was so worried about being the perfect teacher and making sure my students were doing their best,” Miller said. “Now I rely on God to provide me with the lessons I need to teach.”

Those lessons?

Not to be consumed by senseless worries or take for granted any day that God has given to her.

“Cancer has brought me peace,” Miller said.

Now in remission, Miller will join other survivors of the community Friday for the survivors lap of Craig’s first American Cancer Society Relay for Life at the Moffat County High School track.

“I am very grateful for the fact that I am able to walk in the survivors lap,” Miller said. “The lap will be very emotional.”


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