Teacher Battling Cancer Runs Out of Sick Days for Chemo Treatments, Posts Heartbreaking Plea


“Cancer” is more than one of the most feared words in the English language. It’s an affliction that can consume your life even as you fight for it.

If you’ve ever had a loved one or friend who has battled the dreadful disease, you know what I’m talking about. Cancer treatments seem almost as awful as the illness itself, and they often make living your everyday life almost impossible.

Nausea and weakness and complications of chemotherapy turn keeping an ordinary schedule into a Herculean task. Palm Beach Gardens Community High School teacher Robert Goodman faced just that struggle.

According to ABC News, Goodman received a stage III cancer colon diagnosis in April. He threw himself into treatment immediately.

Twice every week, he received chemotherapy. Then he underwent surgery on May 4.

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“It just happened to coincide with when summer began too, so I had just enough (sick) days to make it through the surgery recovery and then I had to start chemo in June and throughout the entire summer,” he said. “I have never had the energy for a full day.

“It felt awful. Each chemo treatment takes at least a week for me to feel just 70 percent.”

As a new school year loomed, Goodman began to feel worried. If he couldn’t make it through the slow summer, how could he manage when classes ramped up?

CNN said that Goodman was a 23-year veteran of the school. He knew that his days would need to start at 5 a.m.

Palm Beach Gardens Community High did have a policy in place, which would allow him to qualify for catastrophic sick leave. According to USA Today, though, Goodman needed 20 additional days of accumulated sick leave to qualify for it, which placed him in a sticky situation.

Though he wished he had signed up for short-term liability coverage, he knew he really couldn’t have afforded it. “All teachers and staffers are living the same life really, financially,” he said.

So he tried another tack: He posted a picture of himself receiving chemo to Facebook and asked Florida teachers to donate their sick time to him.

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“If I can get 20 more sick days from any teacher or district employee volunteers that would allow me to take more time to recover in battle through chemo for 12 weeks, which should be enough time for me to complete at least the treatment,” he wrote. “So if any of my teacher friends are out there, spread the word for me.”

It’s not exactly easy for a teacher to donate sick time. For teachers to do so, they need to have secured 96 sick days of their own and have worked for a school for at least six years.

Still, they made it happen. Within the space of four days, teachers from all over the system donated 75 sick days to him.

“Anybody can get cancer, but not everyone is willing to help,” Goodman said, overwhelmed by their generosity. ‘We all have it in us, but it’s good to get back in touch with our compassion.”

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A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine.
A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine. Most days find him crafting copy for corporate and small-business clients, but he also occasionally indulges in creative writing. His short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines. Loren currently lives in south Florida with his wife and three children.
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