Cherokee Bend pinks out for Laura
Picture after picture flooded Laura Witcher’s inbox last Tuesday. They arrived at the perfect time.
Images of Cherokee Bend Elementary students and teachers bedecked in pink helped distract Witcher during a three-hour chemotherapy session. It was the second of four she will endure as she battles Stage 2 breast cancer.
“It made my day,” Witcher said via Zoom, two days after her treatment, “and then I got to share it with the lady across from me, who was also a breast cancer patient.”
On Oct. 20, Cherokee Bend held a Pink Out For Laura day on which members of the school community wore pink and made signs in honor of their beloved counselor. Witcher was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma just a couple of weeks before the 2020-2021 school year began. She is currently on medical leave as she undergoes treatment.
“We are choosing to pink out today to show our support and love and care for her,” Cherokee Bend Principal Sandy Ritchey said. “She does an amazing job taking care of all of us, and we just wanted her to know that we’re with her. We’re going to fight with her.”
Rather than starting her eighth school year at Cherokee Bend, Witcher in August underwent a bilateral mastectomy to treat her cancer. She began chemotherapy six weeks later.
While Witcher has experienced her share of tough days recently, her commitment to finding gratitude in all things has helped her maintain a positive outlook.
“I feel like when you go through something like this and you seek out the joy in life, you find happiness and joy for yourself,” she said.
Witcher and her husband, James, are parents to two Mountain Brook Schools students. Lilly is a seventh-grader at the junior high, and Katie is a 10th-grader at the high school.
The Cherokee Bend community has rallied around the Witcher family amid its trial.
“As soon as I found out I was going to have surgery, they set up a meal sign-up plan, and I had meals coming in from all kinds of people and the school and then others,” Laura said. “That was good, too, because after surgery you can’t lift or pull with your arms for some time.”
Witcher will undergo reconstructive surgery once chemotherapy concludes in early December. She hopes to reassume her role at Cherokee Bend during the second semester and has set Feb. 1 as her target return date.
Ritchey looks forward to getting her peer back. She calls Witcher the “glue” who helps hold the school together.
As evidenced by the pink shirts, sincere cards, and overwhelming encouragement voiced last Tuesday, her presence has been greatly missed.
“She is an incredible support system, and what I mean by that is Laura is not only a counselor, but a mother, a teacher, a parent — somebody who really cares about our children, our colleagues, and all of our parents in the community,” Ritchey said. “She’s just somebody that's pretty special to us.”