Callaway High goes pink to support teacher battling cancer

Published 9:30 am Thursday, August 24, 2023

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On a Wednesday morning filled with support and positive energy, Callaway High School held a breakfast for special education teacher Shameka Turner.

Since May 2023, Turner has been secretly battling breast cancer. Turner said she was apprehensive about letting people know of her condition because she didn’t want people to feel sorry for her.

“This is my first year teaching, and I didn’t want it to mess with my chances of getting the job. I didn’t want them to feel like I couldn’t do my job because of my treatments and because I had cancer,” Turner said.

Turner previously worked as a paraprofessional for CHS before getting the job as a special education teacher for the school.

Turner said it was amazing to see the support from her CHS family on Wednesday.

“From home to school, I couldn’t have asked for a better support system. If I didn’t have my support system, I don’t know where I’d be,” Turner said. “Throughout my whole process, since I found out on May 10, I’ve had a lot of support a lot of support from family, friends and co-workers. It could have been a whole lot different —cancer is cancer and no one wants cancer, but it’s been a decent process.”

Turner said teaching while getting through treatment and going back to school to get her master’s in special education has been a tough adjustment.

“After my treatments, I would be tired. Before my treatments, I would be tired. I have treatment five days a week, and it’s been a journey, but I know what I want to do. I push through it even if I am tired,” Turner said.

“I was a ParaPro last year and ended up having to take the Gates Test the day before I found out that I was getting ready to have surgery. I was skeptical, I was scared and didn’t know if could pass both parts of the test with everything going on,” Turner said. “I passed both of my tests on the first try even through getting bad news about my cancer. I still was able to pass my test get my certification and come and do my job and I love my kids so much.”

CHS Principal Jason Graham said Turner is a special part of the school.

“Miss Turner exemplifies what it means to be Callaway and is someone who shows grace, strength, patience and resiliency. We are proud of her for what she does for our school and how she’s taken on the challenge that she’s had to deal with in her health,” Graham said. “She’s always positive, enthusiastic and you would never know that she was going through a challenge as serious as she has. When we found out about her health situation, we had an overwhelming amount of support from staff and students to make sure that she knows that we love her, support her, are proud of her and that we’re here for her in any way possible. Today has been a great demonstration of our community and how we rally together to support people in our family.”

Turner said the plan was to do a pink breakfast with her students. However, she didn’t expect the welcomed surprise of having the whole school support her in her journey.

“I wasn’t expecting everybody, and it was a real big surprise because we were just doing with our two classes. But then I got here and saw everybody and the flowers and balloons, and I was just shocked. It really showed me all the support I have here, and I appreciate it,” Turner said.

“When people get cancer, they think this is the end, but it’s not. I’m in pain right now, but I’m pushing through it and taking it day by day. I truly appreciate the support, and it really makes me want to be here more because of the support I’ve received today.”