Colon Cancer

Student battling cancer gets help from teacher facing her own illness

When Sharon Gall-Dunn got wind that one of her former students had cancer and needed a tutor, the second-grade teacher, who herself was on medical leave for cancer treatments, immediately volunteered to help.

“I didn’t do anything a lot of teachers don’t do,” Sharon Gallo-Dunn, a teacher at Shawsheen Elementary School in Massachusetts, told the Lowell Sun Online. “We always hope to make a difference in a kid’s life. That’s why you teach.”

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Gallo-Dunn underwent surgery for colon cancer in October 2015, but missed the remainder of the school year to complete chemotherapy. While she would periodically visit her students, which included Brodie Rawson, there was a six-week period where she was too ill, the Lowell Sun Online reported.

During her six-week absence, Rawson was diagnosed with Burkitt Lymphoma, and was also absent from school, the news outlet reported.

“I’ve had, in my career at the Shawsheen, several children with life-threatening things,” Gallo-Dunn told the Lowell Sun Online. “As a parent, it’s your biggest fear. I called [Brodie’s] mom to ask if I could visit and I went in the next day and visited him at Tufts Floating Hospital.”

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She then began tutoring her student at the hospital and later at home when he was discharged. With her help, Rawson was able to join his classmates for third grade a few weeks late and is on track to start fourth grade in the fall. He was recently recognized at a school event, and surprised Gallo-Dunn by thanking her during the ceremony, the Lowell Sun Online reported.

“Brodie talked about some things that had happened to him and she had no idea that this was going to incorporate her in any way,” Lisa King, the school’s principal, told the news outlet. “She’s just a very kind, very sweet and thoughtful teacher and colleague. She’s just always there whenever anybody needs anything inside and outside of school.”

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Gallo-Dunn’s relationship with the Rawson family is quite finished yet, as she’ll have Brodie’s younger brother in class next year.

“To me, children and families are the foundation of our society and our world,” Gallo-Dunn told The Lowell Sun Online. “We need to protect them and nurture them and teachers try to do their part in that. So if we can make a difference, I think that’s our job besides math and reading.