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‘Tough Lady’: China Spring teacher hasn’t taken a single sick day during nearly 10-year battle with incurable cancer

Publication: KWTX-TV (CBS, Waco)
02/07/2024

A local high school teacher in her eighth year of fighting an incurable and aggressive form of cancer has never taken a single sick day in her nearly decade long battle.

Amy Faulkner, 48, is an honors and AP teacher at China Spring High School and says it’s the students who keep her in the classroom. Despite having so many scheduled rounds of chemotherapy and radiation that she’s lost count, there’s one statistic she can easily keep track of, and that’s the number of days she’s called in sick.

Zero. That’s right,” Amy nonchalantly says when asked about the almost unbelievable fact.

Amy, a 1993 Crawford High School graduate, is a career educator who knew she wanted to be a teacher since high school.

“My high school English teacher, Christy Murphy, was a teacher I loved and I wanted to be her,” Amy said. “I decided then I wanted to be a high school English teacher.”

After graduation from Tarleton State University, Amy’s teaching path took her from Marlin to Robinson and for the last 16 years China Spring ISD where her husband, Marc, is the superintendent.

Marc’s never missed a treatment or an appointment of his wife’s, and his wife has never missed a single day of school out sick.

“Working with teenagers all day every day keeps you young,” Amy said. “They are so funny but they’re also inspiring. They inspire me to be at school every day because I owe it to them. That’s why I am always working because I want to be the teacher that they deserve.”

Amy was diagnosed in 2016 with stage four cervical cancer at just 40-years-old.

She admits she was years behind on her pap smears which is a procedure to test for cervical cancer.

The teacher was having irregular bleeding and made an appointment to explore having a hysterectomy. That’s when doctors discovered the lifechanging news.

“They told me I had cancer, and I honestly couldn’t believe it,” the young mom of two said.

Amy immediately began treatment, which included chemotherapy, radiation and eventually immunotherapy.

Her cancer has since spread to her collarbone and both lungs. Just this week, she received news that will likely send her back into intensive chemotherapy treatments.

“In the last couple of months, the cough and being out of breath came back. I had a lung drained a couple of weeks ago and just found out today that there were cancer cells in the fluid so looks like it’s chemotherapy time again,” she said.

Amy admits the journey hasn’t been easy, but says she’s been surrounded at every turn from the China Spring community and beyond.

Friends have organized a fun run in her honor. Others have dropped off gift baskets and food. Even opposing schools have done acts to support the family.

While the teacher draws strength from her students, she also leans on her own kids; Raelynn, 22, who is a NICU nurse in Houston; and Brayden, 20, who is a football player at Lamar University in Beaumont.

She says she’s simply taking the mom advice she always gave them.

“I think part of it is we are a competitive family in sports,” she said. “I raised them to think that when an obstacle gets in your way you don’t stop. You don’t quit. You keep going and so that’s what I’m doing now.”

Dr. Carl Chakmakjian, Amy’s oncologist at Texas Oncology in Waco, said there’s something everyone can learn from the teacher.

“Amy’s been given intravenous therapies for her cancer, and she’s really responded amazingly well‚” Chakmakjian said. “She’s really a tough, tough lady and came regularly for her appointments, lab checks, always has a good attitude and had a great clinical response to her treatments.”

Amy wants to encourage all women to stay vigilant with their health because she believes she’s not alone in getting busy with life.

“Cervical cancer ranks as the 4th most common cancer amongst women worldwide, but early detection of cancer significantly improves treatment outcomes and saves lives. This is why regular screenings are vital for those between the ages of 21 and 65,” Chakmakjian said. “Pap smears and HPV test at annual exams can detect abnormalities long before they turn into cancer.”

Amy says as she looks ahead to the next round of treatment she plans to keep on fighting and keep on teaching.

“The kids that I’m teaching right now are going to change the world someday,” Amy said. “I love the students like they’re my own kids and if I’m not at school, I miss them. There’s no place I’d rather be than at school with them.”
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