School raises awareness, honors cancer survivors

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

By Johnny Jackson


The students created a wall of pink as they paraded around their school, celebrating the survival of their teachers, and raising awareness of the disease those teachers survived.

Mike Vigil was a featured guest at Flippen Elementary School's Second Annual "Pink Out" Pink Parade on Friday. Vigil, the vice president of Allen Vigil Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury, is part of Henry Medical Center's "Real Men Wear Pink" campaign to raise awareness of breast cancer.

"My role is to just spread the word about breast cancer awareness, spreading the word about mammograms and early detection," said Vigil, who is also chairman of the Henry Medical Center Foundation's board.

Vigil, joined by hundreds of elementary school students, noted that Friday's setting was appropriate in helping raise awareness of breast cancer.

"The earlier we can educate people, the better," he said. "Doing this not only influences the children, it influences the parents ... getting the kids involved also gets the entire family involved."

Lisa Henriquez, Flippen's Student Achievement in Gifted Education (SAGE) Program instructor, helped organize the breast cancer awareness activity.

"This is a topic that's kind of hard to bring down to an elementary school level," said Henriquez, who also leads the school's Relay for Life Team.

"I think it's important that students are aware of it, so that they can live a healthy lifestyle," she continued. "My mother had cancer three years ago. If my mom had taken better care of herself, and went to the doctor sooner, it would have been detected earlier."

Henriquez motioned to kindergarten teacher, Patricia Pietrowski, whom she described as being an energetic inspiration to the faculty at Flippen as she undergoes cancer treatment.

Pietrowski said she was first diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2005, and had been in remission for more than four years when she learned in August that the cancer had resurfaced and spread to her liver.

She learned the news from blood work done during a three-month, check-up with her doctor.

"It was shocking," Pietrowski said. "I didn't expect it. I felt good. It was a very big shock. But I'm doing all right. There are people who are going through a lot worse things than I'm going through."

"She is here, she is with these kids," interjected Henriquez. "She has more spirit than anyone I've ever seen. She inspires all of us."

"You've got to do what you've got to do," added Pietrowski. "Think positive, because if you dwell on the negative, it's not going to make anything better. The cancer is a cross that I carry. We all have our crosses to bear, just like Jesus."

Pietrowski reflected on her years of teaching and parenting her three young children, and resolved she would fight, again, to reach the 5-year milestone of being cancer-free.

"I'm not done yet," she said. "I still have to make a difference in a lot of people's lives."