Autumn’s Fight Against Cancer

How keeping a strong mind and loving heart has helped her along the journey to surviving cancer
By Mika Brust & Lexi Heath

Autumn Campbell, beloved art teacher and staff member of DHS, has never touched a tanning bed in her life, nor has she been one of those people who laid out in the sun wearing baby oil.

However, in her mid-20’s, Autumn was first diagnosed with skin cancer on her face. On November 5, 2015, she received a call as she was walking into DHS that her cancer had come back, and this time it was far more aggressive.

“Melanoma is like other cancers, it can get into your lymph nodes and it can be invasive into your organs and so you would need treatment for melanoma like any other cancer with chemotherapy, radiation, surgery,” she said.

Over the past few months, she has been extremely tough and strong-willed during her battle with cancer. Describing her recovery after the extensive surgeries, Autumn said, “I have three layers of stitches and an anchor stitch holding the whole thing together. It’ll take around six months for the last anchor stitching to dissolve. And it hurts everyday, I mean I’ve been in really terrible pain since December 2nd. Everyday, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it never goes away.

“I don’t do well on pain medication, even after this big major surgery, I only took pain medication for 2 days because it doesn’t agree with me and there’s only so much Tylenol and Advil will do. So I really just manage.”

Autumn has shown her true strength and selflessness by coming back to DHS in order to continue teaching shortly after her surgeries, and she still has one more left to complete later this month.

And it hurts everyday, I mean I’ve been in really terrible pain since December 2nd. Everyday, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it never goes away.

Over the summer, Autumn lost a friend to breast cancer, making her put things into perspective a lot more. She also has a 12-year old daughter at home impacting every deci- sion she makes.

“It has changed my whole life and I’m not going to say that it hasn’t. We already “ate a really healthy diet – I make everything from scratch at home; everything is organic. But then I really looked at the body products that I put on myself. I threw away all my makeup, I changed all of my moisturizers, deodorants, everything that I put on and in my body. We started to filter our water, not only that we drank, but in the shower, because I really never ever want to go through this again and I certainly never want my daughter to ever go through something like this. But it has also made me really grateful. So, it has also been a blessing and I have to remember that as well.”

Rather than dwelling on the negatives of her journey, Autumn has decided to “live in a place of gratitude” and “not to live in a place of fear or anger.”

Throughout everything, she has remained grateful for her friends, family and students.

“I have had the most amazing network of people and it has really been a tremendous experience for me to really focus on my gifts, my gratitude, my blessings . . . I also just want to say to the student body: you have all been so kind, so considerate, so generous, and have shown me so much grace. Because I feel like we’ve all been in this together. You’ve been patient with my exhaustion, you’ve been patient with the things I need and I will never forget the student’s kindness.”

Autumn has made it clear throughout her career at DHS that her students mean the world to her. Not only has she been strong throughout the entire process for herself, she’s remained strong for her students and staff.

DHS Principal Kit Moran said, “Autumn is really the heart of the staff here at DHS. She cares about her students more than anything and makes them a priority. As Autumn says, it’s not all glue and glitter; she teaches kids to advocate for themselves and to be independent. I agree with Autumn on most things politically, she supports kids to push the envelope.”

“Over the past few months nothing has changed; although she’s physically been absent, her attitude and positive spirit has remained at DHS. Autumn will always hold “a big chunk of the school’s heart,” Moran said.