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Teachers donate their sick days to colleague battling colon cancer

Elise Solé
Yahoo Lifestyle

A teacher who desperately needed sick days to continue fighting colon cancer was blessed with donated time after pleading his case with a Facebook selfie.

In April, after undergoing a colonoscopy to address why he was experiencing bowel discomfort, Robert Goodman, a 23-year history teacher at Palm Beach Gardens Community High School in Florida, was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer. One month later, the 56-year-old had surgery to remove a tumor that was growing into the wall of his colon and 44 lymph nodes, three of which were malignant.

Doctors prescribed six months of chemotherapy and a host of medications, but Goodman knew he needed extra time to heal. “I had enough sick days to cover me through the end of the year, but I also anticipated being physically and emotionally exhausted,” Goodman tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “As a history teacher, I stand in front of my students all day, and I didn’t want them to see me break down.” 

However, Goodman was short 20 sick days to qualify for a catastrophic leave of absence, which would guarantee him six weeks of paid leave. So he hesitantly turned to Facebook. “If I can get 20 more sick days from any teacher or district employee volunteers that would allow me to take more time to recover in battle through chemo for 12 weeks which should be enough time for me to complete at least the treatment,” Goodman wrote in a July 23 Facebook post. “So if any of my teacher friends are out there spread the word for me I would appreciate it thank you so much.” 

The musician-turned-teacher included a selfie snapped while receiving treatment at Tomsich Health and Medical Center of Palm Beach County and a contact at his school’s HR department for donations. “I didn’t want to be ‘that person’ on Facebook, and at my age, you want to be self-sufficient,” Goodman tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “But the post was another part of sharing my story, and I did need help.” 

After just four days, Goodman received enough sick days from employees in his school district to cover him for one semester. “Out-of-state teachers and university professors also tried to donate, people sent me grocery store gift cards, and I got offers to tune my piano and mow my lawn. Beautiful, wonderful offers.”

When he’s feeling healthier, Goodman plans to throw a party to thank his donors, who are currently anonymous.

“These people could have saved their sick days to cash out when they retire — instead, they gave them to me,” says Goodman. “There is so much dialogue and humanity happening. It’s healing.”

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