Every once in a while, you meet a teacher that stands out from the rest. Maybe it is because she has a creative way of presenting material, or maybe she pushes you to achieve goals you never thought possible. Tricia Creasey was that type of teacher. With the exception of her husband William and their three beautiful girls, teaching was probably the thing that she loved the most in the world, and it showed.
She was passionate about making science come alive for seventh graders. I can remember staying for hours after school pouring gel into petri dishes for students to test saliva. And when she came into my room with that look in her eyes, I knew exactly what it meant; she had an idea- a big idea! Whether it was taking students to an amusement park to teach forces of motion or staging a kidnapping of the principal so students could solve a “real life crime” using their science investigation skills, there was only one thing I could say. I was in!
Tricia began experiencing symptoms including fatigue, rectal bleeding, and stomach pains several months before her eventual diagnosis. After some very scary trips to the doctor she was told that her symptoms were nothing to be alarmed about and dismissed. Colon cancer wasn’t even an option; she was too young.
In 2006, Tricia Creasey was eventually given a colonoscopy and diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. Immediately after hearing those dreaded words “you have cancer,” Tricia resolved that she would fight. She would fight, because her daughters needed their mom and her students needed their teacher. And she did fight. She fought through surgeries that re-sectioned and removed her colon and through numerous rounds of radiation and chemotherapy. It seemed with every doctor’s appointment, regardless of the news, she was more and more resolved to not miss school or time with her family.
Though she was given various types of chemotherapy treatments, most were administered once every two weeks. At her request, the treatments were scheduled for Thursday and lasted until Saturday, enabling her to miss a minimal amount of school. She also underwent routine CT and PET scans to monitor the effectiveness of the treatments. At times, results seemed promising, but eventually, with each type of chemo the cancer would start to grow again.
Since children are often very visual, it wasn’t until the first time her hair fell out that the diagnoses started to sink in with our students. They were seeing the person they learned from and admired as sick, and more than anything, they wanted to help. For five years, students made cards and projects, they organized fundraisers, and prayed for Mrs. Creasey. Collectively, they wanted to send a message of love and support to the teacher who had always loved and supported them.
At her weakest, she taught her science lessons from a wheelchair, but as always, she was teaching far more than science. Throughout her illness I watched her teach children how to persevere in difficult circumstances and how to show compassion to others. Teachers were challenged to be better by her example and parents were reminded how precious each moment with their child really is. Today, it is those life lessons and memories that we carry in our hearts as we remember Tricia Creasey and seek to do just what she would do- fight back!
Teacher and Friend