FINDLAY, OH (Toledo News Now) - A young cancer survivor is celebrating at this year's Race for the Cure - and all of Findlay is celebrating with her. This year's Findlay race is named in celebration of her.
Lindsay Vanderveen has been teaching for 10 years, and she always gets excited to welcome a new class of students to Kindergarten.
"That impact that you could really make a difference is the reason I wanted to become a teacher, and it's amazing how you can touch the lives of so many children in such a small time," she said.
Lindsay says she's been just as amazed at the impact the children – and her fellow teachers – have had on her life.
"I could not have gotten through this without the support system, because they made me feel stronger, that I could do this, and they helped me stay positive through it all," she said.
It was shortly after Lindsay and her husband Shane had their second child, son Blaise, that she felt a pain and a lump in her breast. Doctors thought it might be related to breastfeeding, but after a few tests, it became clear there was a serious problem.
"When they first told me, I was sitting at home and I remember getting the call and just dropping to my knees," Lindsay said.
Doctors discovered the cancer had reached Lindsay's lymph nodes and she went through a grueling round of chemotherapy. She even opted to participate in research trials because she was so young – just 28 years old.
Through it all, she amazed her family and friends with her positive attitude. She lost her hair almost immediately, so they made it a family affair. Shane shaved his head, too, and their 3-year-old daughter Ellie cut several inches off hers to donate to Locks of Love.
When she returned to school, Lindsay was wearing a wig that looked so much like her real hair that no one knew – except her students.
"I said one day, 'Mrs. V has a secret,'" Lindsay recalled. "And they said, 'What is it?' and I said, 'This isn't my hair. This is a wig." They said, 'Let me see,' so I took of my wig and the kids in my class were the only ones who knew, and they were OK with it. They accepted it; they accepted me for who I was."
The students continued to show their teacher support.
"They wanted to do fundraisers. They sold shirts," she said. "It was wonderful. Every Friday, the kids wore shirts for me and made me feel special."
Lindsay says she also felt support from Northwest Ohio Komen. She and her family participated in the Race for the Cure, calling themselves Lindsay's Boober Troopers. She is beyond excited that this year's Findlay race is named in celebration of her.
It's an experience like no other," she said. "It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, but it's just – you have this feeling of support and togetherness and it's just the most amazing experience. It really is!
"I do really think we will find a cure. With so much support out there, they've come so far in such a little time. That's one reason I tried to participate in all the studies. I know my daughter has a higher risk of getting cancer because of me and I hope there is a day she won't have to go through the same thing."