Sheila Harvel honored by Hartselle Head Start teachers.|Lauren Thornton Tobin

Hartselle Head Start honors breast cancer survivor

By Lauren Thornton Tobin|Hartselle Enquirer

With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Hartselle Head Start teachers decided to honor one of their own in a special way.

The front of the school sported pink balloons, decorations and a banner for teacher Sheila Harvel, a breast cancer survivor for 23 years.

Harvel had no idea at the surprise she was in for as her family sat in the office and her husband’s pink cruiser from the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department was parked on the side of the building.

The only thing Harvel knew for sure is that the students and staff wore pink to honor everyone involved in the fight against breast cancer.

Harvel’s husband, Lynn Harvel said for the last year and a half, he has driven the pink cruiser to represent the fight Sheila put up after she was diagnosed in 1993.

“We never feel in the clear,” he said, explaining that Sheila has been in remission since 1994, but the fear that the cancer may return is never-ending. “It’s still in our minds that it could come back. There’s no guarantee that it’s gone.”

While that fear may always have a small residence in her mind, Sheila was all smiles on Oct. 21 as she walked out to see everyone waiting to celebrate her life.

“I’m very surprised; this is the first time I’ve ever been honored,” she said, both laughing and crying. “I thought they were just have a dress up day. They pulled a good one.”

Teachers also honored Head Start foster grandmother, Janice Goodwin for taking care of her brother who has lung cancer and because her sister died of breast cancer.

Goodwin volunteers at the center and helps some of the children one-on-one.

“I thought we were just doing this for Sheila,” she said. “I didn’t know I would be honored too.”

Goodwin said October is much more to them than simply wearing pink; it’s about finding a cure, especially after losing her younger sister to breast cancer.

“I think about it all the time,” she said. “It’s not just during October, it’s a fight every day.”

Before the big reveal, Children Services Classroom Specialist Kellie Holcomb said the surprise started out with everyone dressing in pink, and then it took on a life of its own.

“We said we wanted to honor Sheila and it turned into a passion project, and everyone started sneaking around and buying flowers,” she said. “We just all know someone who has been impacted by it.”

Head Start staff member Jessica Parker agreed with Holcomb, but said she sees it on a more individual basis too.

“I look at it like it can be any of us at any time,” she said.

Sheila, while draped in her pink sash that read “Cancer free for 23 years” and holding her pink roses, expressed her gratitude for each new day.

“I thank the Lord I’m a survivor. I had surgery on Dec. 27, 1993 and I’m truly blessed by God,” she said. “I am 60 years old and He spared me for a reason; for all these kids.”

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