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November 19, 2013 | 02:47 PMLake Geneva Middle School principal, Anne Heck, is a tall woman.
Last Wednesday, she was dressed in gray with a black scarf to cover her bald head.
Everyone else in the school wore blue — in honor of “We Support Mrs. Heck Day.”
She didn’t get the memo. Her secretary, Brandi Powell, planned it that way.
In fact, Anne didn’t know there’d be a day in her honor.
Anne has cancer.
It was diagnosed in June. She started chemotherapy at the beginning of August.
Everyone at school knows it because that’s the way she wanted it. No hiding. No “fake wigs,” as she called them.
All role model.
And everyone at school knew about “We Support Mrs. Heck Day.”
Except Mrs. Heck.
It’s amazing when you think about it.
A school of 724 students, plus teachers, counselors and assorted staff members.
And they kept it a secret; 724 students keeping a secret would be a headline in itself.
Anne had to leave early the day before. The students and staff were happy, not because they don’t like her but because they do. It gave them more time to prepare.
I toured the building with Anne and school counselors, Rob Ocker and Sheri Thoreson.
They showed me the banner that all the kids had signed.
“You’ll be in our prayers,” one student wrote.
“Stay strong,” said another.
“We love you,” all of them said in one way or another.
Anne showed me a bracelet one of the kids made for her. We posed in front of a poster with the student who drew it in her principal’s honor.
Earlier in the day, the jazz choir had sung “Blue Skies.”
Smiling at me
Nothing but blue skies
Do I see
“She’s been very open and honest with the staff and students,” Sheri said.
“She’s showing courage,” added Ocker, “and it’s great to see the kids step up.”
“It’s all been overwhelming,” Anne said of her day. “Overwhelming in a good way.”
A quiet moment
After the banner, after the photo op, after “Blue Skies,” there was a quiet moment in her office.
Anne wanted to show me the cards she’d received from students. They filled a table.
“I’m sorry I’m not a trouble-maker, so we can’t spend time together,” one of them said.
We both laughed.
Anne hadn’t been able to get through them all yet.
“I started to cry,” she said.
How could she not?
“I’ll read them later,” she said.
In that quiet office, the message and the reason seemed almost close enough to touch.
Anne stood there in the office for a moment, standing next to all those cards. All that love stacked on a table.
“I could make it the worst thing that ever happened or deal with it,” she said.
“I chose to deal with it.”