Aide's ordeal unites school staff, students for action

  • Published
  • By Robert Goetz
  • Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs
Every three weeks at Randolph Elementary School, staff members and students wear special T-shirts in a display of solidarity for one of their own.

They're all proud members of "Team Boshart," an international collective dedicated to supporting Jodi Boshart, an art aide at the school who is enduring regular chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer.

"Whenever Jodi has a treatment, we wear the T-shirts," Linda Heier, Randolph art teacher, said. "The outpouring of love and support for her has been breathtaking."

Boshart holds a special place in the hearts of the students at Randolph, Heier said. Because every student at the school attends art class, she has a relationship with each one.

"They all love her very much," she said.

Boshart, who was diagnosed with stage-3 breast cancer two years ago, relishes her opportunities to see the children this school year. Because her treatments were intensified this past summer, leaving her immune system more compromised, her doctor advised her to stay out of the classroom.

"But I try to come in now that they have backed off on heavy doses," she said. "I like to see my friends and all the kids. Being here is the best medicine."

Boshart has battled cancer before, overcoming ovarian cancer nearly 20 years ago. Her latest fight began in January 2012, when an X-ray at the Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Medical Clinic detected an abnormality on her right breast and a CT scan at the San Antonio Military Medical Center led to a diagnosis of cancer.

"I was here at school," she said, recalling the day she heard the diagnosis. "I had forgotten to turn off my cellphone, so when the phone rang and I saw the number, I knew it was the clinic here at Randolph. Treatments started three weeks later."

Because the cancer was so close to her heart, surgery was not an option, Boshart said.
"They had to rely on chemo as the only treatment," she said.

Boshart continued to work as she followed her regimen - treatments every three weeks and scans every few months - but a CT scan during the summer showed the cancer had spread, so the therapy became more intense.

"I had been able to work, but the side effects from the new chemo were worse, so I had to stay at home," she said. "That was heartbreaking. When you see every student, you build relationships with them. It's hard not to be here."

Another scan, this one in the fall, revealed some improvement. To lessen the impact on her immune system, her dosage was modified.

"I do feel better, but there are some side effects inherent to this type of chemo," Boshart said, referring to a chronic cough and neuropathy.

Boshart said she is overwhelmed by the support shown by Randolph staff, students and parents, as well as by others who have responded to her plight.

A scrapbook made by one of her two daughters is filled with photos of relatives, friends and others wearing Team Boshart T-shirts at far-flung locales. One of the photos shows an Air Force captain who shaved his head in support of Boshart when she experienced hair loss as a result of chemotherapy. Team Boshart also has a Facebook presence.

Heier said the T-shirts are being sold to help Boshart "on her journey" and to benefit the American Cancer Society. Boshart is also the source of inspiration for a project at Randolph Elementary called "HeARTs of Hope to Beat Cancer" that is raising funds for the ACS through Feb. 14. Art students and staff members, with materials provided by the fifth-grade Art/Service Club, are creating ceramic heart sculptures that are also being sold.

"It has been poignant and sad to see how many of our families and friends have been affected by this terrible disease," Heier said. "The kids are ready, willing and very dedicated to give of their time and talents to help beat cancer. Our students and adults alike are learning a great lesson about the power of one, but even greater power in teamwork."

Boshart said it's important that funds benefit the American Cancer Society.

"From the beginning, it's not just about me," she said. "Cancer affects everyone."

She's buoyed by the support given to her by her husband, Rick, a retired Air Force master sergeant who now works as a civilian at JBSA-Randolph; her three children and four grandchildren; a host of other relatives; and her family at Randolph Elementary.

"There's always hope," Boshart said. "Attitude counts for 99 percent of what you go through in life."