Community rallies behind Jupiter teacher who is battling cancer

GoFundMe page raises nearly $30,000 for Mrs. Brody
Posted at 6:22 PM, Dec 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-20 06:02:51-05

How many of you can say a teacher helped shape your life? If that teacher needed help in return, would you jump at the chance to get involved?

That's what's happening in Jupiter right now.

Peggy Brody has been a teacher for 30 years; 20 of those years has been spent teaching advanced science at Beacon Cove Intermediate School.

She's been struck by a sudden and very serious disease, but she isn't going through her ordeal alone.

"This is my sanctuary. This is my place of peace," Brody says of her classroom.

Brody's life revolves around teaching science to children.

"A couple of my students were like, 'Now I'm going be an astronaut!' And that is my reward," Brody said Monday.

The countless parents of students who took her class say they are grateful that she instilled a passion of science into their kids.

"She's a fantastic science teacher," said Jennifer McCabe, whose three children have each taken Mrs. Brody's class. "She got them interested in something they wouldn't have been otherwise."

Leslie Bolte, Beacon Cove Intermediate principal, says Brody is a selfless teacher who is one in a million.

"When any of us go into education, we know we're not going to gain that monetary wealth but our riches come in the lives that we enrich," she said.

But in the past three months, her life has been turned upside down. In October, she turned went to her doctor for her first colonoscopy screening after turning 50.

"I thought it was just a routine colonoscopy. And unfortunately they found a mass," Brody said.

Despite the diagnosis, she's still teaching every day.

"I was very clear to my oncologist that I wanted to work," she said.

She goes to radiation treatment right after class and has even been wearing a bag that administers her chemo treatment while she's on the go.

"My whole being is a teacher, it's just what defines me," she said. "And I didn't want to leave the students hanging. I just wanted to be here."

Peggy first broke the news to student Michael Beckett. He's one of the few who understands what she's going through because he's in remission after a year-long fight with leukemia.

Beckett said he brings her gifts that helped him to get through his chemo.

"I've been giving her things to smell that make the nausea go away," he said. "All you do is have hope. Try your hardest."

On Saturday, the reality of what it costs to fight a killer like cancer hit hard. After adding up the radiation treatment bills, Brody said her family was down to the last wire in their bank account.

"My husband has a degenerative disease. He doesn't work. I'm the breadwinner," said Brody, who also has a daughter going to university in Washington D.C.

Brody posted a call for help on social media, something she says she normally is too shy to do.

"I honestly thought maybe a thousand dollars," she said.  "I never expected this at all."

What she didn't expect was the outpouring of love from the community. After people started sharing her GoFundMe page on social media, the people she gave her life to -- gave back. Within just two days, people have donated over $26,000 and counting, as of Monday night.

"But it's not just that. It's those messages," said Brody. "These messages -- they're everything to me."

Hundreds of notes from parents, former students and colleagues are pouring in to the GoFundMe page. Brody read some of those messages aloud, with one reading, "Keep fighting... And know that we all love you."

"It shows you how many lives Peggy Brody has touched," said Principal Bolte.

Brody says the response has been overwhelming.

"It keeps me positive that I'm going to beat this thing," she said. "I don't how else to say thank you. But thank you is not enough, it really isn't. And I promise I'm going to pay it forward."

But parents say doesn't need to. It's the community that is paying it forward to her.

"Now it's our turn to take part in giving something back to her," said McCabe.

Peggy has a long road ahead. She developed colitis from the radiation poisoning, which she has been receiving treatment for. She goes into surgery in January to remove her rectum and perform intensive colon reconstructive work. After that, she must undergo several months of heavier chemotherapy treatment.

"I will be recovering at home, but I won't be at the school. that's the hard part," she said.

However, the school is working with her on a lighter schedule so she can be with the students.