Education

North Texas Teacher Returns to the Classroom After Surviving Cancer

Robert Gillums, a retired United States Air Force veteran and a veteran educator, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a disease with a 10% survival rate.

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A longtime educator returns to Cedar Hill ISD after surviving stage 2 Pancreatic cancer, and it’s not only something good, it’s something to celebrate.

“Throughout this entire process, God has shown his grace and his mercy,” said Robert Gillums.

Two years ago, Gillums knew something wasn’t right. He started to feel sudden stress, and anxiety, and eventually started to lose his appetite and lose weight.

“I listened to my body, and something didn’t feel right,” Gillums said.

It was at that point, that his wife, a registered nurse, said it was time to go to the emergency room. A computed tomography scan (CT) was done, and a mass was found on Gillums' pancreas.

The retired United States Air Force veteran was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a disease with a 10% survival rate. After 14 years as an educator, Gillums decided to take a step back.

“I resigned from teaching and was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer three weeks later. I had my gallbladder, spleen and pancreas removed,” said Gillums.

Thankfully, the cancer was isolated to his pancreas and did not spread. Gillums underwent successful chemotherapy and radiation treatment in 2020.

“The doctors found it early,” said Gillums. “Most people don’t find out until it’s in the later stages, and by then, it’s often too late. Now that I’m healthy, the opportunity to go back into the classroom, which is just my calling, I jumped at the opportunity.”

Gillums says he’s thankful to be alive today to tell this story, and continue living out his passion in, and outside of the classroom.

“There’s nothing that trumps being an educator. It’s a very tough profession. But, what you get back in terms of what you put in and pour into other students, I can’t imagine going and doing anything else right now,” said Gillums. “So just for me, to be able to have the opportunity, I feel blessed just to be able to go back into the classroom.”

Gillums will teach Mathematics at Permenter Middle School in Cedar Hill ISD.

He and his family are now a part of PanCAN, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. A support system for survivors and their families. As of last November, Gillums is cancer-free.

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