Teacher fighting cancer finds many in her corner

Published on Monday, 11 June 2018 21:47
Written by LISA BACKUS


NEW BRITAIN - As hundreds of Diloreto Magnet School students “flossed” to blaring music Monday morning, second-grade teacher Deirdre Falla soaked in the happy atmosphere and felt gratitude for the support her school is giving her during her battle with cancer.

“I feel honored and humbled by their emotions and their outreach,” Falla said of the students and staff throughout the system. “Many of these kids I’ve known since they were little.”

Falla, who has been at the school for 21 years, was recently diagnosed with anal cancer stemming from human papillomavirus. She wants to spread awareness that vaccinations for HPV can prevent her type of cancer, along with the ovarian and cervical cancers also caused by the virus.

“They now have a vaccine for teens,” she said. “It’s highly recommended that they get vaccinated.”

Falla’s cancer was discovered during a colonoscopy. The tumors are inoperable, but she is hoping that the cancer will respond to chemotherapy and radiation. Although she is not working, she plans on returning in the fall.

Staff and students have embraced her recovery by staging fundraisers such as the Falla’s Hope Walk, held Monday morning on school grounds on Slater Road.

They’ve sold Falla’s Hope pins and T-shirts and collected money for the walk, said Christina Valentine, also a second-grade teacher at the school. “We’re doing this to support her and her family,” Valentine said. “She’s a very integral part of the school.”

Hundreds of students walked two laps around the school, then moved on to the dancing portion of the event as Falla and her family circled the crowd, talking with children and teachers.

“It’s nice, it’s overwhelming,” said Falla’s husband, Greg, a teacher at E.C. Goodwin Technical High School across the street. “There’s a lot of compassion in the schools and a lot of good support. People have been really great.”

The couple’s sons, Aiden, 16, and Ethan, 26, attended the event as did some of Falla’s former second-grade students who are now in high school in the city.

Many of the students and staff wore green Falla’s Hope T-shirts to the walk. The group converged on an open space in the front of the school to dance after they finished their two laps.

“It’s exciting,” said Leah Zyla, a third-grader who was “flossing,” a dance move from a video game that has children throughout the country swinging their arms and their hips to the beat.

“It’s good,” said her twin brother, Jaxson.

Teachers throughout the district are wearing green Falla’s Hope T-shirts and jeans to show their support, said Peg Murray, a third-grade teacher at Diloreto. “It’s good to feel hope,” she said. “It’s al about hope.”

Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.

Posted in New Britain Herald, New Britain on Monday, 11 June 2018 21:47. Updated: Monday, 11 June 2018 21:49.