CRMS teacher fighting cancer, grateful for community support

By LIZ BARNARD, Four Points News

Canyon Ridge Middle School math APS teacher, Jill VanVoorhis, is 26 and fighting Stage 2 cervical cancer.

VanVoorhis completed her first treatment and from the side effects alone, she made the decision to take a leave from work.

“It was a choice I didn’t want to make, but felt like it was best for me,” she said. VanVoorhis will be taking leave unpaid. Medical expenses will not be entirely covered by insurance and, of course, VanVoorhis and her husband will suffer an impact from lost wages.

This is the second year VanVoorhis has been teaching at CRMS.

“I moved here for the job. I didn’t know anyone or have any family here.” She grew up in a small town south of Dallas. New to Austin, VanVoorhis turned to Google to locate a new church. On that first Sunday, she was running late. She saw a different church than her original destination, Cedar Park Church of Christ, and realized as people were filing in, that she should just go there and be on time.

That day she met a great friend, Rachel. “I invited her to sit with my parents and I and tried to get to know her a little bit before worship services started. It was very exciting to have another girl at church my age with similar backgrounds and interests,” Rachel said.

From there, Rachel introduced VanVoorhis to other young adults in the church, including her brother Lance. As it turns out, VanVoorhis married Lance only seven weeks after their introduction.

Lance and Jill VanVoorhis

Lance and Jill VanVoorhis

“I think we have the best love story ever,” said VanVoorhis.

When people point out how quickly they were married, the current thought is that it was definitely meant to be, especially so Lance can help her through this current challenge.

VanVoorhis was suspicious that something was wrong due to some physical signs and symptoms. In October 2013, after many appointments and some abnormal test results, she was diagnosed with Stage 2 cervical cancer. In Stage 2, the cancer has spread beyond the cervix but not to the pelvic wall (the tissues that line the part of the body between the hips). VanVoorhis’ lymph nodes were clear at the time of diagnosis. She underwent surgery to remove the tumor in November 2013.

With this difficult diagnosis and ensuing treatment, VanVoorhis and her husband have had to come to terms with being unable to have children biologically. “It’s the worst part. It’s worse than even having cancer,” she said. But with a positive tone she quickly added, “It’s funny, because Lance and I have always been very open to adoption, even before my diagnosis.”

Her husband, Lance, is a plumber and gets one day off per week, hopefully making that Wednesdays, since VanVoorhis’ treatments fall on that day. She will be having five hours of chemotherapy, followed by radiation each week for five weeks.

Her colleague and friend, Kelly Wadsworth, CRMS 6th Grade Social Studies teacher, has started a page, where people in the community can make donations.  “She has gone above and beyond,” VanVoorhis said of Wadsworth.

“The day I heard about Jill’s story, I began searching for ways that we can help her. I didn’t want her to have to worry about the money part,” Wadsworth said. “I just want to live my life giving back to the community and helping others in any way that I can and teaching my sons to do so as well. I have had some unexpected experiences in my life where I felt alone and didn’t want to burden others with my issues. Jill is a lot like me – doesn’t want to bring others down with her story and definitely not going to ask anyone for money to cover medical bills.”

VanVoorhis’ does not fail to mention her support system. Her mother comes down often from Dallas, her in-laws live in Austin, and along with her church, the school and general Four Points community, she feels well supported.

“Faith has a lot to do with it. People at church have helped, people have taken me to my appointments and brought us meals.” She has gotten so much support from the community, she said, “It’s a very humbling experience. Some of these people helping me, are helping someone they just don’t know.” When asked about her willingness to share her story with FPN, she said gratefully, “I decided to do the story mainly, if anything, to say thank you.”

Jill VanVoorhis

Jill VanVoorhis

Jill VanVoorhis’ page is: