For many, there’s nothing more isolating than getting sick, nor more terrifying than hearing a diagnosis such as cancer. But for those diagnosed, what helps is the solidarity they experience with friends and colleagues encouraging them through it. For Cologne Academy’s Helen Suhr, her students and colleagues came together to show her just how much they care on October 11.

“I was so surprised to see what Cologne Academy did for me,” said Suhr. “I am overwhelmed by the love and support I have received from my colleagues, administration and students.”

Suhr has been the middle school music teacher for Cologne Academy for seven years. She’s worked on the Fall Play and Winter Musical with Missy Isles for years. As such, she’s had quite a bit of interaction with students, new and old, as well as several teachers who help out with the plays.

She was diagnosed on September 25 with breast cancer, and recently started chemotherapy treatments. While she did tell her students and colleagues about her circumstances, the surprise came on her first day of treatment on the eleventh.

Suhr came to school and saw pink. A lot of pink. Students were wearing shirts with her name as well as customized rubber bracelets praising her strength through this rough period. Students and staff lined the hallways, giving her their support as she walked to class. That solidarity from her friends and young students is now what’s giving Suhr strength moving forward.

“I was determined not to cry that Friday,” she said. “I wanted my students to see me being brave and strong. Instead, they shocked me and became my strength.”

Every Friday going forward, students will be wearing the pink shirts in honor of Suhr, as her treatments will always be on Friday afternoons. The reason for this is simple for Suhr: it will allow her to rest on the weekends so she can keep working at Cologne Academy.

“I am hoping to work through the entire thing,” she said. “I really believe I can do this with the support I am getting.”

While she’s determined to work through this, her students plan to continue their support. The bracelets and tshirts will likely be a staple every Friday over the next couple months for the students, and Suhr wouldn’t have it any other way.

Cologne Academy is an amazing school. We really are a family and I feel very loved,” she said.

For now, her treatments have just started, but the surprise support from her students has become a driving force for Suhr. She hopes that through them she’ll find even more strength.

“I would really like to publicly thank Dr. Lynn Peterson, Erin Slavik and Tamra Kielty,” she said. “They have been the driving force behind the pink shirts, wrist bands and overwhelming love.”

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