It's not often that you'll see Annette Pfohl without a smile. In fact, she's typically wearing one every single day when she walks into Christa McAuliffe Elementary School in Woodbridge.
Pfohl is the teacher everyone knows and looks up to. She's also the one who, for the past decade, has been living with cancer. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, and five years later, thought she had it beaten.
But it came back, which meant more rounds of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Pfohl just finished proton therapy, a new kind of treatment prescribed after the cancer came back for the fourth time.
Despite the battle, not once has she taken a leave of absence.
"What really drives me are the kids here," Pfohl said. "You can have a bad day with cancer, but you don't have a bad day at school."
She's using the cancer as a teachable moment for her 5th graders, including Alia Wiggins, who says that watching her teacher battle the disease is inspiring.
It especially hit home for Alia when her own grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"You're my strong one," she said. "Your grandmother is going to make it."
Meanwhile, Pfohl's battle has inspired her sons into action. Her youngest son, Kyle, took last summer to organize the first Battling Cancer 5K. The race, held in Fredericksburg last summer, raised $15,000 for the Mary Washington Hospital Regional Cancer Center.
This year's race is coming up on June 16. Kyle says he hopes to double the amount of money they bring in.
The race will start and finish at the Carl D. Silver Health Center/Moss Free Clinic's parking lot near the Mary Washington Healthcare Regional Cancer Center. Proceeds from the event benefit theMWHC Regional Cancer Center.
As for Pfohl's health, she's currently waiting to find out of her latest round of treatments were successful.
"I always think positive," she says. "The next day is going to be a better day."
For the 5K registration, click here.