Community supporting Apollo teacher with terminal cancer diagnosis through silent auction

December 11, 2023 | 12:10 am

Updated December 10, 2023 | 9:54 pm

When teacher Catherine Feldman received the news of her Stage 4 cancer diagnosis, she knew she needed to tell her high school students at Apollo.

“I had to tell them where I had been,” she said, noting she had missed a few weeks after suffering from breathing issues and pain that eventually put her in the Emergency Department.

Feldman said she specifically wanted to tell former student Carly Weatherholt, who continues to rely on the teacher as a mentor and confidant.

“All I knew is that I wanted to share it with her and not have her hear it as it got out,” Feldman said.

The two became close when Weatherholt was a sophomore in Feldman’s class. It was the year that students came back for in-person classes following the pandemic, when many guidelines were mandated.

Weatherholt came to wipe down the desks and talk with Feldman one day.

“We just clicked from the beginning,” Weatherholt said. “She had taught my aunt in McLean County.”

Later, Weatherholt took Suspense Literature with Feldman, and on days she was not driving in Driver’s Education she worked as an aide for Feldman.

“She would do her classwork at home and help me in class,” Feldman said.

The two exchange birthday and Christmas gifts as well, so when Feldman broke the news of her terminal diagnosis, Weatherholt jumped into action.

Weatherholt’s mom owns Dunn Secretly, a freeze-dried candy business, and the two decided to create a basket to raffle — with the proceeds going to Weatherholt. When others heard, they reached out asking what they could do. Soon the idea of a Facebook silent auction developed.

Now, on the Fight for Feldman Silent Auction page on Facebook, many items are listed – from tattoo services to gift cards. 

Feldman is going through chemotherapy currently, but it is a terminal diagnosis of Stage 4 colon cancer. She said the national average for life expectancy after diagnosis is a few years, but she plans to continue teaching as long as she can.

“It gives me purpose and I really enjoy it,” she said. 

Feldman’s admittance to the hospital came after her insurance company denied testing. Once the scans were done and she received her diagnosis, she was frustrated.

“There are months that I could have been doing treatment and figuring it out,” she said. “Insurance is faceless and I can show my frustration.”

Weatherholt said she also wonders about the “maybes” and “ifs.”

“I hold a grudge,” she said. 

Feldman has been teaching full days when she can and half days when she doesn’t feel great. 

“We tell her to be healthy and comfortable at home and say we can email and FaceTime instead of her coming to see us,” Weatherholt said of the students.

Weatherholt and Feldman agree that the growing interest in the silent auction page showcases how much the community supports Feldman’s fight.

“It’s humbling and inspiring because that’s my community,” Feldman said.

Weatherholt is quick to pass off credit for the auction and said that it is a win for one and a win for all.

“It’s not a me thing, it’s an everyone thing,” she said. “I’m putting the pieces together, but they bring the pieces.”

Both feel inspired by the involvement of Weatherholt’s generation in reaching out and becoming involved in the fundraising. 

“This generation will be heard; we will take action,” she said. 

The auction closes December 16 and winners will be announced on December 17. The auction can be found on Facebook here

December 11, 2023 | 12:10 am

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