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She’s beating the odds

Life and work go on for Stage IV survivor

Niles Middle School administrative assistant Linda Huber is beating the odds after being diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer and surviving COVID-19. (Submitted photo)

Editor’s note: Local breast cancer survivors are sharing their stories on the Health pages throughout October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

NILES — Linda Huber is beating the odds after being diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer almost five years ago.

“I like to put it out there that you can get diagnosed and yes, it is still scary, but you can go on with your life,” Huber said.

The 68-year-old is still working at Niles Middle School as an administrative assistant after 33 years with the district, performing an array of jobs. While it can sometimes be a hectic work, she said the support of the students, parents and staff helps her and takes away the stress of worrying about cancer.

Huber is NED, meaning there is no evidence of cancer in her body, she said. Still, she will never be considered cancer-free.

“We all know it’s there, sleeping somewhere. It might come back in five years. It might come back in 20 years,” Huber said. “But you know it’s somewhere in there because it has metastasized.”

Huber doesn’t consider her disease terminal.

“When they tell you you have Stage IV, they also use the ‘T’ word,” Huber said. “I consider it to be chronic. … Will I turn terminal? Yeah, probably — but everybody turns terminal at some point in their life. Let’s face it, nobody is getting out of this life alive.”

After Huber was diagnosed, she went through 12 weeks of chemotheraphy, she said. She kept working, only missing the Thursdays when she had her treatment.

“I went to work on Fridays, and Saturday afternoon I became this other person,” Huber said. “Saturdays and Sundays were very hard on me. I would actually sit and cry sometimes. I’d say, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’ even though I knew Monday morning I was going to work and I’d be fine.”

After a few weeks, Huber made a decision not to let cancer own her.

“After that, it kind of like all fell into place,” Huber said.

Years later, she tells others who have been diagnosed that their life isn’t over.

“You still have life in you,” Huber said.

She admitted that not everyone is as lucky as her. Her cancer is metastatic to her bones. For someone whose cancer has attacked major organs, the outcome very well may be different. Huber has lost friends to cancer, she said.

Still, attitude is important, and Huber has a good one.

She admits to some down days when worry takes over.

“The other day, I went in and I really was not feeling up to par,” she said. “My best medicine is the first kid that walked up to the desk and gave me a great big smile. You can see they’re so glad to see you.”

She undergoes scans once a year to see if the cancer has come back.

“I’m not going to say I don’t worry when I have the scans, because it does worry me,” Huber said.

These days, scan results come to her quickly, so she’s not left to worry for long.

Last December, Huber survived COVID-19. At the time, she worried she wouldn’t make it to Christmas.

“I was here,” Huber said. “I didn’t go anywhere.”

Her husband, Rick, also works at the middle school. Huber said they are both dedicated to the kids there and like to make sure nobody goes without.

In her free time, Huber likes to take trips up to Geneva-on-the-lake, her “home away from home.”

She takes the good with the bad.

“You just keep moving forward and you don’t let it hold you back. The minute you do, you’re saying, ‘I’m quitting,’ and you don’t know what’s going to happen because you might wake up the cancer,” Huber said.

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