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Elated Lauer embraces life after surgeries
'A ticket to the second half of my life'
This year, familiar Christmas carols relate to Sharon Lauer as they never had before. After a traumatic late summer, fall and early winter, yuletide tunes such as “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “Home for the Holidays” strike an entirely different tone.
Her life was turned upside down, her full-time job of athletic director and assistant principal at Discovery Canyon taking a backseat to one of survivor. First, she underwent a lumpectomy in August after a routine mammogram revealed early stage breast cancer. Then, before undergoing radiation treatments, a body scan revealed a large mass on her pancreas, which required a second operation Nov. 6, this one taking two-thirds of her pancreas, along with her gall bladder and spleen.
With a clean bill of health, a sore, but enthusiastic Lauer, 56, looks forward to her return to normalcy Jan. 2 when she resumes activity at Discovery Canyon.
“I am actually home for the holidays, and the songs do mean more now,” Lauer said. “I have this elation that’s been with me since I came home from the hospital. They gave me a ticket to the second half of my life. There hasn’t been a day since that I don’t feel like that. I feel more energy than I’ve ever had.”
While large portions of her recovery time were spent in solitude, she could still feel the encouragement from an entire school along her roller-coaster journey. Lauer holds the contents of her “Bad Day Box,” a collection of notes, cards and letters, close to her heart.
“Those notes took my spirits up,” Lauer said. “This is what community is. They’re actually taking care of me. The jokes kept me smiling. Everything they did, that was something else. I read every word and I won’t forget them, ever.”
Lauer missed firsthand the excitement of yet another ground-breaking semester at Discovery Canyon. First, the Thunder softball team returned to the 4A state tournament and advanced for the first time. Its football team went 9-2, won its first league title and made its first playoff appearance. The beginning of the winter seasons saw its wrestlers win individual titles in two states, and the boys’ basketball team went 8-0 heading into the holiday break.
Fellow assistant principal Terry Bramschreiber took the title of interim athletic director, although Lauer’s meticulous pre-surgery work made his job a bit easier despite being forced to depart at the brink of the fall sports season.
“She front-loaded so much work and made it as smooth as possible for everyone,” Bramschreiber said. “After she did all that, a chimpanzee could have done what I did. She made it extremely easy for me.”
Lauer’s recovery extends far beyond her place of work. Diane Shuck and Michael Sibley, athletic directors and assistant principals at Air Academy and Liberty, respectively, spoke volumes about their friendships that started as students in Lauer’s physical education class at Air Academy in the 1980s.
Lauer also coached the boys' swimming team during a 25-year tenure at Air Academy. She has been athletic director and assistant principal since DCC opened in 2008.
“She hired me as a teacher, and we’ve been friends ever since, best friends,” said Shuck, who later became Lauer's boss when she earned a promotion to athletic director. “If anyone could make it through this, I knew Sharon could. I’ve been with her the whole way. It’s been a crazy journey.”
The journey continues, thanks to divine intervention and the excitement of what the future brings. This summer, Lauer plans on biking 14 miles in a Race for the Cure triathlon in Denver – Shuck and her sister-in-law will run and swim, respectively – and there’s nothing that’ll keep the three from competing together.
“If there’s anything I can bring back to school, it’s that it doesn’t matter what’s in front of you,” said Lauer, who has gradually increased her daily exercise regimen from a walk to the end of her driveway to 2 miles on her treadmill. “If it’s in your heart to move forward, you can do it.”