EvCC Instructor Battles Cancer

Lori works from her desk.

Lori works from her desk.

Inessa Grishchenko

Inessa Grishchenko

Lori works from her desk.

Inessa Grishchenko, Staff Writer

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When she first heard the news, her stomach turned, the world froze, time stopped, and she felt paralyzed from shock. She thought, “why me?”

Lori Wisdom-Whitley, a faculty member who has contributed to EvCC for over 18 years, is battling Triple-Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC).

Wisdom-Whitely was diagnosed with TNBC after a routine mammogram in August 2017. She was diagnosed with the type of cancer that is more aggressive and more difficult to treat than other forms of breast cancer. This kind of cancer is more likely to recur and spread.

Before Wisdom-Whitley was able to begin her chemotherapy, her cancer progressed to stage II. She plans to have surgery following her chemotherapy and will close up her treatment with radiation.

“I was shocked at first, you think, not me. I am healthy and active,” Wisdom-Whitley said. “But then you go on to learn that about 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime. That is a significant number – one every woman should be aware of.”

Although Wisdom-Whitley is going through this heart-wrenching journey, she’s still present at EvCC. “I love to teach,” she explained. “Having meaningful work helps you focus on someone besides yourself.  Being here is a great distraction from my worries.”

Wisdom-Whitley designed and created EvCC’s Intercultural Communications class. She fought to make it happen. “She made sure we offered it at a time that our field was shifting and the focus was on public speaking and interpersonal communications,” says Joann Sickles, a faculty in communication studies.

Another significant role Wisdom-Whitley was involved in was in the early planning of bringing the Integrated Strategic Communication (ISC) program to EvCC. Lori worked closely with the people who created the ISC program so that students could have a four-year degree in communications at Everett.

“Lori is good at finding ways of making people feel seen and cared about,” Sickles explained. “She’s the person who would bring people flowers just because it’s your birthday or because it’s been a hard week or you had a big report to do.”

Despite Wisdom-Whitley’s commitment to EvCC, she highly prioritizes her family. “If I could emulate anything in Lori it’s her ability to make people feel cared about,” said Sickles, “Her family is very important and she loves her kids. She’s always been a great instructor, and she’s always been committed to Everett Community College, but boy, she made sure her family was high on that priority list all the time.”

Although Wisdom-Whitley is going through a difficult time, she is thankful to have some caring and thoughtful people that bless her life. “I am not alone; I do not have to do this alone. You must look for the positive lessons. They are there every day,” said Wisdom-Whitley. “Cancer sucks, but if you can find a way to laugh, or at least smile, through the hard stuff, you will be okay.”

John Olson, the Vice President of College Advancement and Executive Director of the EvCC Foundation has known Lori since 1999.

Olson watched Wisdom-Whitley teach interpersonal communication class many years ago. He saw first-hand how she blended theory, her personal experience, and the students’ comments into the class discussion.

“My favorite thing about Lori would be her willingness to continue to develop the curriculum, both on a personal and department level,” said Olson. “She’s developed new courses, led the department, coordinated part-time and full-time hiring, and now works with honors students to make their experience as positive as possible.”

Wisdom-Whitley urges every woman to have a mammogram. “Women should not die from breast cancer because they were too busy for routine screening,” she said. “I would be in terrible shape today if I had skipped my routine mammogram.”

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EvCC Instructor Battles Cancer