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Saugus teacher overcomes cancer, returns to teach drama

Survivor takes lessons learned to class

Posted: April 8, 2009 12:06 a.m.
Updated: April 8, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Saugus High School teacher Leslie Carson was diagnosed with cancer and left her students for treatment. She returned to teach in January, directing a series of small plays.

Arriving at Saugus High School at five in the morning, Theater Arts teacher Leslie Carson spends much of her day preparing her drama students for their stretch of night and day performances.

A drama teacher, director and comedy improvisation adviser at Saugus High School, Carson spends the majority of her time standing up.

Moving around the small multipurpose room stage, she manages to keep the kids awake with her clean movements and witty gestures. At least for now, the fact that just a year ago she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer feels like "ancient history."

"I wake up and I am so happy to be alive," Carson said. "I see things from a different view in that I am here, still here - and I can't help but absolutely love it."

Because there no test for women over 50, the diagnosis for ovarian cancer is always a shock. Moreover, statistics show that one-quarter of diagnosed women will die.

"It's interesting when you teach drama and you try to work with your students in a dramatic fashion and then you find yourself in the middle of your own dramatic story," Carson said.

Forced to leave her drama department a week before the start of the 2007 fall semester to undergo chemotherapy and treatment, she left a void that substitutes could not fill easily.

"We missed her unflappable ability to motivate us and establish confidence in a production," said senior Kevin Rae.

She would return again in January to lead her drama department, directing a series of small plays.

Now, a year after her return, Carson uses her free time for service trips around the world with her associate, Kathleen Price. This past winter she went to Casa, Guatemala, where she worked building houses for orphans on the Rio Dulce river bank.

"Now I really have the sense to not waste any time worrying about myself and use every moment that I have to be doing wonderful, creative, enjoyable things with other people," Carson said.

"I know I have made a lot of changes just like anybody does in a life-threatening illness," she said, "but I certainly feel now that I have a deeper understanding of the human story, and I want to bring that to the kids."


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