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College and the coronavirus: Georgia professor balances cancer treatment while teaching online

By Eric Stirgus, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

Debbie van Tuyll’s sister-in-law and friend’s daughter were diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year, so when her doctor said in May they needed to do a biopsy after her mammogram, she anticipated a similar diagnosis.

“Oh, these things happen in threes. I just bet I’m going to get some bad news out of this one,” she thought.

The doctors found a spot the size of what van Tuyll described as a green pea that was cancerous. She has Stage 2 breast cancer, but describes it as Stage 1.75 because of the size of the spot.

Van Tuyll, 64, began chemotherapy in July. A month later, amid the treatment, she returned to work. Van Tuyll, a communications professor at Augusta University for nearly 30 years, said she felt a duty to continue teaching because her department is shorthanded.

Georgia’s public colleges and universities are offering courses in different ways this semester. Most are being done in a hybrid fashion, a mix of in person and online. Augusta University approved her request to teach from home. The American Cancer Society recommends people who work during cancer treatment do so at their own pace. Working at home through the pandemic has strengthened the bonds of family members with a loved one undergoing cancer treatment, the group says.