2018 Pink Santa Hat Winners

Linda Collins

Linda Collins teaches first grade and art in California. She is the mother of three wonderful adult children and a wife of 39 years.

Her battle with cancer began in the summer of 2011 after noticing a fairly large lump that seemed to appear out of nowhere. She began treatment in September 2011, which included 16 weeks of intense chemotherapy, surgery in January 2012, and 30 weeks of radiation which began in April 2012.

She was considered cancer free and underwent a reconstruction and reduction surgery in 2013.

After requesting a CT scan due to back pain in the summer of 2017, doctors discovered three new tumors in her chest area. They were biopsied and determined to be metastatic breast cancer in the mediastinum.

Linda was advised by her niece who is a nurse practitioner to go to City of Hope for a second opinion. This visit took her daughter, Emily a lot of work to get approval through her insurance, and Linda is so grateful for her daughters persistence and efforts.

Linda has been in a clinical trial since September 2017 at City of Hope in Durate, California. She travels every three weeks to have blood work, see the doctor, and have an infusion of the immunotherapy drug, Keytruda. She also takes six trial drugs daily at home.

The trial will take two years, and has been challenging, but Linda is responding well to treatment and feels privileged to have such wonderful care and the opportunity to be part of a possible cure for the future.

Through all of this, Linda still works full time as a teacher, and has a wonderful support team and family. Linda says that God has been good to her, is her hope and constant source of strength.

Martha Cummings

Martha Cummings is an elementary school librarian in Memphis, Tennessee, and is going on her 17th year of teaching!

She was born and raised in Quincy Illinois, went to Loyola University in New Orleans, and now resides in Memphis, Tennessee with her husband, Matthew—who she actually lived next door to as a toddler and attended her high school senior prom with!

She is the proud parent of six awesome kids, and three extremely wonderful grandchildren.In her free time, she enjoys reading, practicing yoga and taking long walks.

Martha would like to thank her amazing daughter-in-law, Amanda for nominating her for the Pink Santa Hat Movement along with The Wright Stuff Chics for sponsoring and arranging a weekend of hope and celebration!

Susannah Graham

Susannah Graham is a math teacher from Pennsylvania who has taught for 19 wonderful years—12 years in a high school and currently teaches middle school students, alongside her friend and nominator, Jackie.

Sue has been married to her awesome husband for 22 years. Together they have a daughter who is 20 and will be graduating college in May and getting married in June, and a son who is 14 and into sports. Her family has a small farm where they raise sheep and pigs that their kids show in 4H and at state fairs.

She found her lump due to her son over Christmas break when he accidentally elbowed her while playing basketball. It hurt and although she thought it was a bruise, the lump didn’t go away. Susannah was late diagnosed with breast cancer in early April, had a lumpectomy a few weeks later and is currently going through chemo that will be followed by radiation. 

Denise Higgins

Denise Higgins is a teacher at East Bay High School in Gibsonton,Florida, where she has taught Social Studies for the past 34 years.

She completed her undergraduate degree at SUNY Fredonia in New York State and her Masters at the University of Southern Mississippi. She is passionate about history, travel, needle work and helping young people achieve their potential.

After working in the field of education for over three decades, she faced the greatest challenge in life and it did not come from the classroom. It was a diagnosis of breast cancer that began the path she walks daily as a cancer survivor. She has been able to travel along this difficult journey because of the love and support from her family, friends and students. Along the way support and encouragement came from many individuals outside of her circle.

Denise feels blessed and greatly honored to join the Pink Santa Hat Celebration who have blessed her with rays of light and love in their kindness through the Pink Santa Hat Celebration.

The path in life we are to walk is often filled with the unexpected. Denise lives by the conviction to live each day to our best, love, and enjoy the time we have together—that God loves us and has a plan for all of us. We may not understand the plan but it is our destiny to live our lives.

Candace Ingram

Candace Ingram is entering her 9th year as an educator at Imagine Klepinger Community School in Ohio, and is currently an ELA Academic Coach. She has also taught first and third grade as well as run many of the school’s summer programs.

She received her BA from Wilmington College of Ohio and her Masters from Wright State University.

Candace is 30 years old and has a twin sister, as well as one child, Elijah who is six years old. In her spare time she enjoys arts and crafts and spending time with her family and doing outdoor activities.

This past May, Candace woke up in a panic, knowing her life was changing forever when she felt a hard lump in her left breast. After a series of test, she received an official diagnosis of stage 2B of breast cancer on June 3rd.

From that moment on, she knew she had no choice but to fight because she is not going to let cancer beat her.

Breast cancer runs in her family so she decided to do the BRCA1 test, and was tested as a positive carrier for breast cancer.

She began receiving chemotherapy on July 3rd 2017 and her last one is scheduled for November 13th.

Her doctors have called her a mystery throughout her entire process so far, but Candace says she will continue to have a positive outlook on life and stay as active as she can!

Patty Knowles

Patty Knowles is a 19 year veteran with Orange County Public Schools in Orland, Florida, where she teaches 8th grade science and is the athletic director. She also coaches girls soccer and track and field.

Patty is the mother of three incredible boys. Her and her family are members of St Mary’s Missionary Baptist Church.

She is a big fan of baseball and a lifelong Red Sox fan!!

Beth Lambe

Beth Lambe is a special education teacher in New Jersey, who feels privileged to work with children with various disabilities since 1992—the duration of her entire career!

She was adopted as an infant and raised by two hard working and loving parents. A week before being diagnosed with breast cancer, she met her brother for the first time, which she believes was fate, since he was able to provide her with one half of her medical history. Beth’s birth mother and three of her sisters, and aunts, have battled breast cancer. Her birth mother lost her battle in 2000. Beth’s brother was with their birth mother when she was battling breast cancer and he was with her for her entire breast cancer journey.

After her diagnosis, Beth felt compelled to do something to raise awareness and money to help find a cure. She decided to do her first Avon39 Walk the fall after she was diagnosed. Beth wanted to walk for the women who couldn’t physically do it.

Her lifelong goal is to have no other woman battle this dreadful disease.

Beth wants to thank her loving family for always supporting her, the Pink Santa Hat Movement committee, The Wright Stuff Chics, and especially her dear friend Lori Talbot, for thinking of her, and eloquently writing her story that lead to this honor.

MaryAnn Novak

MaryAnn Novak has been teaching math for a total of 20 years. She currently teaches for the Howard County Public School System in Maryland, teaching pre-algebra to gifted and talented 6th graders as well as one class of 6th graders taking 7th grade math.

She grew up in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, where she graduated valedictorian from high school. MaryAnn went on to attend the University of Pennsylvania on a scholarship and work study, graduating cum laude with a degree in sociology (although she did consider Penn State’s 5-year Education program).

Prior to teaching she moved around a lot, working and exploring a variety of careers, including social work for a private non-profit organization, secretary of the president, production manager and advertising and promotions manager at Hagstrom, a map publishing company in New York City, advertising manager for Katharine Gibbs Schools, and production manager for an advertising agency in Jackson, Mississippi.

After many years in advertising, MaryAnn went back to school at the California University of Pennsylvania for her bachelors degree in math and master’s in Education. At 45 years old, she was finally a certified teacher!

MaryAnn was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2017, teaching that year from August 22 to late December. That December she started five months of chemotherapy which was so successful she was able to have a lumpectomy instead of a mastectomy, which allowed her to take part in a research study on the effectiveness of whole breast radiation vs. the effectiveness of whole breast and lymph node radiation. Since her diagnosis, she has undergone 30 radiation treatments, with the last ending on August 23—the day after school started this year for teachers. Considering her cancer was hormone receptive, she will continue to take medication for the next 10 years even if future mammograms are clear.

The worst part of cancer for MaryAnn was the chemotherapy, although her sister drove from New Jersey every other weekend to help take care of her. One of the bright spots for MaryAnn this past year was that although she lost all her hair during the first few weeks of chemotherapy, her brother and his wife bought her a wig, which was not cheap! Another bright spot was when a group of teachers from her school brought her a large bag of hard candies—each wrapped with a get well message from one of her students!