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Thursday
Sep272018

When moms use marijuana, kids try it at a young age: Study

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The children of mothers that use marijuana are more likely to try the drug at a younger age, according to a new study.

The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, looks at how a mom’s cannabis use affects the age at which her children first try it. As states and municipalities across the country have been legalizing marijuana use in recent years, moms who use cannabis for recreational or medical reasons are left to wonder about potentially hazards to their children.

Dr. Natasha A. Sokol, social epidemiologist at Brown University and lead author of the study, explained to ABC News that that there is some evidence that connects the legalization of marijuana with increased frequency of parent marijuana use.

“We’ve seen this relationship mimicked in tobacco use,” Dr. Sokol added.

Sokol and colleagues analyzed two large-scale national surveys conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The first survey was originally given to young women ages 14 to 21 between 1980 and 1998. The second was given to the children of those women every year between 1988 and 2014.

The surveys asked about a variety of health behaviors, and explicitly asked questions about cannabis use, such as:“How old were you when you first used marijuana?”

According to the study, mothers who used cannabis during the first 12 years of their child’s life had children that began using cannabis earlier. Even when moms used cannabis for less than a year, their child was 36 percent more likely to try marijuana, compared to the children of moms who never used it. For mothers who used cannabis for more than a year, that likelihood rose to 44 percent.

Kids who were never exposed to cannabis use through their mothers tried marijuana for the first time at an average age of about 18-years-old. Kids with childhood exposure to maternal cannabis use started their own marijuana habits two or more years earlier.

“Parents tend to be the most influential people in a child’s life,” said Dr. Sokol. “The potential changes in social norms may be linked to this early initiation seen in children.”

Medical marijuana can have several positive effects, but prior studies show negative cognitive and psychosocial effects of cannabis use in young adults. In some cases it is connected to increased anxiety and depression, psychosis, mood disturbances, and developmental delays. More controversially, the behavioral effects of cannabis use have been linked to substance dependence -- marijuana is the second most common drug for which adults seek substance abuse treatment.

Dr. Sokol acknowledged the public health implications of the study, noting that successful intervention models have involved both parents and their children.

“Parents can be counseled on how to talk to their kids about marijuana use, which can be helpful in delaying initiation,” said Sokol.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Sep262018

'Daddy, help me, I can't breathe': Family blames mislabeled food for death of 15-year-old with sesame allergy

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Two years ago Natasha Ednan-Laperouse suffered a fatal allergic reaction after eating a Pret a Manger sandwich that her family says did not list one critical ingredient: sesame.

Natasha, 15, was allergic to sesame.

This week, the West London Coroner's Court will hear from her family, British Airways and Pret a Manger.

There are two central questions: Was the allergen information listed correctly? And who is to blame for Natasha's death?

On July 17, 2016, Natasha ate an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette sandwich from Pret a Manger in London's Heathrow Airport while waiting for her flight to Nice, France, with her father, Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, and her best friend. According to a statement from her father, read in court Monday by the family's lawyer, Jeremy Hyam, she fell ill about 20 minutes later on her British Airways flight.

After Natasha broke out in hives "like a jellyfish sting" and complained of an itchy throat, her father administered the first EpiPen injection to her leg, according to the statement.

"Natasha said that she still couldn't breathe and desperately looked at me, she said 'Daddy, help me, I can't breathe,'" her father said.

When her symptoms failed to improve, her father said he administered a second EpiPen injection, also to her leg. Natasha fell unconscious on the flight and was pronounced dead in a hospital in Nice a few hours later.

According to EU regulations, sesame is one of 14 allergens that must be listed on food products made off premises.

But EU rules also say that each country has some leeway in how it communicates information for freshly made food, and UK regulations don't require freshly made, non-pre-packaged food to be individually labeled.

In a statement, Pret said the individual sandwich would not have been labeled with allergen or ingredient information. But the company said there are signs that tell consumers with allergies to speak to managers for additional information. The family's lawyer also questioned the Heathrow branch manager on Monday about the specific stickers that should have been in place around the shelves and cash registers.

On Tuesday, Jonathan Perkins, director for risk and compliance of Pret, testified in court.

"I don't accept that allergy signage was failing," he said, admitting that the company has made alterations to the way it provides information since Natasha's death.

Perkins clarified that the company is "not legally obliged to label each individual package."

A Pret spokesman said in an earlier statement: “We were deeply saddened to hear about Natasha’s tragic death, and our heartfelt thoughts are with her family and friends. We take food allergies and how allergen information is provided to our customers extremely seriously. We will continue to do all that we can to assist the coroner’s inquest.”

There have been nine cases of sesame-related complaints from Pret and four of those required hospital treatment, according to Hyam.

In a statement, Natasha's family described her as a popular, mature and fun-loving girl who enjoyed horseback riding and ice-skating.

"As a family of four, we had a very close relationship. Our home was quite noisy with laughter, joking and teasing. As a teenager Natasha was always open with us and would readily talk to us about any problems she may be experiencing and would ask us for our advice. She had a strong moral compass and often showed maturity beyond her years."

Her father also said Natasha had dealt with allergies for years and "put her trust in food labeling."

"I was stunned that a big food company like Pret could mislabel a sandwich and this could cause my daughter to die, he said.

Holly Shaw, a nurse adviser to Allergy UK, a non-profit that provides support, resources and advice to those living with allergies, emphasized that effective communication can save lives.

"Especially with young adults," Shaw told ABC News. "When they're at that risk-taking age, susceptible to peer pressure, it's so important that they feel empowered and confident to ask those questions and talk to their friends about it."

She went on, "The food provider, whether a grocery store or a cafe, needs to be able to provide accurate and consistent information. It's where those chains have broken down that there are problems."

The inquest is expected to last five days.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Sep252018

Bride on honeymoon paralyzed by monster wave

Family Handout(HONOLULU) -- It was supposed to be a dream wedding. Instead, for Nikki and Will Lewis, their honeymoon in Hawaii turned into a nightmare when a monster wave crashed onto Nikki and left her paralyzed.

The newlyweds were bodyboarding on Maui's Big Beach, in Makena State Park, a few days after their wedding earlier this month, when the wave, at least 6 feet high, slammed her into the ground and engulfed her completely, JaMikal Moorer, one of her best friends, told ABC News.

"I lost sight of her for a good bit," said Moorer, who was watching, aghast, from the beach. "It was probably five to 10 seconds, but it felt like time had stood still. I was saying in my head, 'Get up, get up.' Once the water receded, we saw her lying headfirst in the sand with her body kind of crunched up and the water flowing over her body."

Will rushed to her aid, as did Moorer, another friend, and a bystander who happened to be a paramedic. They brought her out of the water, trying to keep her neck straight, but her spine was already broken in two places and she couldn't move or speak.

"You could just tell her eyes were asking for help," Moorer said.

Later, when she was able to speak, Nikki would recount the helplessness and terror of those moments when she was lying on the ocean floor, unable to swim toward the surface or breathe, Will said.

The beaches in Makena State Park have a reputation both enticing and menacing. They are popular with surfers and bodyboarders for their beauty and shore break, which creates big waves to ride on. But they are also the most dangerous among Hawaii's 48 beaches -- 22 people ended up in hospital from there with spinal-cord injuries between 2009 and 2013, more than at any other beach, according to Hawaii's Trauma Registry.

Nearly two weeks after her accident, Nikki remains in a hospital in Honolulu, slowly recovering movement in the extremities of her body and gaining strength in her legs. Her husband says he's thankful for the progress she's made -- most people with her injuries never make it off a respirator.

Nikki's family and friends are now trying to raise funds to help transport her home to Texas, where she can be cared for by loved ones and be reunited with the couple's three children.

In photos and videos posted by her family on Facebook, despite being confined to a bed with her neck strapped in a brace, Nikki often smiles and laughs.

"Her upbeat personality is what is getting us through it," Will said. "Don't get me wrong, there are lots of tears, but she's doing her best to recover, she's giving it her 100 percent. We both miss our kids and just want to be back with them."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Sep252018

New flu vaccine recommendations issued as flu season approaches

iStock/ThinkstockBY: DR. AMISHA AHUJA

(NEW YORK) -- Last weekend, rapper Drake canceled his Miami concerts because he was suffering from a case of the flu, his representatives confirmed. It was a reminder that flu season, which took a big toll last year, is near again.

"We can see influenza all year round –- 12 months out of the year," Dr. Jennifer Ashton said on "Good Morning America." Flu season, when the highest number of illnesses emerge, generally tends to run from October to March in the U.S.

That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issues its annual recommendations on the flu vaccine. The agency recommends that everyone 6 months and older should be vaccinated for influenza every season, ideally by the end of October.

Even if that deadline passes, it's still helpful to get vaccinated, especially if influenza continues in the community late in the year. In the past, the virus has hung around as late as May.

After receiving a flu shot, it takes two weeks to develop the antibodies needed to protect against infection. This means it's best to get the vaccine before flu season begins to have full immune benefits.

Since the flu virus changes year to year, the vaccine changes, as well. So last year's flu shot doesn’t carry over to this season. These fluctuations make it hard to predict how bad the flu will be. This was evidenced last year, with one circulating strain of the flu, H3N2, poorly matched with the vaccine.

Although the vaccine can be imperfect, it is the best defense we have as we continue to make advancements in the field.

"There’s a new flu vaccine out now; it’s made based on predictions of what this year’s strains will be," Ashton said, "so you do need to get it this fall.”

With some pharmacies stocking and administering the vaccine in the summer months, questions have emerged about how early is too early to get a shot.

"There’s a little bit of controversy now in the medical literature," Ashton said. "If you get it too early, does our immune protection wane by the end of the flu season?”

Some studies have shown that the protective antibodies produced in response to the vaccine can decrease over time. But there are a number of variables in the human immune response; some that have to do with vaccine components, some that have to do with the health of the person getting vaccinated and some involving age.

Useful protection for the year has been shown in healthy adults in the 18 to 49 age range. Although there are concerns that adults age 65 and older are more likely to have waning protection over time, research shows antibodies are still present in high levels six months after the shot, and, more importantly, even these lower levels of antibodies help prevent the flu.

Influenza is a serious infection that kills many each year and older adults and young children are particularly vulnerable. This is why most health officials will agree that receiving a flu shot, even if its early, is much better than no flu shot at all.

Now that the end of September is here, it's definitely a good time to get vaccinated for flu season.

Amisha Ahuja is an internal medicine resident at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and a contributor to the ABC News Medical Unit.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Sep252018

Family blames mislabeled food for death of 15-year-old with sesame allergy

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Two years ago Natasha Ednan-Laperouse suffered a fatal allergic reaction after eating a Pret a Manger sandwich that her family says did not list one critical ingredient: sesame.

Natasha, 15, was allergic to sesame.

This week, the West London Coroner's Court will hear from her family, British Airways and Pret a Manger.

There are two central questions: Was the allergen information listed correctly? And who is to blame for Natasha's death?

On July 17, 2016, Natasha ate an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette sandwich from Pret a Manger in London's Heathrow Airport while waiting for her flight to Nice, France, with her father, Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, and her best friend. According to a statement from her father, read in court Monday by the family's lawyer, Jeremy Hyam, she fell ill about 20 minutes later on her British Airways flight.

After Natasha broke out in hives "like a jellyfish sting" and complained of an itchy throat, her father administered the first EpiPen injection to her leg, according to the statement.

"Natasha said that she still couldn't breathe and desperately looked at me, she said 'Daddy, help me, I can't breathe,'" her father said.

When her symptoms failed to improve, her father said he administered a second EpiPen injection, also to her leg. Natasha fell unconscious on the flight and was pronounced dead in a hospital in Nice a few hours later.

According to EU regulations, sesame is one of 14 allergens that must be listed on food products made off premises.

But EU rules also say that each country has some leeway in how it communicates information for freshly made food, and UK regulations don't require freshly made, non-pre-packaged food to be individually labeled.

In a statement, Pret said the individual sandwich would not have been labeled with allergen or ingredient information. But the company said there are signs that tell consumers with allergies to speak to managers for additional information. The family's lawyer also questioned the Heathrow branch manager on Monday about the specific stickers that should have been in place around the shelves and cash registers.

On Tuesday, Jonathan Perkins, director for risk and compliance of Pret, testified in court.

"I don't accept that allergy signage was failing," he said, admitting that the company has made alterations to the way it provides information since Natasha's death.

Perkins clarified that the company is "not legally obliged to label each individual package."

A Pret spokesman said in an earlier statement: “We were deeply saddened to hear about Natasha’s tragic death, and our heartfelt thoughts are with her family and friends. We take food allergies and how allergen information is provided to our customers extremely seriously. We will continue to do all that we can to assist the coroner’s inquest.”

There have been nine cases of sesame-related complaints from Pret and four of those required hospital treatment, according to Hyam.

In a statement, Natasha's family described her as a popular, mature and fun-loving girl who enjoyed horseback riding and ice-skating.

"As a family of four, we had a very close relationship. Our home was quite noisy with laughter, joking and teasing. As a teenager Natasha was always open with us and would readily talk to us about any problems she may be experiencing and would ask us for our advice. She had a strong moral compass and often showed maturity beyond her years."

Her father also said Natasha had dealt with allergies for years and "put her trust in food labeling."

"I was stunned that a big food company like Pret could mislabel a sandwich and this could cause my daughter to die, he said.

Holly Shaw, a nurse adviser to Allergy UK, a non-profit that provides support, resources and advice to those living with allergies, emphasized that effective communication can save lives.

"Especially with young adults," Shaw told ABC News. "When they're at that risk-taking age, susceptible to peer pressure, it's so important that they feel empowered and confident to ask those questions and talk to their friends about it."

She went on, "The food provider, whether a grocery store or a cafe, needs to be able to provide accurate and consistent information. It's where those chains have broken down that there are problems."

The inquest is expected to last five days.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Sep252018

A third of American adults age 45 and over are lonely, national survey finds

iStock/ThinkstockBy DR. NICKY MEHTANI

(NEW YORK) -- One in three Americans age 45 and over are lonely, which may harm their quality of life and also pose health risks, according to a new national survey.

The greatest apparent predictors of loneliness are the size of a person's social network and physical isolation, according to the survey of over 3,000 U.S. adults age 45 and older by the AARP Foundation, which used the UCLA Loneliness Scale that is utilized widely in scientific literature.

The survey also found that infrequent sex and inadequate sleep are associated with loneliness.

Among the most striking findings is that people who never speak to their neighbors are nearly twice as likely to be lonely than those who have talked to neighbors.

“As a society, it’s important that we recognize that social isolation and loneliness are widespread public health issues, particularly among older and low-income adults,” Lisa Marsh Ryerson, president of the AARP Foundation, told ABC News.

“Social isolation and loneliness have been found to have health risks equivalent to those of obesity or smoking up to 15 cigarettes per day,” Ryerson continued. “Yet, very few individuals have ever talked to their physicians about these issues.”

Social isolation can be measured objectively through the number of people in a person’s social network and how frequently they’re in contact. Loneliness, however, is more subjective -- how a person perceives their experience, and whether they feel a lack of connectedness or sense of belonging. The survey asked questions about both.

The authors released the study to coincide with the upcoming National Good Neighbor Day on Friday, Sept. 28, which was first proclaimed by President Jimmy Carter in 1978.

“Understanding, love, and respect build cohesive families and communities," Carter said in his proclamation. "The same bonds cement our nation, and the nations of the world.”

The AARP survey reinforces results of a large study conducted by the health insurer Cigna earlier this year, which found that loneliness is at epidemic levels among American adults. While the Cigna study found that loneliness is most common among young adults, age 18 to 22, the new survey finds the same trend but that loneliness happens in all age groups.

In the AARP survey, forty-six percent of respondents aged 45 to 49 reported loneliness, compared to 37 percent who are in their 50s, 36 percent in their 60s, and 24 percent in their 70s.

The authors of the survey caution that they cannot draw conclusions on the causes of loneliness, but they identified several conditions that seem linked.

Infrequent sex and inadequate sleep are among the factors that appear to be associated with loneliness.

Among people who have sex at least once per week, 25 percent report being lonely compared to 37 percent of those who have sex once a month or less, and 43 percent for those who are sexually inactive. Similarly, among people who get five to eight hours of sleep a night, 34 percent are lonely, compared to 59 percent who get four hours of sleep or less.

Perhaps surprisingly, those who drink alcohol to any extent are slightly less likely to be lonely than those who do not, 33 percent versus 38 percent.

Income is also associated with loneliness, the survey found. Among people earning less than $25,000 a year, 50 percent are lonely, compared to 31 percent of those with income over $50,000 per year.

Among people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer, 49 percent are lonely compared to 35 percent of those who do not identify as such.

Unsurprisingly, all forms of communication with friends and siblings are associated with decreased loneliness, but the mode of communication is important. Those who see friends in person at least once a month are less likely to be lonely than those who communicate by email, text or video.

But, the relationship between social media and loneliness is complex, according to the survey results.

Thirty-six percent of people who opt out of social media entirely said they are lonely, a similar rate to those who use social media somewhat regularly: 31 percent for those who use social media once a week or more, and 35 percent among those who use it once or twice a month. People who use social media infrequently, once or twice a year, have the highest prevalence of loneliness, 42 percent.

The AARP has suggestions on how individuals can ward off loneliness, including simply "looking out for each other,” as Ryerson put it.

Other suggestions include inviting a neighbor over for coffee or tea; checking in on elderly neighbors and offering to run errands for them; organizing a potluck for your block (or the whole neighborhood); asking a neighbor to join you for a walk; and volunteering with a meal-delivery service.

“Our goal is to raise awareness on these issues, to remind each of us that we ourselves could be at risk for loneliness, but certainly, by living in a community, we are also part of the solution,” Ryerson said.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Sep252018

OB-GYNs who helped deliver Sumatran orangutan baby call moment 'surreal'

Sedgwick County Zoo(WICHITA, Kan.) -- Two Kansas doctors stepped in to help deliver a very special patient earlier this month -- Lily the Sumatran orangutan.

Both agreed it was a moment they'll be talking about for years to come.

Daisy, the Sedgwick County Zoo's 33-year-old orangutan, went into labor early in the morning on Sept. 7. But according to her veterinary team, there were complications that needed a different set of doctors.

"The zookeeper noticed there was a delay in her labor. Normally they deliver very quickly and that wasn't the case for Daisy," Laura Whisler, an OB-GYN based in Wichita, Kansas, said.

The veterinarians were at a loss and turned to the local hospital for help.

"One of the veterinarians at the zoo is one of my personal patients that I've taken care of," Whisler said. "She asked me if I'd be willing to help out."

Whisler and fellow OB-GYN, Dr. Janna Chirby, were told Daisy needed a cesarean section.

While the experienced pair of OB-GYNs have delivered thousands of babies at Via Christi Hospital, this was their first primate.

"I'm an OB-GYN for homo sapiens, humans. Not for animals," Chirby said.

The doctors quickly devised a game plan. A few minutes after surgery a healthy baby orangutan was born.

"It was very surreal and definitely one of the best days at my job I've ever had," Chirby said.

After a couple weeks in quarantine, baby Lily is now living happily with Daisy at the zoo.

"It's definitely one of those moments that will be part of our stories that we tell to our grandkids," Whisler said.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Sep242018

9-year-old boy who had leukemia surprised with meeting bone marrow donor who saved him 

Sarah Cannon Center for Blood Cancer(KNOXVILLE, Tenn.) -- In a heartwarming reunion, a 9-year-old celebrating his cancer remission has met the man who saved him.

On Saturday, Johnny Sawyer Dyer, who goes by Sawyer, finally came face to face with his bone marrow donor Kevin Schwarrzel, 29.

"We were so thankful for him doing this for Sawyer," mom Misty Dyer of Corryton, Tennessee, told "Good Morning America" on Monday. "Sometimes thank you doesn't seem like enough to say to someone who has saved your son's life."

Sawyer was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in January of 2017, his family said, and spent four months at East Tennessee Children's Hospital in Knoxville for treatments before undergoing a bone marrow transplant at TriStar Centennial Medical Center in Nashville.

"This wasn't fun," Sawyer said about cancer treatments in an interview at the Sarah Cannon Center for Blood Cancer, where he received radiation. "It would really feel good to meet the person who saved my life."

In 2011, Schwarrzel, a physician assistant from San Diego, California, signed up with the "Be the Match" registry. In 2017, he got the call to donate. Sawyer, who was 8 years old at the time, was the recipient.

The Dyers decided to release their information through the "Be the Match" registry so Schwarrzel was able to contact the family. They arranged for him to meet Sawyer.

The moment when Sawyer and Schwarrzel shared a long-awaited hug was captured on video.

"I'm still trying to wrestle with the gravity of it because I've seen some pictures and I know how sick these kids can get," Schwarrzel said in the video released to "GMA." "To try to come to terms with it -- my bone marrow, something that I was just born with, brought him out of that situation."

"He can go to school, now he doesn't have to wear a mask everywhere he goes -- it's crazy." he added. "It's such a small thing for me to do and it literally means life or death for another person that I've never even met."

In the video, Sawyer's mom tells him that Schwarrzel is about to walk into the room where they were being interviewed. As Schwarrzel entered, Sawyer ran to him and the two embraced.

"I feel like we're so connected, but we've never met," Schwarrzel said to the Dyers in the video.

Misty Dyer said it's been "amazing" to see her son's transformation since his transplant and chemo treatments.

"It was really hard when he lost his hair and was really sick," she explained to "GMA." "It's great to see him healthy, happy, being able to be around his friends and family again to being a normal kid."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Sep212018

Couple marries after meeting as kids undergoing cancer treatment

ABC News(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) -- A couple tied the knot this month at the Memphis hospital where they met as children undergoing cancer treatment.

"It was a perfect moment where all of these things came together," Lindsey Alsup told ABC Memphis affiliate WATN-TV. "We were able to see how life had led us down this path."

Joel and Lindsey Alsup met at St. Jude's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee in 1991, after Joel was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and Lindsey was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, WATN-TV reported.

"Here I am at 10 thinking, 'I’ve not made it to middle school, or high school, or college. And I have a life and a career and a family that I want to have.' And I felt like cancer was stealing that from me," she told WATN-TV.

Fifteen years later, they met again, this time as employees of the very hospital that introduced them as children. Joel Alsup now works as a video producer for the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC) at St. Jude's. His wife serves as a liaison between ALSAC and the hospital, WATN-TV reported. Both found strength in each other, they said.

"Even though our active treatment is over, life as a survivor is different," Joel Alsup told WATN-TV. "But I had this person who knew exactly what my daily life was like, who knew what fears I might have during the day and understands that."

The couple married in the Danny Thomas Pavilion, also called the ALSAC Pavilion, on the grounds of the St. Jude's earlier this month.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Sep212018

Teacher says she's 'extremely grateful' after students surprise her on last day of chemo 

Ivana Firestone(SANTA BARBARA, Calif.) --  A teacher battling breast cancer didn't know it, but she was in for a big surprise on the day she finished chemotherapy.

When Katherine James of Santa Barbara, California, arrived home from her final treatment last week, she was met by a mob of kids who offered her hugs and applause.

"My mother was driving and I remember saying, 'Mom, I think those are kids from my class standing outside of my house," said James, a fourth-grade teacher at Mountain View Elementary School in California. "Their little faces were really happy. I'm extremely grateful for all their love and support."

James, 50, has been at Mountain View for 23 years teaching third and fourth grade. But a few weeks before the 2017-2018 school year ended, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer.

"You never want to hear those words and then a doctor is sitting in front of you saying them," James said. "It sends you on a path that you never imagined being on. You start fighting right away. You want it to go away."

James immediately had a double mastectomy and began chemo. On Sept. 11, she finished the last of four rounds.

Later that day, James arrived home to a slew of former and current students holding inspirational signs, flowers and balloons.

Mom Brigitte Welty, told "GMA" that James previously taught her son Ashton, who is now 16.

Welty decided to organize James' homecoming after speaking with her sister, who is also battling breast cancer. Welty learned that ringing bells traditionally signifies a patient has completed chemo, so she wanted to do that for James.

"She was just speechless," Welty said. "She came out with the biggest smile. She was really touched."

Ivana Firestone, mom of Brooks, 9, and Anja, 7, said her son had James as a teacher for both third and fourth grade.

"She's just so engaged and fun and present — you know that she loves her job," Firestone told "GMA." "We are here to support her in any way that she needs. We are hoping she gets back to school, but we want her to take as much time as she needs."

Jolee Tappeiner, a student of James' released a statement to "GMA": "When I first found out Mrs. James had cancer, I was sad and worried about her being able to fight it. But when I saw her at her house, I could see how strong she is and I know she will be coming back to school even stronger!"

James said she is feeling the love from her community and hopes to return to the classroom.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.







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