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Clovis teacher had emergency brain surgery two days after ER visit. ‘Every day is a gift’

Clovis teacher’s fight against brain cancer is inspiring to family

Clovis teacher Kellie Beaty's fight against brain cancer has been inspiring in the words of her husband, Clovis Hills pastor Shawn Beaty.
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Clovis teacher Kellie Beaty's fight against brain cancer has been inspiring in the words of her husband, Clovis Hills pastor Shawn Beaty.

Kellie Beaty first noticed something was wrong last year as she mispronounced words while reading to her second-grade class at Clovis Elementary School.

It was concerning and unlike Beaty, who her husband describes as articulate and precise.

A lemon-sized tumor was discovered soon after in the left side of her brain, revealed by an MRI brain scan during a visit to an emergency room. Two days later, on a Friday in September, she was undergoing emergency brain surgery.

The 45-year-old and husband Shawn, senior pastor of Clovis Hills Community Church, say surgeons removed almost all of the tumor, a grade-four glioblastoma, but some of it is wrapped around nerves. Because of that, they say, it will always reoccur and won’t go into remission. The task at hand now is to keep attacking the aggressive cancer to keep it from spreading.

Chemotherapy treatments are helping. So is Beaty’s attitude.

“Every day I say, ‘Every day is a gift. Every day is life. Every day is joy,’ ” Beaty said from her Fresno home earlier this week.

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Clovis teacher Kellie Beaty, with her husband Shawn Beaty in the background, talks about her fight with grade-four glioblastoma brain cancer, shown during an interview Tuesday April 9, 2019 in Fresno. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA ezamora@fresnobee.com

Her husband is proud of her positive perspective.

“We tell our kids that we’re all ridiculously in charge – you’re ridiculously in charge of how you’ll respond to everything,” Shawn said. “We can respond, ‘Woe is me,’ or we can respond that, ‘Oh, we have these days as a gift.’ … Some people see the glass as half empty because they think the water that was in it was stolen from them. And then other people see the glass as half full because they see every drop of it as a gift.”

That’s the way the Beatys see it.

“Because all of us have an expiration date,” Shawn continued. “We’re all a carton of milk, right? We just don’t know what the date is up there.”

Shawn said watching his wife embrace that is “the most inspiring part.”

The community has been embracing the Beatys with lots of support, including two fundraiser dinners planned this month, organized by the Fresno chapter of Helping One Woman. Fellow teachers have donated sick leave that Beaty says will carry her through somewhere between September and December. Beaty hasn’t been able to work since her surgery last year.

If she runs out of donated time and is put on a reemployment list, she could later receive health insurance through her husband, but Beaty says that insurance isn’t as good and would cost more than what their family now receives through Clovis Unified School District.

The Beatys have three children: Carson, 11; Addison, 13; and Corben, 16.

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Carson Beaty, right, holds his mother, former Clovis teacher Kellie Beaty, following an interview Tuesday, April 9, 2019 in Fresno. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA ezamora@fresnobee.com

Beaty said the hit-and-run killing of Gavin Gladding, a vice principal at Fort Washington Elementary School, left her asking herself why she had lived and he had died. That tragedy soon brought a new perspective.

“So even though it’s terrible,” she said of her cancer, “at least I have more days, you know?”

Beaty’s Christian faith has been a great comfort. She recently returned from a trip to Israel with her husband to “see where Jesus walked.”

“It makes the Bible come to life,” Beaty said. “It was amazing.”

The love of the community has also been a huge help.

“We’ve been really cared for and provided for,” Shawn said. “We are really grateful to everyone for what we have.”

How to help

Clovis Unified School District employees can donate sick leave by contacting the district’s human resources department.

A second fundraiser dinner in Fresno for Kellie Beaty through Helping One Woman on April 23 is almost sold out.

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Carmen George is a features and news reporter for The Fresno Bee. Her stories have been recognized with Best of the West, George F. Gruner, and McClatchy President’s awards, and nine first or second place awards from the California News Publishers Association. She has a passion for sharing people’s stories to highlight issues and promote greater understanding.
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