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This Thanksgiving, Edmonds-Woodway teacher and cancer survivor thankful for life, community and love

By Noel Young | Lynnwood Times Contributor

In March of 2020, Bonnie Vijarro, a Spanish teacher at Edmonds-Woodway High School, was diagnosed with Stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma cancer. Before she was able to plan on how to deal with radiation and chemotherapy during the school year, the Governor’s first order for a pandemic lockdown was given.

Although the situation was beginning to become overwhelmingly complex, the lockdowns gave her the flexibility to work from home and not have to call on substitutes. In addition, since masks were being worn and extra sanitary precautions were being taken due to the pandemic, it gave her extra protection during low immunity, which became a part of the silver lining around COVID-19.

When asked if she feels stronger after this past year, Vijarro shared that it wasn’t so much about being strong as it was drawing on her humility.

“I needed to humble myself instead of trying to fix things on my own, and that it’s okay not to be in control of everything,” Vijarro said.

Accepting help was a challenge but also a big part of what she looks back on. She is someone who is constantly serving others. Through her conduct she evidently has the sacrificial grace and discipline that comes from a teacher’s heart and loves her community through action.

This year her community had an opportunity to give back to her.  Her Edmond-Woodway High School (EWHS) community came together to support her in countless ways, including a Meal Train, food and smoothie drop offs, and countless emails and letters of encouragement.

Vijarro was amazed at her colleagues’ generosity, who donated funds through her Meal Train which helped pay for some of the over-the-counter medical supplies. Her students from Colores Unidos, a club she helps advise, created a personalized video to cheer her on. Members of her church also came together too.

Other acts of selflessness by friends included: making egg custard, personalized clothes shopping and gifts, furniture lugging to make a comfortable set up at home, and a spontaneous popsicle drop off that coincidentally during the period of painful mucositis, another unexpected side effect of chemotherapy.

Vijarro shared that her greatest supporter was her husband, Sam, who is the Director of Worship Arts at Montage Bible Church. From appointment chauffeur to personal assistant taking phone calls and managing emails to update those concerned, to best friend by her side at the hardest moments, he had her covered.

When asked if she had any mantras or quotes that helped her during the hardest times of treatment, Vijarro said music and reading the Psalms.  Even when her oxygen levels were low and lungs weak, she would still sing hymns and songs of praise.  Singing is close to her heart as she comes from a musical family who enjoys singing together, especially during family gatherings.

Typically for Thanksgiving, the Vijarro’s look forward to a two-day celebration enjoying her mom’s apple pie and sweet potatoes, playing games with nieces and nephews, watching A Charlie Brown Christmas, playing lots of instruments, and singing with family.

However, this Thanksgiving will look different. She will enjoy spending quarantine with her husband, mom, and her brother’s family.

Vijarro has completed the most challenging part of her treatment and is now undergoing immunotherapy every few weeks until the expected completion date of May 2021.

Bonnie is a testament that if there’s anything that can get you through 2020 while having cancer, it’s community, songs of praise, and a thankful heart.

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