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TV Production Teacher Recalls Her Fight with Cancer

TV Production Teacher Recalls Her Fight with Cancer

Photo by Lisa Anderson
Story by JODI ANDERSON

Marcia Daubenmire

“I’m a good producer. I can see things, and I can direct. And I can say, ‘I don’t like that. Do this. Do that. Make it like this.’ I’m very good at that.” – Marcia Daubenmire

Veteran science teacher Marcia Daubenmire was not looking for a change, when she walked into her principal’s office at Howard Middle School one fateful day in 2013. “I was so excited, because I had been to FSU [Florida State University]. They had this convention for teachers, and we wrote lesson plans for CPALMS [a resource for Florida teachers]. We learned about climatology and how to teach the lesson and these cool things. I was like, ‘Ooh! I’m so excited!’”

But her principal had something else on his mind. He asked her if she knew anyone who would be interested in the video production teaching position. “No, but who wouldn’t want that job?” she enthused. As she began listing all the cool things that the prospective teacher could do, he interrupted with a question: Did she want the job? “I thought it was going to be a cakewalk! I jumped. Three days before school started, I went from one subject to the next.” She now laughs at her naiveté.

Setting the Scene

As a teenager, Marcia attended A.W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach. Because of her dyslexia, she was drawn to video as a medium for storytelling. “I wanted to be Barbara Walters. I wanted to travel the world and meet dignitaries and cultures and meet people and tell their stories.” She left—to her regret—after her sophomore year.

She spent her first decade out of high school working her way up the ladder at Burdine’s department store, eventually managing cosmetics, fragrances, and shoes. She got married and had her first daughter. She decided family life was not compatible with her crazy work hours. Inspired by her husband, a math teacher in Fort McCoy, Marcia went back to school for teaching.

I think the worst thing about cancer is you meet people and develop these relationships, and some of them make it and some of them don’t.

— Marcia Daubenmire

A few years later, she accepted the TV production teaching position at Vanguard High School. “I was very nervous coming in, because they didn’t have a great program. I was very happy where I was at. I enjoyed what I did, but the program needed somebody to come in and just love it and say, ‘We can do this. Let’s make it better.’” She began to build the Digital Video Production program from the ground up. “I wasn’t the kind of teacher who taught out of a textbook. I was a researcher and a digger.” It has taken time, but she’s pleased with how the program has grown. “So far, my greatest accomplishment is my student [earned] second place in the nation, as a documentarian for National History Day. And he got to meet Ken Burns—virtually, because of COVID.”

Everything Changes

Marcia’s trajectory has not been straight up. “I did have a whole year that I was out because of breast cancer.” In 2015, her mammogram showed a tiny spot, but the doctors were not worried. Two years later, she had clear results. That was May. In July, she noticed swelling in her breast, and it itched. She credits her faith for prompting her to get checked again. The diagnosis was metastatic breast cancer. She was 40. “The Holy Spirit came back one more time and said, ‘It’s going to be rough, but it’s going to be OK.’”

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Her doctor in Ocala initially told her she had one tumor in one lymph node, but something did not feel right. Marcia decided to seek a second opinion at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. “After the MRI, I didn’t have one tumor, I had three. I was misdiagnosed.” Ten years ago, her diagnosis would have been a death sentence. The good news was that the cancer was localized. She was immediately put on chemo, then several rounds of immunotherapy. Her breast was removed, along with some lymph nodes.

During this time, Marcia’s mom had been nursing her through the side effects of her treatment. At the end of the summer, she and her mom went on a trip to Tennessee. Marcia returned to school in 2018, burned from 25 rounds of radiation. Just days later, she received a call that her mother had a lemon-sized tumor in her brain. Through all her care of Marcia, she would complain only of the occasional bad headache. After a 10-month battle with central nervous system lymphoma, Marcia’s mother passed in June 2019.

Denouement

Marcia credits the connections she made with getting her through the darkest moments. “I think the worst thing about cancer is you meet people and develop these relationships, and some of them make it and some of them don’t. I know many of my friends that I met at Moffitt, I have a couple of friends who didn’t make it and a couple who are still fighting. It is a terrible disease, but we gotta fight.” Marcia is incredibly grateful to her community for helping her family survive the tough times. Their church group kept them fed. Teachers donated sick time to ensure that Marcia never missed a paycheck. “I just can’t thank Marion County enough.”

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