Western Michigan community rallies around teacher with rare bone cancer

BYRON CENTER, Michigan – Less than a month after being diagnosed with rare bone cancer, the western Michigan community is supporting a beloved teacher at Byron Center.

“It will be a long process,” Sierra Zylstra said. “It was definitely a shock for me and my family. “

Earlier this month, doctors diagnosed Zylstra with osteosarcoma after suffering from knee pain for about a year. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 1,000 cases of osteosarcoma are diagnosed in the United States each year. It often forms in the legs and can metastasize. Zylstra has spread to his lungs.

Zylstra says her prognosis is not good, but that she is focusing on the next steps, including chemotherapy and knee replacement.

“I’m young and I think I’m pretty tough,” Zylstra said. “I think I’m going to be able to fight through this, and I have such a great support group around me. I truly believe in the power of prayer.

Zylstra grew up in Coopersville and played volleyball at Aquinas College. She is now married and teaches first grade at Marshall Elementary School in Byron Center.

These communities all quickly gathered around her after her diagnosis, whether it was with a card, a donation or just a prayer.

“We want to make sure we’re there to support her there for the long haul; we want to make sure we’re there with her for the summer and fall, throughout this trip to make sure she’s supported, ”said Kaleigh VanDerkamp, ​​a colleague.

“I felt so, so supported, cared for and loved,” Zylstra said. “I know I am not fighting this battle alone because I have so many people around me who are cheering me on every step of the way.”

To donate to a GoFundMe set up for Zylstra, click here.

Zylstra has also started a blog to follow her diagnosis. To read it, click here.

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