CUDAHY ( — A local teacher is thanking her colleagues for helping her during her battle with breast cancer by donating their sick days.

Carol Clark, a sixth-grade teacher at Jaime Escalante Elementary School in Cudahy, told KCAL9’s Kristine Lazar she didn’t think she would live to see her 56th birthday on Monday while fighting the disease last year.

She initially returned to teaching after a mastectomy in July 2013 but suffered a severe reaction to chemotherapy and was hospitalized for weeks, losing 50 pounds in two months.

“She was out April, May, into June. And because she couldn’t come back, she would not get her summer pay either,” said her husband, Dave Clark.

The Clarks decided to turn to the Los Angeles Unified School District’s catastrophic illness-donation program and ask fellow district employees to donate their sick leave to Carol.

Dave, who teaches alongside his wife at the school, left a letter next to the area where teachers sign in for the day. The couple were shocked by the outpouring of support.

“By the end of the week, it was going up – second page, third page,” Dave said.

Employees at other schools stepped in. Carol soon had 154 donated sick days.

“At that time, I was in the nursing home and he’d bring the forms and I was just like, wow, you know, it just – I didn’t realize that there would be that many people that would support me. I’m just me, you know. I’m nothing special,” she said.

But donating their time wasn’t a question for many of Carol’s fellow teachers.

“All of us thought, well, what else can we do for her?” her colleague, Raquel Prado, recalled. “They’re taking away time from, you know, their own bank of hours and days to give to somebody who they think really needs it,” she said.

Carol returned to teaching this school year and admitted she’s still in awe of her colleagues’ generosity.

“It’s not just the donation. It’s the time, it’s the heart and the love that they also gave,” she said.

Carol has one more surgery to undergo later in the year but still has 60 days of donated sick time, more than enough to carry her through.

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