LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Most of us have a teacher who changed us in a profound way and Polly Roberts is that teacher for a group of art students at UCLA.

One of those students, Mary Lopez, told CBS2/KCAL9’s Lisa Sigell: “I remember the first day so well, she came to us and said we have to do what we love, that’s the most important thing. I was so inspired that day.”

Little did her students know that was the day Roberts found out her cancer was back.

Roberts has been living with stage-4 metastatic breast cancer for five years. Metastatic means the cancer has spread and, in her case, it had made its way to her liver.

Treatment clears her body for a time but being a metastatic breast cancer survivor means there’s always the possibility it will come back.

Each time she conquers it: “You have to take something so dire and learn how to thrive.”

Roberts didn’t feel like she should tell her students – that changed a few weeks ago: The class was sharing their deepest struggles and their secrets through art, and Roberts felt it was only fair that she do the same.

She told her students that their stories gave her strength: “Their energy and their excitement for living, and just the gloriousness of living, it gives me so much courage. It is definitely good medicine. It is the best medicine there is.”

Student Ani Abiedu said, “It made me cherish life because I saw her smiling as she said it. She wasn’t sad. She was standing there looking as beautiful as ever.”

“Polly makes me want to be a fighter, to be happy to be alive,” Abiedu said.

And Roberts lives the message that she gave her students – she does what she loves. She’s curating an art exhibit at the UCLA’s Fowler Museum, teaching and spending time with her husband and children.

Roberts says she’s on a breakthrough medication and filled with hope.

She’s speaking to other survivors at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Saturday and a key player funded by Komen Los Angeles County for metastatic breast cancer survivors.

“These past years, there are more breakthrough meds that have been discovered than at any other time in the history of cancer. And we have so much to look forward to.”

For more information about the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure click here.

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