I find it amazing that it’s newsworthy in this day and age for anyone receiving support after a diagnosis. Of course, a diagnosed person should be getting support as a matter of course. If she had cancer, everyone would be all over this.
For Kara Murrow, the most rewarding moments as a teacher come when students learn about animals in the classroom. So it’s difficult for the Bonham Elementary fifth-grade science and social studies teacher to be away from school while she prepares for surgery.
“I enjoy it, and I know my kids enjoy the class and enjoy science because of it,” Murrow said. “With the science club I do after school once a week, the kids get upset when it gets canceled because of meetings. Not having it now is upsetting, too.”
Murrow was diagnosed this month with Cushing’s disease, a condition that develops when a tumor on the pituitary gland causes it to secrete too much adrenocorticotropic hormone. Murrow, who moved to West Texas from Arizona three years ago, said she has received support from Midland ISD employees and others in the local community.
Murrow’s mother, Louise Gonzalez, also appreciates Midlanders’ concerns for her daughter.
“People in Midland have been wonderful, considering how new we are to the area,” Gonzalez said. “The school district sent out the GoFundMe page and there’s been an outpouring of support for that. People at my church always ask me.”
Murrow’s family is collecting donations from the website GoFundMe to cover the costs of medical and travel expenses. Murrow and her husband, Kai, recently spent money on hospital stays connected to their 4-year-old son’s food sensitivities.
“They’ve been paying off those bills and doing OK until this came,” Gonzalez said. “Plus, she’s been going to the doctor about this. Because Cushing’s is so rare, doctors don’t recognize it.”
Murrow was diagnosed with the disease after medical professionals discovered a tumor on her pituitary gland. For six years, she experienced symptoms — including weight gain, dizziness and headaches — but said doctors couldn’t determine the cause. Murrow was thankful when she received an answer.
“It was a huge relief to finally have a diagnosis and know that I wasn’t crazy or making things up,” Murrow said. “It’s weird to be excited about a brain tumor. It’s a relief to know what was happening and that I have a solution.”
Murrow traveled this week to Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, where she’s scheduled to undergo surgery to remove the tumor. Though Murrow said recovery lasts several months, she hopes to return to the classroom next school year.
Jaime White, fourth-grade language arts and social studies teacher at Bonham, said both staff and students miss her presence. She said Murrow expresses concern for her students during her time away.
“She’s worried about how kids will do on the STAAR [State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness],” White said. “She doesn’t want them to think she abandoned them. The disease has to take center stage.”
At school, White said she noticed her colleague’s dedication toward helping her students understand science.
“She’s hands-on,” White said. “When it comes to science, she’s always making sure the kids are doing some sort of experiment. She wants to make sure the kids grasp it.”
Murrow teaches students about animals through dissections and presentations. Before she became a teacher nine years ago, she coordinated outreach programs at an Arizona zoo.
When she came to MISD, Murrow saw an opportunity to generate enthusiasm about science. She launched an invite-only science club for fifth-graders who show interest in the subject.
“I started it because there wasn’t really anything,” Murrow said. “They have tutorials for reading and math. There’s not a lot kids can do with science after school. They get science in the younger grades, but the focus is on reading and math. Science is something kids really enjoy.”
Though Murrow is disappointed about not being able to facilitate the club, she recognizes the importance of her upcoming surgery. She’s happy her mother, husband and two children will be in Phoenix for support.
“I hope that it will bring about a sense of relief to all the symptoms I’ve been dealing with and provide a chance for myself and my family to continue along with a full life,” Murrow said.