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West Michigan community rallying around teacher with rare bone cancer

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Posted at 10:50 PM, Feb 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-27 22:58:50-05

BYRON CENTER, Mich. — Less than a month after being diagnosed with a rare bone cancer, the West Michigan community is putting their support behind a beloved Byron Center teacher.

“It’s going to be a long process,” said Sierra Zylstra. “It certainly was a shock to my family and I.”

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

Zylstra says her prognosis is not great, but her focus is on the steps ahead which include chemotherapy and a knee replacement.

“I’m young, and I think I’m pretty tough,” said Zylstra. “I think I’m going to be able to fight through this, and I have such an awesome support group around me. I really do 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.

Those communities all quickly rallied around her after her diagnosis be it with a card, donation, or just a prayer.

“We want to make sure we’re there supporting her there for the long haul; we want to make sure we’re there with her for the summer and the fall, all the way through this journey to make sure that she’s supported,” said Kaleigh VanDerkamp, a coworker.

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

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

Zylstra also started a blog to keep track of her diagnosis. To read it, click here.

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