STEPHENVILLE (January 13, 2017) – Few people can walk through cancer with as much joy and peace as Henderson Junior High teacher Renata Vanderburg. In honor of her fight against lung cancer, Vanderburg was named as one of this year’s Coaches for the Cure basketball game recipients.
“Definitely my faith has kept me strong,” Vanderburg said. “God has a plan. I know that there is a reason for this, and God has a plan for this. More than anything, I want to be a testimony to others, that I can help others in any way that I can through this road that I am going to be traveling.”
Vanderburg was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer on October 17 – eight years to the day since her brother died with cancer.
“My faith keeps me positive, especially when you’re told you’re stage four and it’s primary lung,” Vanderburg said. “I say God’s walking beside me. Sometimes he’s walking behind me or in front of me, and sometimes he is just carrying me. Right now he’s carrying me.”
Vanderburg said after she returned home, she went into her prayer room and listened to “God I Need You Now.”
“I just cried and said,’God, I need you now. I need you to give me strength that I need to endure this and that, no matter what comes, I am okay with it,'” Vanderburg said. “I’m not afraid to die. I know I’m saved, and I know where I am going.”
Vanderburg is currently undergoing three different types of chemotherapy, which she handles with her classic good humor and what she calls her “gift of gab.”
“I’ve already had three rounds and lost my hair,” Vanderburg said. “Last week it was really pretty and really warm, so I took my wig off and said I was going to get my bald head tanned a little bit. I have a sense of humor about these things. If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.”
Even undergoing treatment, Vanderburg still teaches Reading Intervention at Henderson as she has for the past three and a half years.
“I’m a firm believer that every child can learn,” Vanderburg said. “You just have to go at it different ways. I love to encourage [my students] to learn. You’ve really got to work with them [to help them] realize that they’re smart and they can do this. A lot of them tell me I’m their mama away from home.”
Vanderburg has taught in a variety of roles in the past 27 years, including elementary classes and life skills. Vanderburg did, at one point, consider becoming a principal, going so far as to get her master’s degree in educational leadership and her principal’s certification, but decided she preferred being in the classroom.
“I like staying in the trenches as I call it,” Vanderburg said. “I like being there with my army fatigues on and ready to go.”
Besides teaching, Vanderburg flips houses. She and her son are currently renovating a house in Stephenville. And she is also raising two of her grandchildren, Serenity and Colby Ralson. She has three sons, Mikel, Jeremy and Maverick.
But even now, Vanderburg grows in her faith and looks for the good in all things.
“I look at the trials I have been through in my lifetime, and they just seem to get harder and harder,” Vanderburg said. “Then this one really takes the cake right now. I look back, and, even two years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to handle this. But, God grows you through your trials and tribulations. I really feel like all this time he has been preparing me for this moment, because he knew it was coming to begin with.”