Those who worked with Lisa Verzani will never say she lost her battle with ovarian cancer.
That’s because the beloved East Helena substitute teacher “beat cancer every day of her life,” school district officials told students after Verzani's death Tuesday morning.
“She lived life to the fullest, and she loved her job as a substitute teacher here in East Helena,” they told the students. “In her work, she touched many students’ lives and became a friend of many staff members. She will be dearly missed.”
Verzani worked mainly at East Valley Middle School and Radley Elementary School during her 10 years as a substitute teacher, EVMS Principal Dan Rispens said. It was not unusual for her to be in the classroom three or four days a week before her illness forced her to slow down last spring, he said.
“She was considered by a lot of people to be a regular part of our staff,” he added.
Though he could tell she was uncomfortable or in pain at times, Rispens said “she was still here with a smile on her face and making the most of every day.”
“She never, ever showed self-pity, or feeling sorry for herself,” he said.
School officials are encouraging the parents and guardians of East Helena students to talk with their children about Verzani. School counselors will be available for those who need them.
"It's hard to say goodbye. She's been with us a long time," East Helena school district Superintendent Ron Whitmoyer said. "To her family and her friends and her extended family, the East Helena school family, we express our deepest heartfelt loss."
Verzani will also be remembered as an avid angler, as well as an advocate for cancer patients.
She was the top participant in the 2014 Relay for Life, when she raised $1,453.53 for the American Cancer Society.
Shortly after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2010, Verzani was selected as the spokesperson for the St. Peter’s Hospital Foundation’s Pinwheel Pledge Campaign, which raises money to help Helena-area cancer patients with needs that their health insurance or finances may not cover.
Verzani told the Independent Record in 2011 she was constantly asking herself: “Why do I have cancer?”
“I know the reason. It’s because I am strong; I have faith to handle the disease,” she said at that time. “If I can help one woman get to the right doctor at the right time, if I can help one man understand that the woman in his life is not feeling well and she needs to get to the doctor — that’s the reason I’m here.”