Teacher battling cancer thanks colleagues who donated dozens of sick days

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(ABC) -

A Florida teacher battling cancer has received overwhelming support from his colleagues in the form of dozens of donated sick days.

Robert Goodman said he had been teaching for more than 20 years when he was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in April. Since then, Goodman has had to undergo chemotherapy at least twice per week. He also underwent surgery on May 4. The treatments have left him exhausted, he said, and worried about how he would be able to go back to his classroom at Palm Beach Gardens High School this fall.

Goodman, 56, said he took off 38 days due to his illness but needed about 20 more days before he was able to qualify for his district's catastrophic sick leave policy, which kicks in on the 51st day.

"It just happened to coincide with when summer began too, so I had just enough days to make it through the surgery recovery and then I had to start chemo in June and throughout the entire summer," Goodman told ABC News. "I have never had the energy for a full day."

Goodman said he was also worried about whether he would have the energy to get up at 5:00 a.m. and start teaching at 7:20 a.m. He wasn't sure he would be able to last the full school day and deal with the stress of working while still undergoing chemotherapy. He said he was due back at work on Aug. 6.

"It felt awful. Each chemo treatment takes at least a week for me to feel just 70 percent," Goodman said.

Frustrated, Goodman took to Facebook to share his dilemma in late July, and in just four days, his colleagues had donated enough sick time to let him recover. The school informed him that he has 75 days off, he said, adding that he would know the final total when he finishes all the paperwork related to his absence.

"They donated sick days of theirs, which is going to help me and allow me not to go bankrupt, and allow me to heal in peace," Goodman said. "This would give me an opportunity to also have my mind be clear from the chemo. It takes a long time."

Goodman said he is grateful for all of the good people who gave up their days off to help him.

"In four days, to basically have an entire community throw their love at you, it's extremely overwhelming," Goodman said.

The teacher also said he also wants his story to remind others about the importance of getting regular check-ups so diseases like cancer can be detected early.

"I don't want anyone to experience cancer or anything bad, but I would love all people to experience that kind of love thrown on you at once," Goodman said.