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JCSS Shows Support for GSES' Coach Backer

HOSCHTON — The Jackson County School System rallied behind one of its own this past week. The system supported Gum Springs Elementary School's Heather Backer, a physical education teacher who is currently fighting breast cancer for the second time in her life.

Backer has taught at GSES since it opened in 2008.

"The support from this community is absolutely amazing and overwhelming at the same time," Backer said. "My Gum Springs family definitely likes to help take care of their own. Honestly, I don't like to let people see me vulnerable, so I was nervous about how I would react to everything Saturday. I definitely was keeping myself together. Everything went smoothly. So many people! So much love! I am truly blessed."

Backer's reference to Saturday was in regards to the Bookin' It For Backer 5K, which saw over 400 runners bracing sub-freezing wind chill temperatures to run in her honor. The 5K was the culmination of a week-long support for Backer. The week also featured a blood drive in her honor at Gum Springs on Thursday and a Pink Out throughout all JCSS schools on Friday. 

Backer has taught inside the system for 24 years. She started her career at Benton Elementary in 1999 before transferring to West Jackson Intermediate School. She stayed at WJIS for six years before joining GSES for its opening in 2008. 

Backer was diagnosed with breast cancer (BRCA2 Estrogen+) in 2015. She underwent 16 rounds of chemotherapy before opting for a double mastectomy. She followed the operation with 33 days of radiation therapy. In January 2021, Backer was informed her cancer had returned to her right lung. She immediately began treatment, which stopped working sometime between May 2022 and September 2022, according to Backer. She now undergoes daily oral treatment and monthly bone injections. 

"I greatly appreciate the love and kindness from everyone in the community," Backer said. "So many have lifted up my children and I up in prayers and support. Jackson County is a great place to be."