UPDATE: August 15, 2014:

Kandy Gilstrap's family tells us, "She came through surgery great.  The first test of lymph nodes were negative, and she will have final results next week.  She is coming home
.  She is in great spirits and looks great."

 AUGUST 13, 2014:  Rock Spring Elementary principal Kandy Gilstrap has completed her 18-week course of chemotherapy, and was smiling as she guided students into school on opening day.  She will undergo surgery on Thursday, and during her recuperation period, assistant principal Melissa Lemons and Kevin Richardson of Walker County Schools will be in charge.  Mrs. Gilstrap will continue chemo treatments every three weeks through May 2015. 

She has a very optimistic outlook, and said she was thrilled to be able to be present on opening day. 

MAY 16, 2014: There's a lot of love at Rock Spring Elementary, in Walker County.  It all centers around principal Kandy Gilstrap. During a self-exam in March, she discovered a lump on her breast. 

An ultrasound revealed another, and her cancer treatments began.  When she first told her students about her breast cancer diagnosis, she was honest about what she, and they could expect.  She would lose her hair, and she might not have the energy to which they had become accustomed.

The students' response was immediate and energetic. Calling themselves "Gilstrap's Guardians," they went right to work, showing their support and their ability to make a difference. They designed special bracelets to sell for cancer research, working overtime to meet the demand. In just a few hours, they raised more than five hundred dollars.

Kandy Gilstrap is midway through 18 weeks of chemo treatments. She says her kids, all 452 of them, keep her energy level up, even on the not-so-good days. She knows, not every cancer patient has such a strong support team, and she's thankful to be a "Rock Spring Rocket," where the school motto, is "Rock Spring and Beyond."

She urges all women to get a mammogram, and to self-test for breast cancer. She also is thankful for the Rock Spring Athletic Association, where she helps coach her children's teams. She says coaches and players, as well as her school staff and students are helping her face a difficult journey, which will include two more months of chemo, surgery in July, and an additional eight months of chemo. "I'm getting through it day by day, with the help of God above," she said.