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SOUTHLAKE -- Mrs. Gilmore's students know more about the lungs than most third graders, and not because it's part of the curriculum.

"Who can get lung cancer?" she asks.

"Anybody," the class responds in unison.

Last year, at age 29, Cassie Gilmore was that "anybody." She was diagnosed with a rare and late-stage adenocarcinoma lung cancer that affects non-smokers.

"People have the wrong idea of what lung cancer looks like," Gilmore said. "They don't think of a 29-year-old teacher who teaches third grade. They think of an 80-year-old man or woman who smoked."

But her students and her school community made sure she wasn't going through it without support.

"I literally felt as if I was a rain cloud," one student said. "I wanted to go upstairs and run in my room when I found out my teacher was sick. And when I found out that we were raising money, I felt so good."

Last year, Gilmore's class and school, Old Union Elementary in Southlake, raised $13,000 for her medical bills.

This year, students are doing even more for lung cancer research. They have collected money in cans, sold lemonade and bracelets, and even held a raffle to pie the principal.

Together, Team Cassie has raised $36,000 for lung cancer research and the Free to Breathe race.

"Oh, it's almost heartbreaking," Gilmore said of seeing children empty their piggy banks for her cause. "It's one of those moments in your life when you're so happy, you want to cry."

Gilmore received three months of chemotherapy and had most of her left lung removed. Doctors are currently monitoring countless spots on her right lung.

And though she is currently healthy, she doesn't know what's in her future.

What she does know is she and her mighty third grade team have all learned the lasting lesson of fighting, friendship, and fundraising.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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