OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - While most of the homecoming floats rolling by on Friday were decked out in St. Martin High school colors, the freshmen class decided to take a different path and decorated theirs entirely in pink in support of their principal Dina Holland.
Friday also marked the sixth homecoming celebration that Holland has seen as principal, it also signified another significant occasion – National Mammography Day.
And Holland knows all about how life-saving a mammogram can be after an early screening showed suspicious results in her left breast. While no cancer was fond, doctors found atypical hyperplasia, a condition that puts her at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
For a long time, Holland contemplated how she would react if she was given such devastating news.
"My first reaction would be, 'Just cut them off. I'm good,'" said Holland. "But when the doctors actually told me, that's not the reaction that I had at all."
Instead, Holland said that she was consumed with fear and worry. However, she finally came to terms with her diagnosis after consulting with two doctors and made the difficult decision to have a double mastectomy next month.
"I'm a take charge kind of person and I want to make sure that I'm around for these freshmen, that I'm around for my family, for my grandchildren," stated Holland. "I'm doing this because I don't want to get cancer. That scares me."
Helping to eliminate some of that anxiety, one class decided to decorate their float with the theme, "Hope for Holland."
"She helps us a lot, so we have to show our love to her," said St. Martin High freshman Katie To.
"We don't want her to go away with breast cancer," said freshman Alyssa Tondee. "We want to make sure she stays and fights in case she gets breast cancer."
Holland said she was really surprised by the students' thoughtfulness, especially since it was the ninth grade class.
"I'm really surprised because they're the students that I've had the least opportunity to get to know because of the fact that they're new on campus," Holland said through tear-filled eyes. "It's touched me beyond belief."
Her students, however, just want to cheer her on the same way she always cheers them on.
"We really want her to be here for us, and we want her to know we're going to be here for her," said Tondee.
Holland will have the double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery at the same time on November 17.
"The mammogram is saving my life because had I not gone in and taken care of it this time, I might have been looking at full blown cancer," said Holland.
"She's so nice and I hope she doesn't get it," said To. "So 'Hope for Holland' that she doesn't get breast cancer."