East Grand Rapids, Mich. (WZZM) - Linda Kehm has been in education for forty years, but never has she been more excited for the start of school.
"I am so ready, just so ready. It means everything to me," Kehm said Monday.
Tuesday, she was greeting students outside Lakeside Elementary where she has been the principal for the past 20 years.
Last fall, Kehm had planned to be away on medical leave for two weeks - a routine hysterectomy for the 60 year old. Her husband, Bill Rich, a retired principal from Thornapple Kellogg, planned to sub for her.
His temporary assignment lasted all year. Doctors discovered Kehm had stage three ovarian and cervical cancer. She underwent radiation and chemotherapy. Her hair fell out and she wondered if she would ever return to lead the Lakeside Lions.
"The year was not painful, other than the fact of separation from the kids at schoo,l" she told WZZM 13's Peter Ross.
Kehm thought it important she not wear a wig when she visited school last spring.
"The expression I used is, 'keep it real' and I realized that kids are gonna learn about diversity by seeing diverse people and that people can look differently, without hair and be able to wear it with pride."
Now, her hair is growing back; the kids call it "kitty hair" since it's so soft.
Kehm was eligible to retire, but wants to stay in school where she's feeling strong and with a new sense of purpose.
"I stop and smell the roses a bit more and I'll live like a turtle - always going forward never going back."