Take your “policy” and shove it; Fish will walk!

The story of Austin Fisher is making the rounds, and I’m determined to do my part to keep it going. It’s especially appropriate today of all days, as it’s my sweet mama’s birthday. There’s nothing I’d rather be doing than wrapping a gift and making a coconut cream pie for her. Happy Birthday, Mom. I sure do miss you.

This boy, Austin Fisher, deserves a medal, a college scholarship, a witty & beautiful prom date, and a hot fudge sundae. Maybe more.

He certainly deserves to walk across the stage in Carrollton, Ohio, next month with the rest of his senior class and receive his hard-earned diploma.


Austin’s mama, Teri, has metastatic breast cancer, which she’s been fighting for 7 years. That’s almost half of Austin’s life. Her one goal in her cancer battle was to survive long enough to see her son graduate high school. That goal was nearly compromised by a stupid policy and a dogmatic bureaucracy. Carrollton High School principals told the varsity baseball player that he could neither walk at commencement nor attend the senior class trip nor go to the prom.

What’s up? Bad grades? Unruly behavior? Smoking in the boys’ room?

Nope. Austin wasn’t going to walk or go on the trip or go to prom because he had 16 unexcused absences from school. Before this school year, Austin had perfect attendance.

Why was he absent? Not because he was cutting class or ditching school. He was caring for his mom while she was being pummeled by breast cancer. Teri Fisher says that her son is “her hero, her rock” and that with no adult male in the household, the role of caregiver was valiantly taken on by Austin. He willingly sacrificed to care for her, saying that school took a backseat to doing the day-in-day-out, hard work of primary caregiver.  “You never know how much time you have left and that was one of her big [goals]–to see me walk and get my diploma and go off to college,” Austin says.  “I wouldn’t change it, everything I did. Family first.”

Family first.

I’m blown away by the depth of character of this young man. What a stellar example of priorities, commitment, and loyalty. We could all take note.

Austin’s aunt wrote a letter to the local newspaper once the story broke, to shed a little more personal light on the Fishers’s situation:

“A single mom juggling medical bills with the usual expenses of living, fighting a foreclosure, working her job, traveling to Canton for chemotherapy — no easy task. Throughout all of this, Austin continued to attend school as he could while caring for her, working two jobs, and participating in varsity sports.”

When Austin learned in January that he would not be able to participate in the much-anticipated rites of seniors such as commencement and prom, he and his mom went straight to see Principal Dave Davis but was told that “rules are rules” and “it’s policy” to deny these things based on the number of unexcused absences.

Thanks to the power of the people and the sweeping reform accomplished by social media, Superintendent Palmer Fogler reversed the decision yesterday, and Austin will get to walk, and Teri will achieve her goal of seeing her boy graduate.

Hallelujah! Rock on, people!

The Facebook group “Let Fish Walk” played a part in the reversal, I would think. The group grew quickly, from a respectable 10,000 yesterday to some 32,000 members and counting today. A petition through change.org also helped, with some 100,000 signatures. FYI, the population of Carrollton is 3,211.


I’m thrilled for Teri and Austin. Kudos to the Carrollton school board for making the right decision, and to the world at large for being decent and giving a hoot about one family’s plight. Cancer sucks. It devastates families and wreaks untold havoc. But once in a while, something good and heartwarming comes from the vicious disease that steals so much from so many. Today that something is Austin Fisher and his mama Teri. As I remember my own sweet mama today, I’m crushed by her absence in my life and the fact that yet another birthday of hers comes and goes without her. She would have been 74 years old today. I wonder how much she would have changed had she been here the last 7 years: would she have finally stopped dying her hair blonde and let it go white, as she spoke of wanting to do? Would she be a little hunched-over and frail, or still the busybody, energetic dynamo we all knew and loved? One thing is for sure: she would be spoiling my children and fussing at me to leave them be, let them play, give them more treats. Another thing is for sure: the hole in my heart that will forever remain because of cancer.  I do hope that Austin Fisher never has such a hole in his heart.






15 Comments on “Take your “policy” and shove it; Fish will walk!”

  1. Eddie says:

    I’m glad to here the school district did not hide behind regulations to avoid doing the right thing. Cancer does suck, but you are right about it sometimes leading to good things. Adversity reveals character, and in this case cancer revealed Austin’s to be of high quality. Thanks for lending the Belly to the cause, you are part of that people power.

  2. elizabeth connolly says:

    i am so glad it worked out for Austin and his Mom. People really do have power we just get so tied up in our own lives that we tend to forget that we can right some wrongs and this story reminds us of that. And the “press”, whatever form it takes now a days, can help us make that difference . thanks for an uplifting story in the midst of all the pain cancer brings.

  3. mmr says:

    Thanks for the update! My teenage son and I signed the petition yesterday. My son was being homeschooled last year for the fall semester because we were traveling. Then the cancer hit and no more traveling. I wanted him to go back to school for spring semester but he was too worried about my surgery, which was scheduled for the very beginning of the semester. It was a blessing in disguise: he helped me a LOT during the weeks afterward, when walking ten feet to the bathroom could make me pass out (blood counts still too low), and I couldn’t drive or open heavy car doors for weeks. He just could not bring himself to give me the shots in my legs, but he stripped and emptied drains like a great nurse. I doubt he’ll ever know how much it made me love him, and has helped get through tough teen times afterward.

  4. hjelmstd says:

    Thanks for sharing this poignant story. And let’s celebrate sons who step up to the plate. I have three like that.

  5. Oh, Nancy, this is unbelievable. The power of the pressure of Facebook is simply amazing. My heart hurts for this brave, compassionate son and his mom. I’m glad you chose today to devote your post to this story. xxx

  6. Christy says:

    There is an exception to every rule. So glad this school district decided to do what’s right!

  7. Heather says:

    WOW!! Just found this while on google. Unbelievable how cruel people can be. I went through a somewhat similar situation with my mother while I was in high school. Missed many days due to taking care of her (she had brain cancer). Teachers were very cruel to me and not understanding at all. I ended up having to drop out to take care of her and work. Did go on to get my GED and have had many management positions. I lost my mother in 1985, but she was my inspiration to make something of my life!!!! I MISS HER EVERYDAY!!!. Hat’s off to such a fine young man:) His mother should be very proud!!!!

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