LITTLETON - In her classroom, students see a sweet, patient and dedicated teacher. Her husband, friends, colleagues and the parents of her students see Jewely Del Duca as a courageous, determined and strong woman.
Jewely will not denied when it comes to her life and her family. Just over four-and-a-half years ago, Jewely was told she had stage 4 colon cancer. Her prognosis was not good.
Jewely was not deterred. She underwent surgery and chemotherapy treatments and managed to teach her students as Normandy Elementary School every day.
The advanced stage of her cancer was one reason why her doctor suggested additional treatment - a form of chemotherapy that was being used in clinical trials. Jewely's insurance company refused to cover the treatment. Jewely and her oncologist continued to push for coverage through the appeals process. While they failed in those efforts, Jewely's news story captured national attention. Soon after, the insurance company reversed its decision.
Jewely got the treatment and is cancer free today. This is where the next challenge begins for Jewely - the fight for her children. Unable to give birth, Jewely and her husband Derek made the decision to adopt. Unfortunately, dozens of adoption agencies in the U.S. denied their request because of Jewely's health history.
Jewely and Derek had been to Haiti before the earthquake and tsunami and felt a connection to the area. An orphanage in Haiti accepted their request and agreed to allow them to adopt two boys Diego and Mateo. While the boys have no biological connection, the Del Ducas will raise them as brothers.
In the summer of 2012, Derek and Jewely traveled to Haiti to meet their boys.
"It was like the boys had been with us since the very beginning. There were no attachment issues. I know that seems so weird, but they just, they laughed right away. They held on to us right away," Jewely said.
Near the end of their visit, Jewely decided to extend her stay by offering to teach school near the orphanage. The school staff was elated. While the school has supplies, the teachers are untrained. It was a humbling experience for Jewely.
"They called me Miss Jewely," Jewely said. "They would say 'Miss Jewely, when are you leaving?'"
Missionaries, relief workers and adoptive parents come often, but can only stay for awhile.
After five weeks in Haiti, Jewely also had to leave and return home to Colorado. The adoption process is complicated and riddled by paperwork that requires cooperation between the Haitian government and the orphanage. The Del Ducas have been promised the adoption will happen but still they wait. Every month, they pay the orphanage to care for Diego and Mateo, and they pray their boys will be home soon.
Jewely believes her family will be together someday, even though no one seems to know when. She remains faithful, in part because of her cancer experience a few years ago.
"Miracles have had to happen to get us here," Jewely said. "There's no way this isn't supposed to happen. Those kids have no one to fight for them ... in the most critical time in their life, and they have parents who love them."
(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)