Wexler was a popular friend, teacher and sister, born and raised in Marietta, and described as “everything to everyone.”
Now, her close friends and family are spearheading a campaign to raise money for people facing the rare disease she was diagnosed with, uterine sarcoma.
Wexler met her best friend, Lauren Holtz, when the two attended Mabry Middle School more than a decade ago. The two went to Lassiter High School and the University of Georgia together, where they became sisters in the sorority Gamma Phi Beta.
Holtz said Wexler was energetic and able to bring humor to any and every situation she was in. It was a complete shock when Wexler went to the doctor complaining of stomach cramps last June and was diagnosed with cancer.
Doctors were surprised to find a tumor growing in one of her ovaries, and Wexler underwent surgery to remove it at the start of her summer break.
A beloved second-grade teacher at Mimosa Elementary school in Roswell, where she was named Teacher of the Year in February 2012, Wexler had been teaching at the school for six years when she took the fall semester off for medical leave.
She underwent six rounds of intense chemotherapy at Northside Hospital in Atlanta, which friends said would knock their energetic friend out of commission for weeks at a time.
Wexler received her, bachelors and master’s degrees in education at the University of Georgia, and began studying for a specialist teaching degree at Kennesaw State University during her chemotherapy treatment.
She would write papers and do her homework from her hospital bed, and refused to take a break from the work that friends said she loved so much.
Wexler’s parents were presented with her specialist degree diploma at her memorial service Monday night, Holtz said.
The former high school cheerleading captain is remembered for being happy, energetic and supportive of her students, family and friends.
After a round of chemo this summer, Wexler turned on the television, which was showing the Pixar movie “Finding Nemo.”
Wexler watched as the quirky character Dori sang the song “Just Keep Swimming” and adopted the song as her personal motto.
She began writing a blog, to share her progress and thoughts with her friends and family, as she was afraid her students and co-workers would unnecessarily worry about her disease.
The theme of the blog was “Just Keep Swimming,” and Wexler posted pictures of her last trips and gatherings with friends, including a November trip to Auburn to watch a football game.
A quote from a Nov. 23 entry of the blog reads:
“Hi everyone, this is Michelle. I wanted to update you on some things going on over here. This past Tuesday, I had my first chemo with one of the new drugs…I got sick as my mama and I were on our way home. I’ve been sleeping a lot recently!!”
Wexler is shown in pictures posing with a brown wig, and chronicles her energy, mood and trips to the doctors, recounting what it felt like to deal with her cancer treatment.
The final weeks of her cancer treatment were going smoothly, Holtz said. Most of the cancer had died, and Wexler was planning to return to Mimosa Elementary in February.
She was sitting with Wexler at her home last Tuesday, when Wexler complained of a headache. She had developed a tumor in her brain, which caused it to swell.
Wexler is remembered for her humor and positive attitude, and friends say they learned how to laugh and love themselves because of her influence.
“She was absolutely hilarious, super silly and comfortable in her own skin. She was never afraid to make a fool of herself,” Holtz said.
Hundreds of people showed up to a memorial service at Unity North Atlanta Church in Marietta Monday.
“Being with her meant you were laughing, no matter what,” remembered Stephanie Booker, a friend from college who flew back from Los Angeles for the service.
Friends sang, a former teacher from Lassiter spoke and a friend who works in production in New York City stayed awake for 72 hours straight to create a video memorializing Wexler’s life.
The Finding Nemo cast at the Animal Kingdom in Florida sent flowers, Holtz said.
Through donations from $5 to $1,000, Wexler’s family has raised more than $21,000 so far to support others who are going through similar situations, Holtz said.
The drive is chronicled on Wexler’s blog site, giveforward.com.
Wexler was born June 21,1985, and is survived by her parents, Wanda and Eddie Wexler of Marietta, and brother, David Wexler of Atlanta.