ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Numerous University of Central Florida students and faculty were mourning Monday the loss of a professor they say changed their lives.

What You Need To Know

Joyce DeGennaro was a professor in the UCF College of Nursing, who used her battle with stage four breast cancer as a teaching tool.

For the past several years, she fought it, and taught through it all.

We introduced you to her during Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Several weeks after our interview with her, her students saw a red flag.

“She was absent from class one day," student Megan Donnelly said. "Whenever she was late or absent, we’d all get super worried.”

A couple days later, Joyce posted to Facebook that her cancer had returned, and spread.

Right after Thanksgiving, she went to the hospital and on Sunday Joyce DeGennaro died. She was 41.

Her students and fellow faculty were immediately devastated.

“The biggest loss really is those that will never be able to be taught by her," said UCF College of Nursing Clinical Coordinator Kate Dorminy. "Those of us who will have to continue on without her, because she played such a significant role.”

But, as Dorminy reflects on her close friendship with Joyce, she has the deepest admiration for her will to keep teaching while “charging on” through her treatment.

“To her, it was how she maintained her hope, I think, and maintained her positive spirit," said Dorminy.

“It’s amazing to see how many lives she touched in her time here. She leaves behind a legacy I would say of thousands." Donnelly said.

Donnelly says that legacy of teaching compassion is not just strong, it’s lasting.

"I think 10, 20, 40 years down the line … I think we’re all going to be keeping her in mind even then," she said. "I wish I could talk to her kids, because that’s what I think about the most. To just let them know, ‘Your mom changed the world.’”

Donnelly told us she and her fellow students plan to wear pink Wednesday, to honor Joyce's fight against breast cancer.