Four Brave Ladies

We’re back from our vacation — over 1600 miles round-trip — miles that took us through some of the most scenic winding country roads and rolling mountain passes I have ever seen. We drove across Virginia, and through parts of South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee. We were on the outskirts of Nashville when our faithful Toyota Avalon ticked over 100,000 miles on the odometer.

The photos can’t capture the beauty, but I’ll share a few in this post. The one above was taken in North Carolina, near the Tryon International Equestrian Center.

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This week’s blog title, “Four Brave Ladies”, is a tender tribute to four women I’ve spent time with in the past five weeks, all who have recently been touched by cancer. I will not mention their names out of respect for their privacy. Their loved ones will recognize these stories.

K’s Story

My first tribute is for a friend I met at church  shortly after we moved to Virginia. She had a wonderful sense of humor, and I enjoyed getting to know her and her family. As our children grew, we shared many laughs and stories — particularly during our kid’s teen years. She and her husband were both music teachers and I was a band mom. That provided a long-lasting connection.

Her cancer diagnosis came in October of 2017. Just two years into her retirement she received the devastating diagnosis of Stage IV pancreatic cancer. It had metastasized to her lungs. There was no cure, only the hope of a miracle and more time.

She fought valiantly for the next 21 months — a miracle in itself for a pancreatic cancer patient — during which she met many milestones for trips and family gatherings. On July 6th she met another milestone, when she held her tiny newborn granddaughter for the first time. Can you even imagine the joy in her heart when their eyes met?

On Friday evening, I received a call telling me that my friend was welcomed into the arms of Jesus. The greatest milestone of all. May she rest in eternal peace.

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D’s Story

My second tribute is for a relatively new acquaintance. We’ve only met once or twice in the past, but our paths crossed again during our vacation. She is a breast cancer survivor. Her cancer was caught early. After diagnosis she had a mastectomy followed by a short course of chemotherapy. She was blessed with very few side effects. Her treatment is over, her spirits are high, and she is doing very well.

Throughout her cancer journey, she kept her eyes fixed on the Lord. We talked about our shared faith, our families, and our lives back home. It seemed like we had been friends for years! I was grateful that the Lord brought us together again as an encouragement to one another in our walks of faith.

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N’s Story

My third tribute is for a friend that we have known for over 30 years. Her family lived on a farm in Maine. They were neighbors and close friends of my parents, and were a huge source of comfort and support for my mom when my father died suddenly in 1986. Her children grew up and moved away, and she and her husband relocated their farm to North Carolina several years ago, shortly after my mother and brother moved to Virginia.

We haven’t been in touch very often since their move. I reached out several weeks ago to ask if we might visit during our upcoming vacation, and was shocked to learn that she was battling breast cancer. She received the diagnosis on her birthday last year. Even though she had just completed her chemotherapy and is beginning radiation treatment, she still wanted us to visit.

It was wonderful seeing our friends again. Although the  chemo left her weak and exhausted, she still enjoys her daily walks. We were given a full tour of their property, accompanied by her husband, their two granddaughters, three dogs, and a donkey. We were quite a sight to see! She is another brave fighter, and I expect she will regain her strength — and hair — very soon. I was so glad we were able to visit during our trip, and I will continue praying for her full recovery.

 

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M’s Story

Yes, I mentioned four tributes, didn’t I?

”M” stands for Mom. Last Friday, while still on vacation, I received word that my mom has been diagnosed with breast cancer. She has Paget’s Disease which accounts for between 1%-4% of all breast cancers diagnosed each year. It’s very rare, but treatable. That is, if you are 85 years old and in relatively good health. My mother has advanced Vascular Dementia and a pacemaker. She cannot have an MRI or a mammogram to see how far the cancer has progressed. The disease is clearly visible though, and presented itself as a nasty rash. My brother and I will meet with a breast surgeon next week to discuss our options. It will be a difficult visit. Your prayers are coveted.

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I’ve lived my entire life knowing only a handful of people who have been touched by cancer. Suddenly this disease is touching so many lives of people I love. It is hard to not feel a sense of helplessness or even dread, however, I have a Father who holds me safe and secure. I have confidence and the reassurance that He will uphold me through whatever trials are on the horizon.

“I consider that sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.” — Romans 8:18

Fathers and Others

It’s been an eventful weekend for me.

I spent the last three days caring for my brother as he recovers from surgery — or at least that was the plan. He ended up spending a bit longer in the hospital than expected, so my care-giving was redefined. While he was under the watchful eye of doctors and nurses, I cared for his home.

Cleaning House

My brother lives out in the country, about 40 miles away from us. So after I packed my bag, I did what any loving sister would do: I took a trip to Trader Joe’s! I bought some of our favorite snacks and some ingredients to prepare a few healthy meals for him. But when his hospital visit was extended, I decided to stay and enjoy this time alone as a bit of respite for myself.

Yesterday I cleaned his house from top to bottom, and even rearranged his living room to make better use of his space. (With his permission, of course.) In between vacuuming and dusting, I took frequent breaks to sit outside on the patio, swinging on the swing and listening to the birds. It was so peaceful!

In reality, my mind and body both benefitted from the cleaning. And the house looks pretty good too.

Stepping Into the Gap

We lost our father while we were both in our 20’s. It was a horrible blow, especially to Mom. But we clung together for support, and leaned on each other for strength over the years. My brother has been by our mother’s side for over 33 years, stepping in and taking care of what needed to be done. This was especially important when I moved to Virginia.

In so many ways, he took on my dad’s role. He helped with household repairs, financial decisions, and simple day-to-day tasks. And he never complained. Not once. And decades later, he packed up all their belongings and moved Mom closer to us so we could continue to support one another as her health declined.

While my brother is not a father himself, he became father-like in his role. I can never thank him enough. And if our mom had her memory back again, even for one brief moment, I know she would thank him too.

God blessed me with an earthly father, and I miss him so much today. But He also blessed me with a caring big brother to watch over our family when Dad was called home to heaven. Today I am grateful for both.

Happy Father’s Day!