The first woman I want to honor is, interestingly, one of the most passionately private people I know. Therefore, I will limit my story to the basics of her fight - not her personal life. Laurie, my church's capable and always-smiling secretary (who easily does the work of at least three people), is a lady whom I have admired for years. Her family and mine have been very close for probably about 17 years. We joke that Laurie's sister and my dad are so similar that they must be long-lost twins. Laurie herself is a beautiful example of God's redeeming grace, having gone through a very difficult divorce many years ago. I think I would have handled things differently had I been in her situation (and by differently, I mean very, very poorly), but Laurie isn't the kind of person to raise her voice unless she is cheering someone on! I never saw her lose hope. I know her struggle was and is an internal one, and I don't presume to know what pressures she undergoes. But I do know that she is a woman who exudes grace and dignity even as the storms of life are crashing all around her.
She will probably blush, shake her head and laugh when she reads these things, but she needs to know how deeply to heart I have taken her example all these years. Although she certainly has a great sense of humor, what is most remarkable about Laurie is her quiet, gentle bearing. She is a physically lovely woman with an easy, infections laugh (I think it's one of my favorite sounds ever, and all the women in her family share it), but she doesn't like to draw attention to herself. She doesn't pretend things are okay when they are not, but she has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to drama. She is loyal. She is faithful. She is kind.
So when, several months ago, she shared with us - the members of Pastor Stephanie's small group - her diagnosis of breast cancer, we were stunned. Laurie was one of those people who loved exercise, ate well (in part due to some dietary restrictions), and took care of her body. How could this happen? I, in particular, don't think it registered in my mind as fact until many weeks later. Of course we prayed for her, but my heart housed some fear. We had just lost two beloved ushers in our church very unexpectedly - and then I lost my mother immediately after that. Another usher had a close call and landed in the hospital as well. Being so deeply involved in our church, these ushers, to us, weren't simply smiling faces who handed out bulletins and guided us to empty pews. Linda had been a friend who whore the same perfume as my mother, who lost her adult son within weeks of one of my miscarriages, who told me that her boy was already taking care of my babies in heaven because he loved children. Steve was our head usher, patriarch of a family that I consider pillars in our church community - his widow, Kay, is a leader on the ministry team; his daughter, Sue, is one of our worship leaders; his granddaughter, Sarah, is an active and vibrant part of the youth group. Brian, the usher who survived, is a newer member of the church with a big grin and goofy sense of humor. We all held our breath as news trickled down to us that he was improving and, eventually, released from the hospital.
Would our precious Laurie be the next victim in this bizarre series of tragedies? I admit, since my miscarriages, my relationship with God has sometimes been strained. I don't blame him for "taking" my children, but I keep returning to Him like a needy child, asking again and again that simple but weighty question - "Why?" I didn't know what to expect for Laurie. Of course we prayed for and with her, but I feel like my faith is remedial nowadays, plodding forward with itty-bitty baby steps, rather than great soaring leaps.
So I hoped.
Laurie believed for her healing, but - like most folks in our church - had no issues with turning to doctors for support and treatment. (Or general belief is that God has MANY ways to heal His children, and medical intervention IS, in fact, one of those ways. We believe in prayer combined with medical attention.) She underwent her radiation like a champ. She lost all her hair. She had to cut back on her hours at the church.
|Image from www.Miami.com|
Laurie is cancer-free!
Through the whole process, the only complaint I heard from her was that she was frequently tired - which was, of course, due to the chemotherapy. She did shyly mention, however, that her nurses told her they loved working with her because she was so full of joy. She wanted her experience there to represent her love for Jesus and share it with others.
I think that's pretty amazing.
The other two survivors I know have come into my life only recently. My direct supervisor at work, Mary, and the office manager, Karen, are both standing tall (relatively speaking, since they aren't much taller than me) after battles with breast cancer. Although I don't know much about their individual battles, I know that they are part of a much bigger network of support and love for victims of breast cancer. When I told Mary that my friend Laurie had been diagnosed, she asked about her regularly. Both women were quick to sign a get-well card I got for her, even though neither had ever met her. When I shared the news that Laurie was cancer-free, both ladies celebrated with me as if they'd just been given the same news for themselves.
What fascinates me about this awful disease - which strikes both healthy and less-than-healthy women...which attacks the very nature and identity of the female body...which causes women to struggle with their identities as women...which has no real cure...has also proven to motivate women to support each other with an unwavering and awesomely beautiful strength. The mildest, quietest women become outrageously fierce warriors when they wrap their arms around the newly-diagnosed, when they strap on pink sneakers to raise money, when they don pink shirts and march for the cure.
While I hate the disease, I love that, although it was meant to main, destroy, weaken and kill, it has instead raised up a veritable army of both women and men who have given each other the strength to raise their voices as once and roar, "I will overcome!"