Monday, January 21, 2008

Honoring more courageous women...

The other day I began introducing you to the stories of women who've faced the battle with breast cancer with courage, dignity and strength. Their names were submitted to me as part of a contest on my website (www.sherrylwoods.com) which promises a $100 donation to the Susan G. Komen For the Cure Foundation each month in honor of a survivor or in memory of a loved one who has lost this difficult battle.

Before I share some more of these wonderful and inspirational anecdotes, I'd like to share one of my own. Shortly after my arrival in Miami more than 30 years ago, I went to work as a television critic for The Miami News. One of my dearest friends there, Marilyn Moore, was soon to be diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time she and her husband had five small children -- including TWO sets of twin boys. During her recuperation from surgery, I spent a lot of time in their home. I discovered that the kids would eat almost anything except my one attempt at moussaka. They didn't like the "meat," which in fact was eggplant.

At any rate, during those long months, only once did I ever hear Marilyn complain and even that was in the form of a joke...made on the day after she woke up from her mastectomy. From then on, through chemo and radiation, she was totally focused on living a long and full life. If she had any kind of scan, she believed with everything in her that the results would be okay.

And for many years, they were. Sadly, though, the cancer did return and this time she lost the battle, but she did it with such grace and dignity that I will never forget it. Until the very end, when she could no longer deny the inevitable, her outlook remained positive. In some ways, I think that made losing her all the harder, because the rest of us honestly believed that she would win the fight one more time.

So I add her name to the list of women nominated by so many of you during my contest. Here are just a few more of their stories.

Debbie writes of her cousin Mary, who lost her battle in 1982 and adds, "We've come so far since then."

Lee Anne nominated her youngest sister "who was in stage three breast cancer when she was diagnosed in July 2004. On December 15, 2007 I had the pleasure of watching Lou dance with her son, Joe, at his wedding. Survival is real, but we can never stop fighting for those who don't make it."

And Michelle, who was diagnosed herself at the age of 33 and who is now a survivor of 10 years, shares the story of her mother. "In May 2006 she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the same time we were preparing for a once-in-a-lifetime cruise together to The British Isles. It was a sad time for all the family. We canceled our cruise so she could receive the treatment she needed ASAP. She was graceful and courageous during her chemotherapy and radiation therapy in addition to all the complications that arose from her illness. Her only regret during that summer was her inability to have her annual "Joy-a-thon." For a week she has all 11 grandchildren at her house . . . And all the parents get a break for a week from the kids as well. She is a giving mother, best friends with her grandchildren and is an all-round wonderful woman."

A five year survivor tells of her own fight and her greatest fear. "My husband of 33 years helped me through surgery, chemo and radiation. He himself was trying to recover from a work injury that took his left foot. We worked together to help each other through the hard times. Two years ago on Labor Day weekend, he died...I worry about what I will do if I ever get it again and I am trying to do what I can to prevent it."

And to prove that friends can be there despite separation and the passage of time, Jane writes, "I would like to honor Margarita. She was my best friend when I was living in Arizona. Her daughter and my daughter were good friends. My youngest is named after her daughter. She has had to go through chemo twice now. She was ready to give up when her daughter came up pregnant and it gave her the will to go on. I faced my own scare this year and she was there to encourage me via email in my struggle while I waited on results."

If you're waiting for biopsy results or other medical test results, I wish you the kind of friendships that make the wait easier. And in a few days, I'll share more stories about other courageous women and the friends and family who want to honor them.

Sherryl Woods

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