A Real Lady Knows How to Finish a Fight!
I hope you enjoyed this month’s posts honoring those who have fought the battle against Breast Cancer! These have been but a few of the many brave and courageous women who have traveled that road.
This little sign and it’s BIG message are part of a group of signs that we have designed at RENDI to help raise funds to continue the fight against Breast Cancer. They are the perfect size (only 8.5″x4.5″) so they sit almost anywhere to cheer someone on in life! I think they are the perfect little gift for a girlfriend, daughter, mom, co-worker! Think birthdays, stocking stuffers (Christmas is less than 90 days away!), little gifts to encourage
Thanks to all of you who have visited this month and those who have helped us already in joining in on the fight against Breast Cancer! If you haven’t had the chance, there is still time! I hope you’ll join in with us!
Week 4: Meet Katie Dorn and Ginny Kelley: Two Brave Sisters
This is an amazing story of how love can triumph over cancer! When I decided to dedicate this month’s blog entries to Breast Cancer Awareness, I knew that I would need to ask my long time, dear friend Katie Kelley Dorn to tell the amazing story of her sister, Ginny’s battle with breast cancer. The Kelley family is an amazing family that has a HUGE heart for loving people- I know, I am one that has been a recipient of that gift!
Katie and Dave are two amazing individuals who have graciously and selflessly raised a wonderful family of 6 girls and 1 boy (God Love Ya, Charlie! Gin owes you!
My sister Ginny was my best friend. My life line. She defined Carpe Diem before it was a fad – living in the moment, making everyday a party – she lived large , laughed often and loved hugely. Gin had the knack of making you feel like you were just the person that she wanted to see…never hurrying conversations and relishing in the details of your story. She was first in line to help a friend in need. But in Nov 2000, Gin found herself having to be the one to so graciously and humbly accepting help instead of giving it when her breast cancer, five years in remission, returned with a vengeance, metasized to her liver, lungs and bones.
The doctors gave her three months to live.
Gin was a single mother of 3 adopted girls – Rosie, Lily and Josie- who at the time of her cancer recurrence were just 3, 6 and 8. They were confused why their mom could no longer drive them to school or come to their class parties or climb the stairs to tuck them in at night. Confused why a hospital bed was suddenly in the middle of their playroom and why there was a constant stream of helpers in and out of their house. Frankly it confused all of us. Why this amazing, single mother of 3 adopted girls? It seemed like some big cosmic mistake. The girls had already lost their birth countries and birth mothers… and had been lucky enough to be adopted by Gin. And now, they would lose the only mom they ever knew.
GRACE IN THE JOURNEY – LESSONS LEARNED
With cancer, we never do figure out the answer to the many whys.. .. but we often find the grace to learn important lessons along the cancer journey. My sister’s journey taught me many lessons, the biggest being that every moment matters …so we better make each one count. I want to give you a glimpse into the infamous, one of a kind, larger than life Ginny Kelley by sharing a couple of the online journal entries that she so generously shared online– that touched many during her cancer journey…
From Ginny – 1995 – Diagnosed the first time.
Rosie was 3, Lily was 1. She wrote this as she was staring in the mirror looking at her self-described Frankenstein scar from the mastectomy, grayish skin tone, face fat from steroids –and bald – much like Uncle Fester. And she writes..
I’ve come to realize that when we are stripped of all our outside ornaments, — much like the breathtaking splendor of a rapturous maple tree in September, its full and vibrant branches engaging us like a good book, and then watch the chill of the late fall strip it bare — we are left with our core, the root of who we really are … our spirit … our soul … our strength. And it is a freeing experience which I find hard to describe in words. I knew, as I looked in the mirror that day, standing tall just like the bare maple tree that made it through the harsh winter, that I am honoring the difficult … I am at peace … and I am filled with hope for the future.
And she did have hope and put the cancer behind her for 5 years, adopting her 3rd child Josie with hope and living in each moment, undaunted in the face of cancer and making each day count. Until November 2000.
Her cancer returned with a vengeance. She wrote the entry below three weeks after her recurrence…an outpouring of people she had touched had lifted her up and she shares her gratitude in the midst of a terminal diagnosis…
It’s amazing how 10, 20, 30 years can go by and you’re just caught up
in the living of your daily life.. the big things and the little
things that seem so important and urgent… and then something like cancer comes a knocking.. this time for the second time. This time the doctors say terminal. This time it bowls you over and knocks you out. And suddenly, all the people who have weaved their way in and out of your life come back and they are the ones that lift you up. And all of those things that kept you so busy before just don’t seem important. It’s the people that matter. That’s it.. the bottom line. And I got news for all these medical people out there, there is no greater healer than being touched and healed by the human spirit. And even though the cancer stinks, I’ve never been more full of grace and thanks. For I know that I’m not on this journey alone. I’m on it with each of you. Gathering around me and lifting me up. I am one lucky ol gal…. and it sure is a wonderful life.
She did fight hard for 3 ½ years in the name of motherhood. In the name of her girls. She lived large and big and squeezed every moment out of life with her girls. She inspired us all as even in the midst of her physical and emotional pain, she woke up each and every morning with a joyful heart, nary a complaint, just grateful for another day with her children, her family and friends. Even as death was approaching she was truly joyful and more grateful and thankful for her blessings than ever.
HONORING HER MEMORY EVERYDAY
Gin did eventually lose her battle to cancer – February 7, 2004.
The way she lived and the way she died with such grace and strength was an example to us all. And Gin’s spirit does live on inside of each of her three girls and in all of us. The girls do miss her and feel her presence every day. I miss her too. We all do.
My husband Dave and I have the privilege of raising her 3 girls as our own along with our 4 other children as part of our big crazy family. And the girls continuing to blossom even though she is gone… and Gin continues to inspire each of us all to make the moments count — to live large, laugh often and love huge.
Gin did live each day. Each and every day. If she had more days she would have lived them large. So we try to do the same in her memory. I hope by sharing her story you will too.
God love Ya! We miss you everyday Gin!
SOUL FOOD: Where There Is Love…
Isn’t it a great feeling when you get a “Like” on Facebook? (Go ahead, admit it!) Isn’t it wonderful when someone tells you that you look particularly pretty in the outfit that just had you in a fashion crisis? Isn’t it sweet when you get your haircut and the first person you see exclaims that you look like you have lost 10 lbs? Isn’t it priceless when someone you love looks you in the eye and says, “I love you.”?
I think we can all agree that when we get a little love it does something pretty powerful! It makes you want to buy five different colors of those outfits and freeze frame your cute haircut, doesn’t it?!
But the truth is a little bit of LOVE changes the way we see our day. It gives us a little extra space to take a deep breath. It lights the sparkle in our eyes. It nourishes us way deep down inside and makes it safe to live life from a big and gracious place!
A little love has GREAT power, do ya feel me? Maybe, just maybe, you know someone who could use a little extra love today? Love comes in a simple smile, a warm hello, an opened door, an extra long hug, a quick email… it’s really pretty simple, isn’t it?
Come back on Thursday to meet Katie Dorn and hear the story of her sister Ginny’s valiant fight with Breast Cancer. You will be inspired by the miracles of love in this amazing family!
I hope SOUL FOOD card is just a little reminder of a BIG truth- LOVE IS POWERFUL! Go ahead- spread a little love!
What is faith?
I hope that yesterday’s post about Liz Stower inspired you as much as it inspired me!
I think this third sign in our Powerfully Pink Series at Rendi embodies the amazing faith of Liz, don’t you?
Have a great weekend!
Week 3: Meet Liz Stower, 24 Year Old Breast Cancer Survivor
Cancer has been a part of my life since I was 10. It was then that my mom, Marilyn, was diagnosed with advanced, stage 4 ovarian cancer. Despite given 18 months to live, my mom fought long and hard for 11 years. Throughout that time, cancer and treatments became the norm in our family. I grew up assuming that trips to the hospital and experimental treatments were a part of every child’s upbringing.
Cancer morphed into a truly life-changing event when my mom lost her battle on January 29th, 2008. Until that point, I had been able to coast along in part because Marilyn never allowed the illness to define her. She was a fighter and refused to let a diagnosis snuff out her vitality for life.
I was 21 when she died. I could not fathom how I would begin the healing process. I attempted to find solace in knowing that she was at peace in Heaven. Shortly after her death, I had a dream that left a lasting impression. The dream focused on my hunt throughout my childhood home for my mom. After frantically searching, I found her in my parents’ room. She brushed aside my concerns about missing her and told me that I had to fight the good fight. I wrote in my journal at the time that the phrasing was strange and I couldn’t make sense of what fight I was to be fighting and why her message was relevant.
Six weeks later, I understood. I was sitting in the hospital after being informed that the lump I found in my chest was late stage 3 breast cancer. I had the fight for my life ahead of me and it was a fight I was going to win. I opted to attack the cancer with everything modern medicine could offer and three weeks after diagnosis, I had a bilateral, radical mastectomy. Over the next 6 months, I underwent aggressive chemo, 26 rounds of radiation, and reconstructive surgeries.
While the treatment was brutal, I know that I am one of the lucky ones. I had phenomenal doctors who genuinely cared for me, including my oncologist in Minneapolis who referred to himself as my Jewish Babcia. In between discussion of chemo options, test results, and side effects, we discussed my love life and my baby nephew. He infused our serious health discussions with humor and helped me to find the small joys in the midst of pain and illness.
My sister was my rock throughout treatment, going to doctor’s appointments and chemo sessions, forcing me to eat when I was feeling my worst, and encouraging me to get a summer job to propel me out of the house. Her husband graciously welcomed me into their home and took care of me when I was too sick to move from the couch. However, the best encouragement I received was from a little guy who could do nothing more than snuggle and smile at me. Days before my first surgery, my nephew, Adam was born. Regardless of test results, hair loss, or nausea, Adam still needed to be held, fed, and changed. On my worst days, a smile from him would make things ok. I realized that I was not only fighting for myself, I was fighting for my family and all of the future fun to be had watching Adam grow up.
The journey through chemo, radiation, and reconstruction would have been impossible without the love and support of my family and my community. I had impressive women as my mentors through the cancer adventure; women who had fought for decades to survive and never let the disease define them. Breast cancer did not and does not define who I am. If anything, the disease only reinforced my determination to persevere and live my life to the fullest.
My last chemo session was October 10, 2008. It seemed fitting that I closed that chapter during the month dedicated to raising awareness of breast cancer. Every year, I get to spend the month of October celebrating my survival and the survival of all of the beautiful survivors out there. Each survivor is a living testament to the love, hope, and perseverance that lingers in each of us. The pain of treatment does not even begin to compare with the joy of life and the bright future ahead.
My mom taught me that there is always hope in the face of adversity and a cancer diagnosis is manageable with faith and hope. Romans 5:3-5 perfectly embodies the mixture of faith and hope that enabled me to find purpose in a diagnosis of cancer.
“… we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
God’s peace and love to you as we celebrate survivors and raise awareness during the month of October!
PS…A Bit More about Remarkable Liz!
Liz currently lives in Washington, DC and works as a scheduler for a Congressman from Wisconsin. She is in graduate school working on a master’s in Global Medical Policy and hopes to get abroad working in a public health initiative for an NGO. She plans on being in DC for the next three years. To get out in the community a bit, she volunteers with a great organization called Pink Jams! to raise awareness of breast cancer in women under 40.
SOUL FOOD: The Best Thing To Hold On To
This third Monday morning of October and you may have noticed that SOUL FOOD has taken on a lovely pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness.
I hope that if you know someone who is currently battling Breast Cancer you’ll share SOUL FOOD cards with them. Remember, they are designed to be easily printed on 4×6 photo paper or they can also be emailed along with your own personal note!
We can all use a little gift of love or a great little reminder of the really important things that make all of our lives so rich- faith, family, love, friendship, courage, hope! Print them and put them on your bulletin board, your mirror, your fridge-wherever they will encourage and cheer you on during your busy days!
Be sure to come back on Thursday to meet Liz Stower! A remarkable young woman who beat Breast Cancer at the tender age of 21. I know her story will inspire you!
Week 2: Meet Dr. Amy Wilson, Breast Cancer Survivor
Don’t you love it when you meet an extraordinary woman? One who amazes you with her ability to take on whatever life brings her? Well that is Amy Wilson! Not only has she beautifully straightened all three of our kids’ teeth- she has continued to smile her million dollar smile through some pretty tough personal seasons in the last few years!
When you live and work in a small town, sometimes you are forced to live your life out loud. Things that you may prefer to have more personal or quiet get pulled into the harsh light of day and you get to experience it with a whole living room full of people. Such has been my experience with breast cancer.
In late December ’09 I was diagnosed with stage 2 invasive ductile carcinoma with lymph node involvement. It was recommended that I have a bilateral mastectomy and subsequent reconstruction along with chemotherapy.
I quickly found out that having to live life out loud in a small town was a pretty good thing. You find out how much support and love there is. I would be remiss if I did not say a HUGE thank you to my family, friends and staff who took such good care of me!
I learned that over 600,000 women are diagnosed annually and only 30% seek reconstruction! I can tell you that based on what I was seeing on the Internet- all of the less than favorable results helped me understand why! HOWEVER
Saying Goodbye to Fear & Hello to Courage!
Yesterday, I shared a bit about when my Mom was diagnosed with Breast Cancer and how fear hit me right in the gut. That is why I love this Eleanor Roosevelt quote!
It is so true about anything that might prevent us from fully living at any given moment. I have never believed that courage is the absence of fear but that it is really about pushing through fear, calling it what it is and not allowing it to paralyze you.
16 years ago my Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember it so distinctly. I had three small kiddos, ages 1, 3 and 5. Me, the CEO and our young family were living next door to her and my Dad on their ranch. It was pretty idyllic until we learned that she had breast cancer and would need to undergo surgery and then…?
As her daughter, I was terrified. Terrified of all that might be ahead for her. Terrified that she wouldn’t be able to see my little family grow up. Terrified I wouldn’t have her there to answer all those mother questions. Terrified that my Dad would be alone. Terrified. Simply terrified.
SOUL FOOD: You Are Not Alone!
I just love this week’s SOUL FOOD quote! I love how it reminds me that we were created to walk side by side with each other and offer our hand to each other when the road gets bumpy!
We actually have fingers that were created to fit perfectly in another’s hand! We were meant to journey together!
During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I am reminded of how often most of us will retreat when we are sick, struggling or hurting. I know that I sure have in the past. And yet, I am so grateful for those who have not allowed me to stay in that place and have extended that hand of TLC!
I hope that this great quote inspires you this week to lend a hand or to be willing reach for the one that is extended towards you