I always knew that I was surrounded by great people. But what surprised me is how many great people surrounded me that I didn’t know! When tragedies happen or difficulties arise, it is such a blessing, but not surprising, when the people who love you rally behind you in a grand measure of support. That is what true friends do, and it’s amazing to witness. And, boy, has God blessed me with the most amazing friends and family, near and far. But it completely amazes me when people I’ve never met, or have just met casually, also show me that same support.
I’ve already told you about my Lakeway Fab 5, who daily amaze me with their sincere love and generosity. But it’s been such a blessing to see that same love come jetting across the miles from California, Rhode Island, Kansas City, Chicago, Virginia, Washington and beyond. You see, true friendship doesn’t end because your zip code changes.
From the first moments after my diagnosis I was overwhelmed by the show of support. Cards and gifts flooded my mailbox, each one a sincere expression of love and faith and hope (and even humor), from the depths of their hearts straight to the recesses of mine. Many of the cards were spiritually uplifting with beautiful scriptures that gave me strength. Others were just so funny that they brought joy to my newly burdened heart. There were cards from old friends, new friends, friends of friends, and some that I didn’t know, but now consider them friends even if we never meet.
That first week I received a huge Godiva chocolate gift basked from my dear friend Shelly. Sometimes chocolate is all you need to feel better (well, it’s all I need anyways). Shelly knew that was what I needed and that it would put a big smile on my face. Shelly is a true friend. That first week I also received two Willow Tree angels from my dear friend Terry. She sent me the Angel of Hope and the Angel of Healing. Terry got me started collecting them years ago after she gave me one as a gift. They just give me joy and each one is a reminder of the things and people that are important. Terry is my angel here on earth, miles away in Rhode Island, but close in my heart every day. I also received a wonderful devotional from Margot, too, that keeps me rooted daily in my faith.
But the kindness and generosity have continued to brighten my life. From my Aunt Claire sending me protein shakes and vitamins to keep me physically strong. To flowers from Jim and rose to bring me cheer. To a prayer shawl from the Lakeway Church. To lunches with Carrie or Kelly. To a ‘Faith’ bracelet from Chris and a ‘Courage’ bracelet from Heather. To inspirational books from Becky. To Ladybug chocolates from Torri. To a bear that sings and dances to 'I Feel Good' from Frank. To phone calls of support from Maggie, a cancer survivor, to let me know she is here to help me any way she can…I’ve met Maggie only once. I had a friend (Terry) run a half marathon in support of me and her son, Josh, did the Relay for Life in support of me this past Friday.
Will’s Aunt Mary sent me the prayer cards she used as Don (Will’s uncle) fought so bravely and successfully in his very difficult battle with cancer. I carry those with me to treatment every day. Will’s parents gave me a beautiful silver and amber cross to commemorate the faith I have to conquer this beast. My parents and brother have stepped up to help take care of the kids and dog (no small task) as we travel back and forth to Houston. But the most special gift I’ve received came from Will. It is a beautiful heart necklace with the word ‘Survivor’ inscribed so delicately on the front. When I opened the box, tears flooded my eyes and I got a lump in my throat that left me speechless. Survivor. I felt a moment of pause, not sure that I was worthy of wearing it yet alongside so many people who are truly survivors. I hadn’t even started treatment after all. Should I save it and put it on when they tell me once and for all I’m cured? But I decided that, yes, I am worthy. For every day I battle this disease, I am surviving. Not a day (or treatment) goes by that I don’t wear that necklace. I may not be cured YET, but there is no doubt I’m a SURVIVOR.
Sometimes the most ordinary things (food) can become an extraordinary gift. And sometimes the most unexpected people can become the greatest of angels. I had met Melinda a few times at Meghan’s volleyball games, but never had the opportunity for more than casual sporting chit chat. Meghan had been to their lake house with their daughter (and Meghan adores them both), but we just didn’t cross paths enough to form a bond, even though I could tell she was a special lady. She proved that to me when out of the blue she called, wanting to talk, to get to know me, to express her concern and offer help to my family. That first night we really talked, she drove over 15 miles to Austin (at 9:00pm) to buy us groceries for the weekend. She didn’t want me to worry about shopping for food when we came home on the weekend. She was so generous and chose such thoughtful items…healthy choices for me and some yummy options for the girls (OK, I might have had an Oreo or two). She is my grocery fairy!
Then, just this weekend, a friend from Community Bible Study said that they wanted to set up a care calendar for dinners on the weekends. So, Gina, Candice and Stacy got to work on that and already people (many from CBS) have stepped up to provide amazing dinners for the next several weeks. And, I must say, I think I’m going to have to up my cooking skills when this is all over to match the quality of meals we’ll be receiving over the next 5 weeks! Cooking school anyone???
But the generosity abounds, and my dentist, Charley, offered to make me fluoride trays to use. He knew that I would be needing those to protect my teeth. I will be losing at least one of my salivary glands, and my jaw bone will be brittle from radiation treatments, so oral hygiene becomes a new obsession for me (so now I actually do have to floss every day…). I will have to use these fluoride trays every day for the rest of my life. Charley drove downtown on a Saturday morning to make them for me, and even dropped them by my house later that day. He didn’t charge me a dime. Charley is my tooth fairy!
I was surprised when my girlfriend Katie told me that a fellow church member at Placentia Presbyterian Church offered to pay for her to come visit me while I was in treatment. Katie is my dearest friend from my church in California. We have been through many Bible studies together and we both shared the experience of reading the entire Bible cover to cover in 90 days. We have a special friendship, rooted in Christ. She will be coming in a few weeks, thanks to the heartfelt generosity of another friend.
But what I haven’t told you about are the gifts that came from complete strangers. I received healing crystals for a friend of a friend that I don’t even know. While I don’t believe in the power of crystals to heal (only God has that power), it was nonetheless a thoughtful gift from the heart of a special person. One of them is shaped like an angel, so I carry that one just as a reminder that somewhere out there is my guardian angel looking over me. I also received a prayer blanket with the colors of the rainbow and their biblical meaning to use during chemo. This came from a parishioner of a church that Shelly’s step mom goes to. Linda placed me on their prayer page and this complete stranger felt led to make this for me. But maybe, when it comes to the kingdom of God, there really are no strangers.
The point I’m trying to make, as if it isn’t already abundantly clear, is that people are good. This whole experience, while I wouldn’t have chosen it, has been such a blessing in so many ways (look for an entry on that later). It has shown me that God’s people are amazing and will do incredible things when called upon. It is both humbling and so special to be the recipient of such love.One of the greatest gifts though, isn’t the tangible, but the intangible prayers being said by so many on my behalf across the word. I have heard from so many people that I’ve been placed on a prayer page in churches I’ve never been to by people I’ve never met. Not to mention all those who have done the same that I do know. Christian hearts, praying to God for my healing, for His will to be done in my life, for my families comfort, for a miracle, for peace, for doctors wisdom and of course for strength. These prayers are the most important of all, because they are the one thing that keeps me strong. Each day I make it through this knowing God is protecting me and each prayer is an energy shot that keeps me going. So, thank you for all the wonderful gifts. Please continue that special gift of prayer for me and my family and my friends who are also burdened by this. And, maybe, if there is one of you reading this who doesn’t pray, I ask that you take the time to seek the Lord. I couldn’t make it through this without Him. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13