By Barb Arland-Fye
“Shortly before our mini family reunion in Door County, Wis., my sister-in-law Carleen’s mother died unexpectedly. Carleen chose to participate in the family reunion despite her grief, and I was grateful for her presence.
She photographed my brother and their two children racing through lavender fields on Washington Island and got a kick out of seeing goats grazing on the sod rooftop of Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay. We enjoyed shopping, sightseeing and conversation.
On the final, chilly morning, our family huddled inside an open porch of a busy restaurant in Fish Creek, shivering, but enjoying each other’s company along with the pancakes and eggs. As we got up to leave and head our separate ways home, I took a favorite pin out of my purse and handed it to Carleen. A cute little chick appears on the pin printed with the words “One tough chick.” I received the pin as a gift from my friend Jennifer three years ago after undergoing surgery to repair my broken leg. It enhanced my determination to regain full mobility. Sharing the pin was my way of expressing appreciation for Carleen’s courage.
Memories of the “One tough chick” pin resurfaced recently when my oncologist determined that I have stage 3 follicular lymphoma. Fortunately, he is not recommending treatment at this time because the cancer is slow-growing. We’ll monitor the disease with blood tests and follow-up visits. One hitch: follicular lymphoma can transform from slow-growing to aggressive. Then it has to be treated with chemo or radiation, for example.
As my mom has said repeatedly, God is looking out for me. My job is to trust God’s will for me. Easier said than done; I’m a take charge person who strives to stay the course.
The prayers, cards and good wishes of many people provide strength for the journey. Some of them have survived courageous battles with cancer and other illness; their stories inspire me and reinforce that sense of hope. My close friend Marcia, a cancer survivor who lost her husband in a train accident, reminds me that no one is guaranteed another day on earth. That doesn’t mean we give up living life fully each day that we are blessed with.
My friend Jennifer, a parish nurse with a whole lot of compassion, stopped by the house the other day with a care package of cancer resources, rubber wrist bands with positive messages and another pin. “I couldn’t find another ‘One tough chick’ pin,” she told me. “But I have this one for you.” It reads “the Nurse’s Favorite.” The sense of humor that phrase conveys keeps me smiling! Humor is just one aspect of spiritual therapy for me. The other components are prayers, Scripture and the Mass.
Each one of us on this earth has crosses to bear. I truly believe that our Lord provides a willing “Simon” or a guardian angel to help lift the weight. The “One tough chick” pin provided a fun, sassy reinforcement for me, and hopefully for Carleen. I’m depending on my faith in God to live it out.
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)