четверг, 13 сентября 2012 г.

Sandy's Account

By Sandy Wade

On March 28, 2002, I was celebrating my 52nd birthday at Palm Beach Atlantic University with my co-workers. I felt a twinge, an itch on my left breast and moved my hand over the spot to feel a small lump. I had a history of cysts so it didn't concern me. My friend, Renae Murray, Controller of the University, learned of my discovery and insisted I go to the doctor right away. I resisted for a while but eventually acquiesced. One week later I heard, "You have cancer."
My friends at the university rallied around me in every way you can imagine with prayer, offers of help, and as I found out later, a checking account that Renae had started for donations to help me. It was simply called "Sandy's Account." People came out of the woodwork to offer all kinds of support; across campus people I had never worked with offered me their unused sick days, transportation, offers to cook meals, clean house, you name it -- no stone was left unturned. It was overwhelming.

One Sunday I told my pastor that I never knew how much I was truly loved until the day I was diagnosed with cancer. I had never known such love or generosity. I was born into a family of eight, a slightly dysfunctional family where love and affection were never expressed -- only arguments and fighting.

At the time of my diagnosis, I was living with a friend, Shirley, who was an Endodontist Assistant (a root canal dental specialist). At the age of 72, her boss decided to semi-retire, ending Shirley's 38-year career with him. At this time, I was sick and unable to work. Shirley spent the next few years taking care of me. My diagnosis was grim (Stage 4 inflammatory breast cancer) and treatments were brutal. My oncologist worked full throttle to save my life with extremely aggressive treatments. I was totally incapacitated, unable to do much of anything for myself. Shirley took over. It was almost miraculous how she knew exactly what to do when I needed help.

For years, she drove me to every doctor's appointment, every chemotherapy and radiation therapy, staying with me the whole time. She was my nurse, taking care of my medications, meals, and first aid, from helping with the vomiting to soothing the severe radiation burns. She was a friend and caretaker doing whatever needed to be done. Most of all she prayed for me.

I didn't learn until years later that Shirley would go to her room crying because she felt so sorry for what I was going through. She told me she prayed to God for help. Shirley is a powerful prayer warrior. Her church, her family and her job were her life. Shirley has always sacrificed her own personal desires for family. Shirley was and is a product of a loving and affectionate family. When I first met her parents, sister and relatives, I couldn't believe they were for real. I thought they must have been putting on their best behavior for my benefit.

Shirley called Gail, one of my best friends who had years before retired and bought her dream home in the mountains of North Carolina, to notify her of my diagnosis. Shortly thereafter, Gail moved home to help take care of me. She gave up her beloved mountains and her dog in order to move back home to help care for me. This was a huge sacrifice for Gail. Eventually, as Shirley began working again, Gail was there. If it weren't so serious a situation, it would have been hilarious. Shirley and Gail are about as opposite as two people can be. It was almost like living with the odd couple. Cancer is horrible and I wouldn't wish it on anyone, but because of this devastating disease, three friendships were galvanized. My two best friends sacrificed everything to be there and take care of me. I had never known such love and generosity. I had never known friendship like this.

Gail and Shirley are now best friends. They are my best friends, but more than that, they have become family. Life with them has made the last ten years bearable and miraculous. No one has to be diagnosed with cancer in order to have such experiences, but to have these experiences when you have been afflicted with cancer is indeed a blessing. My experience with my co-workers at Palm Beach Atlantic University was huge and my experience with Shirley and Gail eclipsed anything I'd ever known about friendship.

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