There are the forty-somethings, Karen and Kirstin. Karen, diagnosed last year with ALS, is facing the physical deterioration which accompanies her condition in a way that leaves me awe-struck. Her spirit is unflagging, even through the tough times, even as she knows more tough times lie ahead, even as she knows that her precious daughter will grow up without a mom. Today counts for Karen. And Kirstin- known to me only via email and our shared participation in “World in Prayer”, has been dealing with cancer- tenacious, ever-spreading cancer- for the past three years, following every path recommended to her by the considerably skilled medical community in southern California but now has made the decision- with the support of her partner, Andee- to refrain from any further treatment. The courage and grace with which she is facing her death are truly inspiring (check out her blog- barefootandlaughing.blogspot.com)
Then there are the sixty-somethings, Dee and Bridgid. Dee, looking the return of breast cancer squarely in the eye, has chosen to use both allopathic and alternative therapies in her search for healing. And she is planning to go forward with a long-planned trip to Chartres, France, in another week. Her spirit is truly indomitable. Bridgid, recently diagnosed with uterine cancer, has had surgery and has just begun chemotherapy. With her gentle, loving spirit (she is a Sister of Mercy, a therapist, and co-founder of Well of Mercy retreat center), she is dwelling in the cloud of prayers which are uplifting her every step of the way and looking at what lies ahead with a peace-filled heart.
And there are the seventy-somethings, Judy and Bobbie. A long-time friend, Judy has been dealing with uterine cancer for nearly four years. For a time, she had virtually no voice due to a metastatic tumor affecting her larynx, but that, too, has receded with treatment and when I saw her in May, she was looking and feeling healthy and had recently been told by her oncologist that there was no sign of further cancer growth. A year ago, Cousin Bobbie met her diagnosis of advanced breast cancer with aplomb, opting to pursue some allopathic treatment but accompanying it with active, full participation in alternative therapies, including macrobiotic diet, Chinese herbs, acupuncture, yoga, and meditation. And this winter she went skiing with her grandchildren!
The common denominator with all six of these remarkable women- in addition to their indomitable spirits- is, I think, their faith…in the power of prayer, in themselves, in the treatment paths they have chosen, in their Higher Power. And they remind me to take myself and my own problems lightly…to rejoice and relish each day…to give thanks for days of good health and to breathe through days marked by some pain or difficulty.
So to each and all of them- Karen, Kirstin, Dee, Bridgid, Judy, and Bobbie- I say a sincere THANK YOU…for all you are, for the many ways in which you are enriching my life by your incredible example, by the ways in which you are showing me and all who know you- over and over again- how to fully live.