When I lost my grandfather last year, I could barely utter the word CANCER. It had taken two of my grandparents. My paternal grandmother, Rosie, and my maternal grandfather, affectionately known to the world as "Daddy". I was six years old when I was told to "sit and watch your grandmother." Yeah, I know, my folks would be locked up today. I would sit in a little chair and read to her until they would come back. I only knew she was sick and was in pain. One day, I saw the bandage on her chest and the open sore on what should have been a breast and I can recall that scene as if it was yesterday.
After I turned forty, I was given the news that Daddy had cancer. That was a blow to me. I was still recovering from Hurricane Alexis and now Daddy's cancer. I wondered had God already sentenced me to hell. I went home for a visit in October '06 and was shocked and dismayed at his health. I decided to stay and moved in with my grandparents until his death in January '07. Caring for my grandfather allowed me to share his last days with him. I never imagined returning to Mississippi for anything more than a few days. And there I was staying in the room with my grandfather and loving every minute of it. The pain was excruciating and it reminded me of being six years old again watching someone die and feeling helpless and lost.
After my grandfather passed, I came back to Nashville exhausted but determined to not run from my experiences but to offer encouragement where I could.
Last week, I was at the kick off breakfast for the American Cancer Society annual 'Making Strides' event here in Nashville. Veronica Gliatti was the spokesperson for the event. I had recently meet Veronica at a networking group in Brentwood. She was the first person who greeted me when I walked through the door. She was bubbly and kind and I was instantly drawn to her. After the meeting started and introductions were made, she announced that she would be speaking at the ACS breakfast. She shared that she was a breast cancer survivor but she was still undergoing chemo. I felt an instant bond with her. The event was already on my calendar but I put a star by the date to remind myself.
Veronica and I meet again two weeks later and the meeting this time was as strong and encouraging as the first time I met her. She reminded everyone of her breakfast. I felt as if I was being urged to go from some thing other than my daytimer. I reminded her that I wanted to go and she stated that she and several others would be riding together. I was invited along.
We met the next morning at 6:40 and I was fighting back tears the entire time. What I was witnessing was people coming together to offer support for someone that was battling cancer. I had not known any of them very long but I felt as if we all wanted to hold hands. The banter in the SUV was fun and we all talked none stop. The event was held at the Wild Horse and was packed with women and men. Veronica spoke from her heart and you could feel the electricity in the air. My heart was with her but my mind drifted several times to both of my grandparents. Tears slipped out no matter how I tried to be a big girl. I glanced over at Renee' Pazouki and Sherry Marlow, friends of Veronica and women I met while networking as well, and I knew I was not along with my tears. Veronica's husband was in the middle of all these strong women, holding his own and the pride of seeing his wife share her life with hundreds was obvious.
Veronica reminded me that the fight is not over until it is over. I counted my blessing and thanked God that I got to spend time with my grandfather. I sent my grandmother (mom's mom) a card and told her I loved her. I admitted for the first time in my life that I was afraid of the disease that took the lives of my love ones. I even thank God for the networker from hell, because if it was not for her, I would not have shared that wonderful moment with Veronica.
Oh yeah, I scheduled my mammogram too. Thank you Veronica. I know Daddy was with us.