BY Jeri K. Millard
The excitement of spending a few days with friends is something we all look forward to. We plan, organize and look forward to all the activities that may present themselves. It is truly special when all these friends are breast cancer survivors, fighters that share a mutual understanding of how lucky we are to be alive. We have lost too many other friends to this dreaded disease, as well as other cancers.
When I was invited to spend time with five other women (survivors), I began by taking on the task of finding a place where we all could comfortably cohabitate for five days. We were going to the mountains of North Carolina to fulfill the wishes of a special lady’s bucket list. She wanted to see the leaves of Fall, the mountains and enjoy some cooler weather.
Once the accommodations were secured, for the first time ever, I stepped back and let all the other women make plans and research the fun things we could see or experience. I really needed a vacation and felt happy just to be getting away from the trials and tribulations of being a business owner. Little did I know how much those days would mean to me.
Our special friend, Martha, was the catalyst behind our trip. She is a Stage 4 breast cancer survivor that has faced her disease with determination and courage. Her breast cancer spread to her stomach, resulting in the removal of her stomach. She has learned over the last few years how to live with limited food choices and many other side effects. This has become her “new normal.”
Martha’s optimism is contagious, though. When we’re with her, it is easy to forget that she has any medical issues. She does not dwell on her condition or her limitations. In fact, when one of her friends suggests a fun excursion, her famous words are, “Let’s do it!” The smile that accompanies these words is priceless.
While in North Carolina, we visited numerous waterfalls that required climbing many stairs and hiking down inclines. Piling in and out of our six-seat SUV multiple times daily, we enjoyed driving through mountains with spectacular views, shopping, were introduced to Martha’s lifelong friend and ate at some wonderful restaurants. Oh, and for some, zip-lining through nature…another of Martha’s bucket list activities. Did I mention she will be 80 years young very soon?
Though all these events were fun, the real joy took place in the evenings at the cabin we rented.
Spending time laughing, putting together a 1000-piece puzzle (or attempting
to), playing dominoes on a table that wobbled… causing the dominoes to fall in our laps every time someone leaned on it, playing Pass the Pig, drinking wine and ginger beer, eating chocolate, watching our very own “MacGyver” build a fire, discussing our next trip (Vegas or New York?) and just plain old visiting and poking fun at one another.
Watching Martha experience these activities was akin to watching a toddler at Disney World. She was living in the moment, delighted by her opportunity to spend time having fun with friends. She will never understand the profound effect she had on those of us who were part of this grand adventure. Her faith and happiness are infectious, leaving each of us to ponder God’s ability to influence the human spirit.
My life is forever transformed and I am eternally grateful for the experience.
Here’s to you, Martha!
With much love,