Although I never actually had the pleasure to meet Laura in person, I could tell just by talking with her that she had a very tender heart and a lot of determination inside of her. That determination was pretty much summed up in one of Laura’s favorite quotes, which I loved: “When something bad happens you have three choices:You can either let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you."Laura was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer which resulted in a double mastectomy in January of 2011. As with many breast cancer patients she has had to under go chemotherapy and radiation in the months to follow, and all at the young age of just 51. Laura’s battle has not been easy, she has endured many complications from chemo and radiation. As with many cancer patients I have spoken with, Laura shared the heartbreaking stories of radiation burns and scarring, just one of the many side effects these courageous warriors have to battle.Outside of the world of cancer, Laura has been married for 24 years and is a mother of two, a daughter Claire who is 22 and a son Billy who is a college freshman. She is a “snowbird” from Wisconsin and has called Orlando her home for the past 28 years, where her parents also have a home.I asked Laura to share about the day she had to break the news to her family that she had cancer. She said everyone really showed such strength and support, and that she found such comfort in her kids who would say to her “Mom, we are going to get through this!” Laura reminded me that kids are so much more resilient than we often give them credit for.Laura explained that telling her parents was very difficult. She spoke of how her mom carried such guilt and would often say “It should have been me, not you.” I am sure most mothers would feel that exact same way, because nobody but a loving mother could have that compassion and sympathy for their child. Laura comes from quite a large family, and having to get them together and tell them all was very emotional she said. At first they seemed to be in a state of shock and very melancholy, but quickly they realized that they would need to rally around her and move forward. Laura's situation really displays how often times the cancer diagnosis can bring forth conflicting emotions in those we love as they struggle to overcome their own fear to find the strength to offer support when it is needed most.
She said that looking back she can remember feeling overwhelmed, yet so very thankful and extremely grateful for the love and support of her family, neighbors, and close friends. Laura so humbly said “We could not have made it without the love and prayers of those that rallied around us.” Laura said she has a huge box of cards and letters that people have sent her, and that she will often go back and re-read them and is reminded of how so many loved and cared for her.I am always so awestruck by the fight and willpower that cancer patients exude. Laura would say things like “I wasn’t going to give up, and I wasn’t going to give cancer a chance to take me over, I have way too much to live for.” When I hear these words of determination, I am often left speechless at the strength that our mighty God gives us when we are in the midst of a terrible storm. Laura had made that decision not let cancer define her, but to let it strengthen her instead.I could definitely relate to Laura’s story as she spoke of trying to keep a routine and a sense of normalcy in her day-to-day life. I think that is a very important part of life with cancer, whether you are the patient, a caretaker, or a family member. Laura said she wasn’t willing to sacrifice a second with her kids or what was going on in their lives. Decisions like these are the ones that make sure cancer doesn’t win.Laura is currently scheduled to under go reconstruction surgery this Wednesday and I am sure she would appreciate any and all prayers. She says she looks forward to getting back to volunteering which she very much enjoys doing.
As we finished speaking, Laura shared with me how a friend had given her a devotional prayer book that she would read everyday and how she would find such great comfort and peace in it. I know that peace and comfort she speaks of. It is indeed one which is often far beyond anything we can truly comprehend.
As I read back over my notes in preparation for writing this story, I remembered the softness of Laura’s voice as she spoke and how she seemed a little shy. But that was only on the outside. On the inside she is strong, a fighter with an inner voice that screams out to continue to live life to the fullest.