Saturday, May 8, 2010

I'm walking for Donna H.

Donna H. is a very special person. She is a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, an aunt, a friend. She is kind, smart, funny, giving, caring, and supportive. She is a great cook, gardener, home decorator, and crafter. She is sharp-witted and has a great mind for business. She's great with people, and makes everyone feel comfortable and at home.

Donna grew up in small town Oklahoma in the 1940's and 50's. She was the oldest girl in a family of nine children, and lived on a farm. This meant that she very quickly became her mother's helper, taking care of the younger children, and helping with household chores at a very early age. She learned early to be caring and kind, and to take wonderful care of her family.

Donna married her high school sweetheart and raised three sons. She and her husband started out with not much to call their own, but over time, they built a home and a life togther that was full of love.

In the mid 1970's, when Donna was only in her mid-30's, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Back then, the treatments for breast cancer were not very advanced, and the prognosis was not as good then as it can be now. It must have been a very scary, uncertain time for Donna and her family. To make matters worse, breast cancer was not something that people talked about back then. It was pretty hush-hush, and women with this diagnosis didn't have the openly supportive environment that we can find today. What could it possibly have been like for her to go through that?

Donna had a mastectomy to treat her cancer, but other than that, I don't know much about it. I've known Donna for 28 years, but she has never discussed her cancer with me. She's not one to talk about herself in the first place - she's pretty unassuming and she deflects attention. And especially for health-related issues, she's a pretty private person. I've learned about her cancer only through her son - my husband.

Yep, Donna is my mother in law. And I love her very much.

I wonder what life would have been like had the cancer taken her away. How could my husband, just a young boy, possibly have lived without her? How could my father in law, my brothers in law, my extended family, have possibly gone on? What must it be like for families to lose their mothers to this disease? What must it be like to face this harsh reality, to fight through it, to emerge victorious?

I'm walking for Donna. I'm walking to honor her victory over cancer. I'm walking to pay back the medical community a debt that can never truly be repaid. I'm walking so that none of Donna's granddaughters will have to face the same diagnosis that she did. I'm walking to show her that I love her and I'm so thankful to have her in my life. Happy Mother's Day, Donna!

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