On November 1, 2019, I received the following email:
“Hello, I just read your post in the Huffington Post. It moved me. You are an inspiration. I was just diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy.”
That was the beginning of more than 200 email exchanges that I have had with a very special breast cancer survivor who has inspired me in more ways than I can begin to tell you. But, perhaps you will understand if I share with you some of her story that has evolved over the last 1½ years since that initial post.
“Wrapped up in this very tiny person, she carries faith, hope, love, gratitude and an effort to always strive for peace in her life. She is an inspiration to everyone whose lives she touches and to me, she is a very special angel right here on earth. “Barbara Jacoby
Since our first exchange, Michelle has gone through chemotherapy treatments, began her aromatase inhibitor treatment and just concluded her radiation regimen. She has done all of this through the pandemic but that is the least of it in many ways. She continued teaching her elementary school students through virtual communication while doing everything possible to help them with not only their learning but also the traumas that they were experiencing from being kept from living a normal child’s life. And to add to this extremely trying time, she was regularly having to drive to her mother’s home in a different area to help with the numerous personal and medical issues that her mother was experiencing.
How is one person able to deal with cancer, treatments, the fallout from the pandemic which is still going full force in her country and her mother’s issues with love and laughter and an attitude of gratitude for everyone and everything in her life? Without her having to say a single word in answer to such a question, she showed me how one is able to do this. It comes from her belief and trust in a higher power that she knows is always there to help in even the toughest times if you just ask for the help.
At her bell ringing ceremony this week after her final radiation treatment, she placed 3 words on the wall by the bell – courage – hope – strength – and indicated that this is what she got from the patients and that, as a team, this is what we draw from each other. But, it is truly her who has always displayed these attributes and freely shares them with everyone who is fortunate enough to come in contact with her on any level.
I have shared with her throughout this time as she took personal responsibility for researching the information about treatments, how she might be able to access the treatments suggested because she is not financially wealthy and how to best take care of herself with being in the best health possible to undergo treatments and how to deal with side effects that she experienced. Whenever she might have started to feel stressed or afraid or alone, she went inside and prayed and asked for help and guidance and always found the way to set aside such thoughts since she knew they were not of benefit to her.
Wrapped up in this very tiny person, she carries faith, hope, love, gratitude and an effort to always strive for peace in her life. She is an inspiration to everyone whose lives she touches and to me, she is a very special angel right here on earth. She has shown us that as long as you have God in your life, there isn’t anything that you can’t do or there aren’t ways to help others in ways that you might never have considered. So, to everyone else, I would like to encourage you to find your own “Michelle” as well as look for help and inspiration from the spirit that resides inside all of us. In doing so, I think that you, too, will find that those who think you have been their inspiration will soon be those very same people who will inspire you in your life in return.
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.