I met my friend Marcia at a Relay for Life event at which I was the speaker. After the telling of my survival story she came to me and said, “You need to come to my support group. We need some young ones like you.” I was 43 at the time I was diagnosed with both uterine and ovarian cancers. Not what I would call a spring chicken, but the average age for gynecological cancers is 65, so in a support group for these cancers I would indeed be the young one. I took her card and put it away in my purse.
The next month she called to see if I was coming. I was not. The next month she called again…and the month after…and the month after. If you know Marcia at all you know she is a bulldog. I say that with the greatest affection. I guess I hesitated because I was nervous and was unsure what you do at a cancer support group. I pictured a sad and depressing place where everyone is old and sick and dying. Eventually, I figured she wasn’t going to give up and I went to my first meeting of the Northeast Georgia Women Surviving Cancer Support Group. I couldn’t have been more wrong about what the group would be like. When I left that day I was more encouraged than sad. The strength and tenacity. The laughter…yes I said laughter. The insight and humility. These women, some survivors and some still fighting, were amazing. They were all ages…I was not the only “young” one there. All different types of cancer. All backgrounds. Cancer doesn’t discriminate. Each one told her story briefly and I told mine. I cried my way through, and they hugged me with their eyes. It was a place to be heard. I felt understood, and other women who “got it,” validated my painful battle. The empathy was the most touching thing I had experienced throughout my journey in Cancerland. It was inspiring really. And beautiful.
After two months, I was all in to support Marcia in her desire to help women with cancer. The women in that group became “our” women. Make no mistake…Marcia did all the work, setting up, facilitating, gathering food, making phone calls, putting out flyers and cards…all I did was show up and lend support. What amazed me so was her energy and heart to reach out to women who were suffering. She went into the chemo labs to hold hands and bring encouragement. The support group was an extension of her chemo lab ministry, an arm connected to her hands of service. It was like a longed for hug that allowed cancer patients to rest. A space of safety and understanding where weakness was comprehended and strength was celebrated.
Over time we lost a few members to the disease, and Marcia walked with them to the edge and gave them a place to speak their last beautiful words of encouragement. Live in the moment. Love completely. Do not waste your life. We wept with them and prayed over them. We knew that at any time we could be one of them. That is the reality of Cancerland. No sugar coating, no denial. The mutual respect of one another’s journeys was an exquisite treasure that only a group of fellow sufferers could fully grasp. There was great dignity among these women, and having a disease that steals your dignity, it was a sacred act to find it again.
Though there were plenty of tears, not all was sadness, because while cancer tries to steal life…it also gives it. God takes what the enemy means to destroy us and turns it to good. Only in a support group can you joke about losing your hair, and share wig/hat/scarf tips. Only in a support group can you compare the crazy stories about what people tell you will heal your disease. (Honey and baking soda? Really?) Only in a support group can you share tips about how to make the dye you have to drink before every scan taste better. We became a community. A precious, loving, caring, community with shared experiences…the wind beneath the wings of one another. Without Bulldog Marcia and her endless boundless passion that would have never happened. The space would not have been created and sustained.
Last month we had our last meeting of the Northeast Georgia Women Surviving Cancer Support Group. There were some changes in HIPPA laws that disallowed visiting women in Chemo labs. I can tell you that it broke Marcia’s heart. She felt as if her ministry had been stripped from her. The numbers of women in the group dwindled over time and eventually dried up all together. Even her bulldog tenacity was put to the test. We are both grieved that the end result of the situation was the dismembering of such a powerful group. Yet, in true Marcia style, she recognizes the seasons are changing. Nothing lasts forever, and there are other places to direct your passion. There is always a need for passionate bulldogs somewhere. I love this woman and her energy. God has used her zest for life to pour out life to others. To show that cancer does not have to steal your spirit. That even when you are challenged and weak physically it does not mean your spirit has to quit living. She has inspired many, many women as they travelled a hard road. That can never be taken from her. It feels odd to say the group is over, and while we grieve the loss of something so beautifully inspiring, we also set our eyes forward to the next place of passion that God has up ahead because there are always new seasons of grace.
I thank God for Marcia Price and her humongous heart of compassion. I ask him to bless her abundantly. That he would give her peace and the understanding that what she did mattered and matters still. That the women she ministered to were and are better because of her heart to follow God. That her tenacity would not be shaken and that her boldness would shine forth. That whatever her new season of grace entails that she would come to it with her full bulldog self…who God created for his own purpose to spread his glory. Much love. Much grace. Much peace. Cover her Lord with your presence…fill her with your spirit…surround her with your grace. Amen.