March 28, 2014
Let’s face it, prepping for tests isn’t much fun.
Whether its memorizing equations, or facts, or dates or working on a skill like driving, I know of few people who actually look forward to studying for a test.
Those of you with school age children will understand those standardized test acronyms like SAT, ACT, HSAP and PASS.
Well, if you are middle aged all this talk of tests and passing a test takes on important significance, life or death significance.
Look no further than my friend, Earlene, to understand why.
I met her in 2011 when she called our church and asked me to help her ghostwrite her memoir.
She had read a series of devotions I’d written for Christ in Our Homes, a publication of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and said after she read one of them about text messages and Bible texts that she knew she wanted me to help her finish her book.
The book needed organizing and editing. In fact, one reason her book was incomplete is the 74-year-old’s wedding (the final chapter) had not happened yet. But eventually the book came about, she said, in God’s time.
One of, if not the first, African American businesswomen in Ohio, Earlene is a self-made businesswoman who managed five shoe stores and a consignment shop. She wrote to share life lessons she learned through that process and to share her story.
But what made her story remarkable was something routine.
In the mid 2000s, she put off having a routine colonoscopy. She waited nearly 10 years before her doctor made Earlene get tested.
The results showed a rare and aggressive type of colon cancer. Time was of the essence.
She had surgery and chemotherapy and thought the cancer was in remission. A few years later it reappeared. It was the same kind of rare colon cancer, but it had metastasized into Stage IV and moved to her lungs. Doctors’ prognoses were grim.
She had surgery and chemotherapy and was involved in an experimental study. That combination saved her life.
She got the cancer into remission a second time. Along the way friends, customers and medical professionals urged her to tell her story. As she was being treated for the cancer a second time, she started writing.
She wrote over 400 pages but did not know how the story would end. In fact, her condition was so guarded at times she wondered if she would be able to finish the book.
She was so determined and her family was supportive.
Eventually, Earlene Wandrey self-published her book in May of this year.
I traveled to Ohio and met her there for a book signing party at her church, and what a weekend it was.
She is still with us, a walking miracle but the cancer remains.
Doctor’s discovered in late 2013 that the strand of colon cancer moved to her spine.
Her longtime boyfriend Max heard the diagnosis, knelt at her hospital bed and asked her to marry him. They married in February and moved from Max’s home in Ohio to North Carolina.
Instead of a honeymoon, they settled into a routine of chemotherapy treatments, side effects and the waiting on scan results.
Doctors told her she won’t get this cancer into remission. She will be on some form of maintenance treatment the rest of her life.
The treatments and medical care she has received from the Research Triangle in North Carolina likely are why she is still with us today.
The silver lining is that the doctors have devised a plan to contain the cancer, keep it dormant if you will. It’s her life and she’s out living it her way, though the lung condition limits her stamina.
She and her husband travel and spend time on Lake Norman.
She became active in a Lutheran church in the Mooresville area, and last month, Earlene became a grandmother again when her daughter-in-law Veronica had her first child.
Earlene is living with cancer in as courageous and fun way as I have ever seen anyone do.
But, she tells people who read her book, entitled Walk in my Shoes, not to follow in her footsteps.
Throughout the year, but especially in March, Colon Cancer Awareness Month, she urges people to have that colon test done on schedule.
And as Flannery O’Connor said: The life you save may be your own.
Kevin Boozer is a staff writer for The Newberry Observer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.