Posted by: gaylejervis | January 21, 2011


Last week I concluded that  my chronic illness defines me, but what I also concluded is that the more important question was HOW is it defining me? Well, recently I peeked into a box in my storage room and discovered it was  filled with papers that  my sister and I had kept when we were going through our Mom’s   things after she passed away.  I pulled out a sheet of paper that was on top of the pile and began reading a poem that  one of Mom’s friends had written for her.   This friend saw her often as they lived in the same building and she was in awe of  Mom’s response when she was first diagnosed with melanoma.  During that time  much of the skin on her one side of the face was replaced with  skin from her neck  due to the aggressive form of  melanoma.  Two years later when the melanoma returned,  Mom’s friend was again surprised by Mom’s response   as she went daily for radiation where she had to lay on a bed wearing  a mask that had been made of her face that only had two holes at the nostril and had two holes for her eyes.  My Mom’s friend wrote this poem for her during this time:

Those of us who have reached the eighth decade

Of this Life, hope we’ve learned a few things.

We accept the flesh with which we’ve been made

And the strength, or weakness that it brings.


We are like vehicles.  Our parts wear out.

Doctors TRY to make them work like new

In time, we see that Our Maker has clout!

His loving spirit in us sees us through.


Our good neighbor Ann, is strong as a queen

We all learn from Ann’s good example

She seems keenly aware of POW’R unseen

And proves she has courage that’s ample.


She seems to see Earth as a Testing place.

Her loving spirit’s not weak and wan.

We see it each day in her smiling face

And it’s dependable as the dawn.


Her bodily strife may cut like a knife

Like a soldier, Ann walks straight and tall

I think it’s because the SOURCE of our Life

Gives amazing courage to us all.

As her daughter, I had the privilege of  witnessing Mom’s courage up  close as each time she tried to comfort and reassure us that she was at peace with life or death.  And later,  as she was told that the melanoma had spread again and this time she would need to have her stomach removed, my sister and  I saw nurses deliberately come and talk to her since they said they had never seen anyone so positive and jovial facing such news. In fact, one nurse asked if she really understood w the seriousness of this surgery, and  Mom smiled and said “Yes, but I have the good Lord taking care of me.”   I could give illustration after illustration of Mom’s sense of humor,  and her care and concern for others while she waited to have this surgery.

I count myself fortunate – no incredibly blessed –  to have been mentored by such a beautiful person who had had a lifetime of health issues including a hysterectomy and two radical mastectomies, and yet she demonstrated how we can define ourselves through these adversities by how we respond to them. We cannot deny that our illnesses not only impact us or  have a tenacious hold on everything we do, or in Mom’s case take her life,  but what is amazing,  is that we have complete control over how it is going to impact our character.  My prayer is that my illness is defining me as someone who has spirit, faith, tenacity, a sense of humor, empathy, and  love – that this illness is defining me to become more and more like my Mom.



  1. Ok, this has brought tears to my eyes so I am sure you did not get through it without thinking about your mom, reminiscing and feeling that flood of emotion and tears that come when we realize they are gone .. but not forgotten. Your mom obviously was a wonderful woman with strength and character – it’s no surprise that you would turn out to be the same.

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