By June Stokes
June Stokes was diagnosed with Stage III ovarian cancer in April 2000. She was told she had 12-18 months to live. Then, she visited MD Anderson doctor Andrezj Kudelk for a second opinion. She says she'd "never met someone with such bedside manner."
June has been cancer free for 11 years, and hopes her experience will encourage others.
My twin sister, Joan, died at 38 from complications of breast cancer.
Seven months later, my husband was killed in an accident in our home. For the first time in my life, I had no partner.
I was barely 39 years old, and had three children, ages 10, 11 and 15.
Five months after my ovarian cancer diagnosis, my youngest daughter was in critical condition and on the transplant list for a liver.
On my third appointment with Dr. Kudelka, I showed him her picture and, "lost it," as people say.
Dr. Kudelka advised me to see his colleague, Dr. Michael Fisch, in the Supportive Care Center. When I asked if he was a psychiatrist, Dr. Kudelka replied, "no, he's an oncologist."
Three months after my first meeting with Dr. Fisch, my oldest daughter, Lisa, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
I saw him for two years, coming to MD Anderson every eight weeks for my appointments.
Through the sessions with Dr. Fisch, I learned that I had never grieved for my sister or my husband.
I had focused so much on my children and had "unresolved" and "anticipated" grief.
Dr. Fisch and I have been in contact ever since. I refer to him as my "cancer coach."
Not only is he an excellent oncologist, I consider him a dear friend.
Dr. Fisch said it would be helpful to write down my life experiences, even if no one ever read them.
I discovered this was very good therapy. There's something about writing your thoughts down and, when you read them back, it has a healing effect.
Yesterday, Lisa called me at 10:45 a.m. and asked, "Mama, what do you have on?" I told her I had on my "everyday clothes."
Lisa replied, "Well someone has something to give you. So put on something better than your everyday clothes and I will pick you up in an hour. We are to meet this person at Calvary Baptist Church at noon."
While waiting in the church lobby, I noticed a stranger coming through the door with a huge pink gift bag. Lisa asked her if she was the lady from the New Hope Church, where she had spoken the previous weekend to 200 women about her cancer experience.
The stranger's name was Mary Lou Nash, and she attended Lisa's speech. She said, "I make quilts for a hobby. I was in a fabric shop a few months ago and saw this lovely print. I noticed it was material for ovarian cancer, with the teal coloring. It was just beautiful but I did not know anyone with ovarian cancer. Something told me to get it anyway.
So I made this quilt and I trusted my faith to let me know who to give it to. "When Lisa spoke on Saturday she said, 'My mother had ovarian cancer.'
I almost fell out of my seat, for I knew God had given me the name of the person to give this quilt to. I called a friend at our church and she told me more about you and Lisa."
I was so astonished I could hardly speak.
We hear about pink all the time and there is so much breast cancer awareness; that is a wonderful thing. Most people don't know the color that represents ovarian cancer awareness.
This quilt was absolutely gorgeous. I was speechless!
I chatted with Mary Lou Nash and learned she does not own a computer, or have a Facebook account or any of the technology. She's blind in one eye but sees well enough to make quilts, drive and take care of her 93-year-old mother.
I just thought you would like this story of a gift from a stranger, and its path to the right person.
For more information on the Ovarian Cancer Quilt Project or to purchase a quilt, find them on Facebook.