Thursday, October 1, 2009

Gina's Smile

I met a woman named Gina the other day. We have something in common: we both have breast cancer. A mutual friend of ours invited Gina and me to her house for lunch. After talking with her for only about five minutes, Gina's soft spirit and endearing demeanor birthed a miraculous connection between us that was so strong it felt as though we'd been friends since childhood.

But in addition to her lovely personality, the one thing I cannot stop thinking about is Gina's smile. Even though she shared with us that this was her fourth bout with breast cancer (incidentally, she jokingly stated that the doctors had, in her own words, "lost count, but we think it's the fourth time now!"), Gina continued to smile as she described her cancer journey. Initially diagnosed in 2005, Gina said that her cancer was the triple negative type.

What I marvel about was her ability to see beyond the immediate circumstances. Even though she was gearing up, both mentally and emotionally, for receiving her next round of chemo drugs, which would be administered the following day in Philadelphia, a nearly three-hour drive from home, Gina focused on the things in life that are pleasant. Simple things, like book clubs she belongs to, and her interest in jewelry making. It was her smile, coupled with the seemingly effortless way she made us feel like there's so much more to life than the ugliness of cancer, however, that remain embedded in my brain. Although she is honest about her feelings concerning cancer and its impact on her life including constant pain and tingling in her fingers and feet, she will not allow it to rob her of her happiness.

Women such as Gina amaze me. They encourage me. They bring new meaning to the proverbial phrase "raising the bar" when it's fortitude that's being measured. And they bring to the forefront the true meaning of life: to live each day, as best you can, with a smile.

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