You know how in life sometimes opportunities present themselves and you think ‘I should have done that or I should have called? I should have taken advantage of a certain situation or reached out from my comfort zone?’ Sometimes we do stretch and grab these moments before they slip away, sometimes we don’t. Six months ago, one of these moments surfaced for me…
Waiting for my order at Panera Breads, I typically read the fliers on the community bulletin board. One flier in particular caught my eye. It was a benefit for a young woman fighting a Stage 4 breast cancer recurrence. The benefit had already passed, but I immediately dialed the contact phone number before they bagged up my Fuji Apple Chicken Salad.
I explained to the woman who answered the phone that I saw the flier and worked for Camp Good Days & Special Times. I told her we offer FREE Womens Oncology Retreat programs, and that the woman having the benefit qualified for these wellness programs. I asked if she would want to go to camp?
That is how I met Dory & Denika, two beautiful sisters both diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 27. As Denika told me of Dory’s battle, I was shocked to learn both sisters were breast cancer survivors at such a young age. I wrote down Dory & Denika’s mailing address and sent the program applications in the mail, their story circling my thoughts for days afterward.
I’ll never forget the immediate connection I felt when serving dinner at the Womens Retreat weekend and I spotted Dory & Denika. These girls are not only physically beautiful, but the light of their hearts bursts from the inside out. Their smiles literally lit up the room. It was a gift to really get to know these girls during this fall weekend at our camp facility on Keuka Lake, and I have considered them “family” ever since.
Sometimes when you meet someone, it can seem as if you have known them all your life. You find out your life stories have such similarities and have run parallel to each other for years. That’s how it is with Dory and I. We are both Libras, born two days apart – her on 10/15, me on 10/13 and there is 13 years age difference between us. Our children go to the same school, we live within five miles of each other and we both are rape survivors.
Dory was informed on December 30th that her breast cancer had metastasized to her spine and there are tumors in eight places throughout the bones of her body, one pressing on her spinal cord that is inoperable.
Dory continues to live her life on her terms every single day. She still has control and power over her decisions about her life, and the choices she is making demonstrates that clearly to all who know her. When I look into her deep, soulful eyes I see fearless courage and amazing grace. I feel a connection to Dory that is deeper than some of the friendships I have had for years. She is a brave, courageous, fearless woman and she teaches me something new about strength and inspiration every day – and that is changing MY life.
The best part of the last two weeks have been spent listening to Dory’s stories at her bedside. The fullness and richness of her experiences include traveling the world and dancing to her own funky beat; the unconditional depth of love she has for the true love of her life, her precious daughter; and the unbreakable, irreplaceable bond between her and her soulmate sister, Denika – and how they have saved each other over and over again, year after year, their entire lives.
A testament to that bond is a foundation the girls have started called “2 Sisters 4 Life“, breast cancer awareness, education and outreach for minority women. Dory & Denika want to ensure that these young women are well-educated on how to perform breast self examinations and that they receive prompt support and direction on how to proceed once faced with a breast cancer diagnosis. Their determination to help serve others and save lives – despite the circumstances of their own lives – is what moves me beyond words.
That’s the amazing part of this story. A year ago, I didn’t even know these two phenomenal women. We passed each other – I’m certain – in the grocery store, the gas station and the parking lot of the school. I don’t think anyone can comprehend the privilege I have had of being invited into their world – a world I never knew existed a year ago.
The best thing in life – in my opinion – is having the opportunity to meet someone completely new and then be “let in” to their inner circle, the guarded temple within. There is a priceless magnificence of being vulnerable to others – and also in being chosen and trusted enough to be let inside their world.
Dory is a Survivor – in every sense of the word. So, this isn’t the end of Dory’s Stories…in fact, this is just the beginning…
Love & Peace,