Sometimes, if you’re lucky, life will turn around and give you a nice big kick in the teeth. In the last few weeks, there haven’t been solid kicks for me but more like little flicks on the center of the forehead, just enough to make me take notice. There have a been a few dozen little flicks to the head for me lately, all of which stopped me in my tracks but only a few that have stayed with me – bizarre little circumstances and moments and news all unrelated but strung together resulting in a clearer sense of priority.
Amongst the bizarre little circumstances was some unexpected pain, a few exams and procedures which ended in all happy test results. I’m perfectly fine but there was enough in the realm of possibilities to take my breath away. I’ve been holding Scarlette a bit tighter this week. Thrown in the middle was a 40th birthday party for my brother-in-law during which he and his thirteen year old daughter were both playing their guitars for a bit. They sat together, side by side but it was hard to tell which one of them was following the other. They were playing Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls, the one with that great repeating line “I just want you to know who I am” and for a moment, time stopped. I will have that image of them in my mind forever. She grew up so fast but was still here, half holding onto childhood and the other half ready for new chapters. He looked half ready for the things to come and half wanting to rewind a few years and keep her here, his baby girl. I held Scarlette a little tighter that night too.
I had logged onto Facebook one morning to see that a roommate of mine from BU had changed her profile picture to include one of her buddies from the ROTC program. Jennifer Chancy. I hadn’t heard the name or seen her face in over twelve years. During college, I didn’t know Chancy well, that is to say that I knew her through my roommate. We had a few laughs and got to talking a few times but I would imagine she’d only barely remember who I am. She, however, has remained a very specific character in my memory. Sweet as pie and tough as nails, Jennifer Chancy was studying to be a Marine at the time. She was one of those people that had that look, that focused drive of determination written all over her face. So when I saw that she was now a Major in the Marines stationed on the island of Oahu and had served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, I was not surprised. I was however surprised to learn why my roommate had changed her profile picture.
Jennifer Chancy has recently been diagnosed with stage 4 Lung Cancer. She has Cancer in both lungs, her spine, her shoulders, her pelvic bone and both femurs. She has returned to her family’s farm in Kansas to receive treatment which began last week. Her dearest friends and family have come together in a wave of support and a website on caringbridge.org was created to keep everyone updated and let people get in touch with Chancy as she starts this battle.
Since hearing the news, I find her coming to mind a few times a day. Perhaps it’s because she’s my age. Maybe it’s because I remember her as a twenty year old girl. Perhaps it’s because it doesn’t make sense, not with this vision of perfect health I have in my head when I think of her. She’s fit from head to toe ready for a hike or a run or a paddle on the ocean. Maybe I just have a soft spot for Marines. My grandfather and great uncle served in WWII and my father was a tank commander in Vietnam, all Marines. I’m not sure why but when I went to draw something this morning, she came to mind again.
And so, we have a Gladiola. I googled a bit for the meaning of flowers and this one seemed to fit perfectly. The word Gladiola comes from the Latin word “gladius” which means sword. They were once synonymous with gladiators and warriors. They represent honor and strength of character. I will be sending the original to Chancy as it seems to belong to her. I will send it with my deepest wishes for healing and recovery and strength. I can only hope that it might remind her of the hard-ass Marine that she is, that she has fight in her still no matter how she’s feeling.
As most of you know, the Peony I had created for my friend Ed and his fight against Leukemia has sold a few prints. I’ve decided to raise the contribution amount again in the hopes of reaching my $100 yearly goal. We are now at $57 which will be donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. That’s 80% of the cost. With this drawing, I would like to do the same.
For each print of The Gladiola that is sold, 100% will be donated in honor of Jennifer Chancy to the American Cancer Society for Lung Cancer in her honor, forever. To purchase a print, click here.