Cancer took my maternal grandpa at a young 70 years of age (nearly three years younger than my dad is now), as well as several of his brothers, sisters and cousins. It stole my buddies Carl Sullivan and Travis Allen. It continues to try and take away two of my uncles and nearly took a very dear friend of mine, who is my age.
Statistics from the American Cancer Society state that men have an almost 40% chance of contracting cancer, while the chances for women are a bit lower, at just under 38%. Scary, but I refuse to live in fear of something which may or may not happen.
Living in fear of tomorrow only steals TODAY of its peace. That being said, even as a Christian, I haven’t made peace with the beast…CANCER.
I figure the best I can do is encourage others to be strong, and steel myself to battle it with all my might, should it ever darken my doorstep.
Enter Hollie Dulin.
My son, Trey, and I met her on Trey’s senior high school trip to England and Scotland. I must admit I was taken aback when I first seen Hollie, as she didn’t do much to try and hide her newly bald head. She wore a scarf, sure, but was quick to pull it off if she needed to use it as a towel to wipe the sweat from her furrowed brow. She wasn’t ashamed in the least, as well she shouldn’t have been.
Her attitude was, “If someone doesn’t like it, they can look away.”
Mr. George, our awesome guide, who was also one of Trey’s favorite teachers, gave Hollie a hug before we departed, and said, “We’re gonna do this, ok? Take your time and stop when you need to, and we’ll get through it. We’ll be there for you.”
I watched Army Veteran Michael Brown and his wife, April—Hollie’s sister—help her along on the entire trip, as well as Hollie’s ever-patient mother, Ruby. We broke up into groups at the beginning of our journey, and Trey and I were honored to be chosen for Mike’s group. Mike carried a fold-out chair in his backpack which he was quick to bring out if Hollie needed to sit down and rest.
“You guys go ahead,” Mike would say, knowing Hollie and her mom would more than likely be moving slower than the rest. Sometimes Trey and I would go on, while other times we’d hang back with Mike and his family. This happened more as we got to know them, and found out how awesome they are.
Here’s a picture of me, Hollie and Trey at one of the many cathedrals we toured while in Europe. I think it was taken in Salisbury, but can’t remember for certain. We seen so many beautiful places.
See Hollie’s smile? Yeah, that rarely faded the whole trip. She was suffering terribly, we could all see it, but she refused to quit. Sometimes she’d sit down while we toured Oxford, Salisbury, Coventry or Yorkshire, but after resting a while she’d be right back at it.
Her body was in the final stages of life, although Trey and I had no clue how close she was to the end. Seeing her struggling to keep up one day, and ignoring the rules, one of the teachers came up behind her and prayed for her “in the Name of Jesus.” Throwing caution to the wind and not worrying about the consequences, we prayed Heaven down, and God smiled on Hollie, giving her the strength to carry on.
When we got back home in Springfield, MO, I introduced my family to Hollie. Over that week and a half, we’d become like family ourselves.
It was the last time Trey and I would ever see her. She passed away a few months later.
Just the fact that she went on the trip is remarkable. How many of us would push our body to its very limits, ignoring all advice from the doctor to “rest” and “slow down?” She will forever be my greatest example of heroism in the face of impending doom.
I’ve lived through deep, searing chronic physical and emotional pain for more than 30 years, because I’m a survivor. People like my Grandpa Stroud, Travis, Carl and Hollie are my heroes.
My friends and family who have either fought off or continue to fight the beast, cancer, are my heroes. They refuse to go without a fight.
Their battle cry?
Or, as the Doc Holliday character from Tombstone told Wyatt Earp, his only friend…
“Live every second, live right on through the end. Live Wyatt, live for me.”
Hollie, I know I poured my heart out in a blog about you right after you passed, but in looking back at all those scenic photos from England and Scotland, it’s still the picture with you, me and Trey that gets me. It makes me sad, but undergirds an unsure spirit with a resolute determination to keep going, despite the circumstances.
We have to make the conscious decision that disease won’t take us without a fight. If you know someone who’s in the battle of their life, contact them today to encourage them. I believe God has all our days mapped out from the beginning, but only HE knows the number of those days.
Until then, we FIGHT, and never stop.
Never give up, never give in, never surrender.
On a still night, if the wind blows just right, and if you’re listening closely, you can hear the raspy, whispering voices of those long-since past:
“Live every second, right on through the end.
“Live for me.”