Friday, August 26, 2011

One of Three

Kimberly Adelson is, first and foremost, my friend. We met six years ago when I became the assistant principal of the junior high school she works in. As we worked together, she as a teacher of learning disabled students and I as an administrator, we found a common bond in our care and concern for those kids and for the inane meeting and paperwork requirements of an IEP (Individualized Education Plan).

I quickly discovered that Kimberly was quick-witted, kind-hearted and full of life. When she laughs her face lights up and her whole body shakes. Her eyes squint a bit and she just seems to glow. Kimberly and I spent many, many hours laughing and joking with each other. We also spent quite a bit of time shedding tears together.

I soon discovered that Kimberly, true to her self-description, was one of those people who, if she became ill, had every obscure complication possible. There was some discussion among us about her being a modern medical mystery. We always had a good laugh when, even in insane pain from some funky illness or complication from a routine procedure, she would tell me of her latest medical complication. For whatever reason, it always provided us with a laugh.

In my final semester as principal, many of Kimberly's co-workers became very concerned. We knew things were not right with her but no one had come up with the latest obscure diagnosis. She suffered from debilitating stomach pains and constantly ran a fever. She was hospitalized with some of her episodes but no one could explain what was wrong. During Christmas break, she had a surgery to remove some pre-cancerous spots. The surgery was going to be "routine" and shouldn't be a big deal. She should have returned to work on January 3.

I'll skip over the details to keep this brief, but it was quickly apparent that she was dealing with more than complications from her surgery. After much back and forth between a several specialists, it was determined that she had cancer. Not just any cancer, but, you guessed it, some crazy, funky form of cancer that had already progressed to a Stage 4 level. The news was devastating for her, her family and her friends.

In the weeks and months that followed, friends and family came together for Kimberly. We were her support system. We changed our Facebook profile pics to a green ribbon that had been designed in her honor, we donated to and participated in fundraisers, and we prayed, and prayed, and prayed.

Kimberly started a CaringBridge site to chronicle her journey. In almost every single post, she presented a positive and upbeat attitude. She continually amazed us with her positive attitude and her determination to beat her cancer. She even came up with her own mantra so she could focus on that instead of the cancer and treatments.

She lost her hair. All of it. I've worked with a lot of women and most are very concerned about their hair. Kimberly was meticulous and OCD about her hair. Losing it had to be almost as hard as the chemo she was enduring. Even as she recorded it for us on her website she did so with her usual grace and humor. Person after person posted comments about her incredible attitude. The inspiration she provided to others and the general positive outlook and determination on her site kept all of us focused on the goal and pulled strangers from across the U.S. together in a collective online community with a common cause. We wanted Kimberly to kick her cancer's butt!

Earlier this summer, while on a vacation with family on Hilton Head, she received a call from her oncologist. The cancer was in remission! She was winning! We rejoiced and celebrated and gave thanks and praise for prayers offered.

Recently, Kimberly went back for a check and it seems that the cancer may be trying to raise its ugly head again. Kimberly shed her tears, said a few choice words and then, instead of giving up or accepting defeat, she determined to continue the fight and to continue to force the cancer into remission. She returned to work in mid-August. She's determined to work every day she can and to fight this cancer with every ounce of her being.

I know we all have friends or family members who have fought cancer or who have fought other serious illnesses. Maybe Kimberly is one of the bravest people I know because I am close to her. I think, however, there's more to it than that. Her fighting spirit, her dogged determination, her tenacity and her incredible sense of humor have stayed in place. I don't know that I could have done that. Kimberly is more than my friend. She's my trainer. Her battle helps keep me grounded and reminds me that sometimes, you can defy the odds and do it with a great attidude and a sense of humor.

Here's the link to Kimberly's CaringBridge site if you want to read more about her journey or just post a note of encouragement for her. She reads them all and she cherishes them whether she knows you or not.

Now, go say a prayer for her if you don't mind.

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