When our youngest daughter was about a year old, I went back to work as a field biologist. (Don and I alternated our working hours during those days when our girls were tiny.) I interviewed with a woman named Cheryl Broyles for a position with Boise-Cascade in Medford, Oregon. The interview consisted of a pleasant cup of tea in a restaurant, though Cheryl could barely fit in the booth because she was nine months pregnant with her second baby. She was heading into maternity leave and my interview was just about her last duty. Therefore I never got a chance to work with her, but we stayed in touch. We had much in common: a passionate interest in wildlife biology, happy marriages (she and her husband were married a week before Don and I), and two (or soon to be two) small children.
A year later, our office was shattered to learn Cheryl had been diagnosed with a horrific and lethal type of brain tumor called Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). Anyone in the medical profession will wince when they hear that term. A GBM is the type of brain tumor that killed Ted Kennedy. In later years, it also killed another dear friend of mine. The mortality rate for these tumors are something on the order of 97%. And Cheryl and her husband had two tiny children...
To everyone's amazement (not least her doctors), Cheryl survived. She told me later she believes her survival was due to immediate surgery, aggressive radiation, a strict diet, and prayer (both hers and everyone else's).
|Cheryl and her boys, 2010|
Then the tumor came back. Again she conquered it.
Then the tumor came back again. Again she conquered it.
Then the tumor came back again. Once more she conquered it.
To the best of my knowledge, Cheryl is the only person on the planet who has survived a four-time recurrence of this type of tumor. It's been ten years and she's still going strong.
|Day after surgery, 2009|
Despite her diagnosis, Cheryl has always had an irrepressible approach to life. She has climbed mountains -- literally -- and written a book on her story called Life's Mountains. When my friend Tom was diagnosed (and later died) of GBM, she communicated with Tom and his wife Cara (who was my college roommate) and offered encouragement and prayer.
Now this truly remarkable woman has produced a thirty-minute video about her experiences, which I encourage everyone to watch.
Remember the old phrase, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade"? Cheryl has been making lemonade and sharing it with other GBM patients for over a decade.