Wednesday, April 13, 2011

An extraordinary story

Let me tell you a story.

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.


  1. I watched Cheryl's video.
    What a beautiful woman, living a beautiful life.
    God grants us peace and strength to persevere.

    I just went through a bilateral mastectomy and 34 rounds of radiation. I thought I'd never raise my arms above my head again, let alone live my life as before.

    On Saturday, 3-1/2 months after surgery, I climbed (skinned up) a mountain I've skied down 100 times before. It may as well have been the first time. My life has changed, I see so much more clearly now.
    God granted me peace, as well.

    Thanks for sharing. It gives me strength to climb the next peak, knowing I am not alone.

  2. Miracles are out there ladies . My sister has hit her 5 year lung cancer survivor mark this month. Prayers of thanks to God going out in masses I think!

  3. What a wonderful story!

    I, too, have terminal cancer, and don't expect to live more than a year, but I'm OK with that. Nevertheless, I LOVE reading stories like this, because they show that God does, indeed, work miracles, and not just once!

    I myself have experienced several unmistakable, definite miracles. I don't expect that I will survive, but these miracles, and a continuing something that's impossible to explain make it absolutely OK with me. The closest I can come is that an undeniable Peace washes over me, and it's OK. I expect that Derak may relate.
    At this point I stopped to watch her video.

    I am absolutely astounded. Every single thing Cheryl said completely matches my own experience. It's incredible! She exactly described that Peace that washes over me, and explains how having cancer is OK. Not just OK, but even a blessing, as nuts as that sounds.

    -- A regular reader and commenter

  4. This brings back a lot of memories for me. We had a good friend with the same brain tumor. He passed away after battling with the disease for about a year. How amazing this woman has survived and is doing so well. She will encourage many, many people with her testimony and God will use her mightily.

  5. What a wonderful story of courage! Thank god for miracles. Blessings jane

  6. i am a 35 year survivor of cancer...and have had numerous miracles happen in my life through the years since..miracles should not be wasted or forgotten..they must be shared with others who need a drop of courage.

  7. Wow.

    I just...



  8. What an amazing story! :) I'm so glad I stopped by your blog tonight to see this. Thanks. :)

  9. Another WOW. In 2009, I lost my best friend to cancer. She fought, 'tooth and nail', for 23 years and 4 days. I told her when she was diagnosed, that three things will get her through this, good doctors, good attitude and the good Lord. To which she added, and good friends. It is evident that Cheryl has all four also. Sometimes we have to 'let go and let god' handle things, then we have peace beyond all understanding.

  10. I am humbeled by her story. At least if my end should happen it will be fast with no decisions to be made. You can believe me when I say that because I DREAD the job we have to do on Monday.

  11. I was reading your most recent post (much more recent than this one!) and I saw your list of "tags" on the left and felt compelled to click on "brain tumor". My sister (age 41) was diagnosed with GBM in 2017 and died a year later, leaving behind four young children. I recall coming across Cheryl's story after she was diagnosed and praying that my sister would have a similar experience. I am sorry that you have known 2 people with this horrible disease. I wish we knew what caused it.

    1. I'm so sorry about the loss of your sister. GBM is a particularly cruel diagnosis. I just did a search on Cheryl and it looks like she's still battling tumors and still winning, though the last update I can find is from a couple years ago.

      - Patrice