Sunday, October 10, 2010

My Favorite Breast Cancer Survivor

When the Quiet and Calculating one was a baby, I stopped singing for church services. My older kids went to Catholic school, which meant daily mass. On Fridays, all grades attended together and I helped out my songleading. But when my third daughter was born, that came to a stop. As did everything else in my life that required me to be more than 10 feet away from her.

You know when the baby is brand new, sweet and cuddly, soft and huggy, and all your friends and neighbors offer to babysit so you can take a nap or clean your house or take the other kids to a park or go out with your husband? And you know how you never take them up on it because you realize they don't really mean it anyway? Well, I took them up on it. I had no choice. With this baby, we went through "sitters" faster than we went through diapers.

She was a crier! She cried for the neighbors who so lovingly offered to keep her one night. At the end of the evening, the wife said, "She might be coming down with something. She was a little fussy." The husband added, in a very matter of fact tone, "She screamed for two hours." She cried for Grandma. Her dad and I had to get doggy bags before our food even made it to the table on the one and only time Grandma tried "sitting" with the baby. She even cried for the "Super Sitter" who had babysat all the cousins for years. And we're talking dozens of cousins! She'd never met a baby who didn't worship her. Until Quiet and Calculating came along.

So when the school asked when I was coming back to help sing, I explained to them it was impossible. The baby wouldn't allow it. That's when my new best friend, Sally Cannata, stepped forward and offered to hold her at church so I could sing. I'm not sure if it was the chance to have someone else hold her for even one hour that got me back to church or  the inability to say no, but I gave it a try. And you know what happened? My baby LOVED Sally. Loved her. Didn't make a peep. In fact, she may have actually giggled a time or two.

I am soooooo blessed that Sally loved my baby back because Sally became my go-to girl. She watched my baby so I could go to the dentist or get a haircut. She watched her while I volunteered in my children's classroom or attended their extra curricular events. Once, when I had Strep Throat, she even watched her just so I could rest. And when I had out-of-town engagements, Sally watched all 3 of my girls for 2 or 3 days at a time! And when we added a son to our family, she took him in, too. And Sally had 3 kids of her own.

My baby girl and Sally developed a special bond. My daughter called her "My Nata" and still refers to her that way today. My children still remember the good times in Sally's care. They always came home with fabulous crafts, and tummies full of home baked cookies, as well as stories full of laughter. Her love for my children is woven into the fabric of our lives.

Sally is a true friend. How many of those are we lucky enough to have in this life? I'm not talking about the ones who can be counted on to be there when the going's good. I'm talking about the ones who truly give from the heart. The ones with a heart so big that the giving is endless.

Before I knew Sally, she had survived breast cancer. She was only 38 when she was diagnosed. I didn't know her then, but I can imagine how she battled the disease. I've never seen her face a hardship with anything other than strength, grace, and humor. No wonder my crier was no threat to her. Sometimes, when I witness the calm determination and the witty humor and the big heart of my baby girl (who's now almost 13) I have to believe when Sally loved my daughter, she instilled in her these great gifts.

I don't know why my baby girl was so fussy with everyone else. But when Sally came along, I think my daughter recognized the heart of a great warrior and the smile of a compassionate friend. She recognized someone a lot like the young woman she would grow up to be.

Thank you, Sally, for sharing yourself with my family. You have truly blessed our lives.

If you have a favorite Breast Cancer Survivor, please share her name here so we can all add her to our prayers of gratitude.

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