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Bravery and grace, despite her pain

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By Jonna Spelbring Priester

Pain was clearly etched on her face, and she gripped her daughter’s hand like a vice while a registered nurse changed a wound dressing.
Within a few minutes the change was complete, the vacuum pump for the wound turned on and Mary did the strangest thing.

She thanked the RN despite the obvious pain she had just caused. “Thank you, hon,” she said, squeezing the nurse’s hand.

Mary is one of two women in my life who I am proud to call mother, though her title has a step- in front of it.

My introduction to Mary came when I was just eight, and visiting my father for a weekend. After showing me around the house, Mary gave me a toy — a Barbie doll — just in case I didn’t have any with me. She always had a toy or two on hand for children in the house, just in case.

A kid couldn’t have asked for a better stepmother. Before my step-brother’s death at the age of 19, Mary had run her own business and was a single mother for several years.

Her generosity is not limited to toys for kids — even when her health began to fail her, she made sure nobody left her kitchen table hungry.
She is among the sweetest, most genuine people I know. So the recent news was tough to swallow.

Just before July 4, she fell and broke her hip. In the time since, she’s endured not just two hip replacement surgeries, but the diagnosis nobody ever wants to hear – cancer.

And yet, despite the pain, despite the fear I know is there, she soldiers on.

She held fast to my hand while her nurse explained the chemotherapy process. She nodded quietly as Farrah described some pretty awful sounding side effects. She thanked Farrah, who in turn thanked her. “You are such a great patient, Mary,” she said. “You stay so upbeat, so sunny, and that inspires people. It inspires us.”

Nurses and doctors from other floors come to visit her, in part because her graciousness toward them made them quite fond of her. She’s just that sweet.

I hope that should I ever find myself in her situation, that I am as strong, as brave, and as gracious as she is.