Saving Gloria

Gloria with her youngest daughter, Kelene
Dear Reader,

I wrote this post days ago, but hesitated to be so forthright with something so personal that my aunt and her family is going through. I questioned whether it was my place to share this story, even to ask for your prayers to be added to ours, kind reader. What was my opinion in the scope of something so large? But today, the day of the actual transplant, my cousins have shared the story through various social medias, and so I would like to do my part. I beg their forgiveness if I am in any way not as gentle in my treatment as I feel in my heart. And I wish them all to know how much I love them. Thanks for listening.


Mom had forgotten her phone that morning, so she was there when Shawn and Rischelle came by around lunch time to pick up Kale. Kale and Wyatt and Daphne were sitting at the swinging bar stools, deep in the world of Play-Dough. I began helping with the clean up, praising their creative inventions in hushed tones while I listened to my mother and her brother and sister-in-law talk.

About Gloria.

My Aunt Gloria could not have been better named. A strong woman full of grace despite having suffered much should be named for Glory. And growing up, I always felt my aunt was glorious to behold. Straight shouldered, slender but tough, blond hair always expertly styled in a modern cut that highlighted her fantastic cheekbones. She came to family birthday parties, dinners and holidays and sat on our couch with legs crossed at the ankles, quiet and smiling. Her laugh is the one I remember when someone was funny. She was gorgeous and mysterious. My whole life, she was this. Even as I aged and graduated from sitting at the kid table and the terrible secrets of adulthood that the grown ups only discussed when “little pigs with big ears” couldn’t hear turned out to be not so much terrible and exciting as they were difficult, complicated and often depressing, my Aunt Gloria remained untouched by my newfound cynicism. Faced with immeasurable loss and too much grief for one heart to take, my glorious aunt remained a white pillar candle, burning stubbornly against the dampening dark of her difficult life, holding her family together. She was still quiet strength. Fortified femininity.

Even now. Even when faced with terminal cancer.

Shawn, Rischelle and my sweet mother stood in the space where the kitchen and the family room meet, talking about Gloria’s prognosis. It struck me as I moved about, picking up bits of play dough off the counter and floor, that I had never heard them talk like this. Like siblings who grew up together, talking in comfortable and loving terms about their big sister who was in very grave trouble.

I felt like I was trespassing on holy ground.

I hadn’t heard anyone discuss her situation in such straightforward terms, before. For her entire two year battle with the disease, every time I had asked about her my questions were met with vague ambiguity. Her condition was hard to understand – even for her doctors. The first clue I had about her condition having worsened was before Christmas, when over the phone I asked my Mom how Aunt Gloria was doing, and after a sorrow filled pause, my mom quietly said, "not so good."

But here, among siblings, there was no kind avoidance. No sugar coating. No brave face – even though my feeling is that I’ve never seen a braver bunch, my mom and her siblings – just honesty.

My aunt was dying.

Without the treatment, this disease would take her life. With the treatment (a bone marrow transplant from Shawn – who was a miraculous perfect match – to Gloria), her chances improved to about 40%.

Well, I don’t know all that much about transplants or percentages, but to me, 40% isn’t good enough.

There’s also the chance, Shawn said, that the transplant itself could kill her.

This soon to the procedure, the doctors felt they needed to lay it out straight. My aunt has terminal cancer (which I wasn’t so concretely aware of before hearing this conversation). The treatment is dismal. Her chances seem too dismal for my liking. Yet my beautiful aunt remains radiant.

And Shawn acts like giving his bone marrow (and the grueling process before and after the procedure) is nothing. And I suppose for a brother to have the means to give his big sister a chance at life may feel like a no-brainer. But he is our family hero. The tender messages Gloria’s children have sent to Shawn thanking him for his gift catch at my heart.

Of course we hope and pray for the miracle. I can’t think of a more deserving bunch. But at times like this, when so much is at stake, I am so grateful for my faith in the gospel. In times like these, this kind of knowledge gives the comfort that is so desperately needed. The understanding that otherwise fails.

And the family unity that sees us through, no matter what.


See Gloria's official blog here.