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Love Notes

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For Jenny...

I’m writing this column for my friend and former student Jenny Meyer—and for all who share in her battle against an insidious, relentless disease called cancer. I’m also writing this column for Jenny’s sister, Julie Walkington—and for all who provide love and support to courageous cancer warriors.

My purpose: to see the pedestrian bridge across Lake Pend Oreille crammed with thousands of walkers and runners Saturday, August 14. 

While individual cancer patients work every day to ward off their disease, an army of family, friends, volunteers and professionals labors tirelessly to help ease each patient’s challenge. This desire to help is demonstrated through care, financial help, emotional support, meals, transportation, and countless random acts of kindness.

Julie Walkington, a local RN, with help from Community Cancer Services (CCS), is organizing a brand-new Sandpoint event to provide financial aid for these kinds of support. At 8 am Aug. 14 the inaugural CCS “Celebrate Life” Fun Run/Walk will kick off at Dog Beach. Registration is $20; kids will walk for a reduced rate. Each participant or donor will earn a T-shirt for the event. It’s designed to raise money for local cancer causes.

All profits from this activity will go directly to the CCS Center at 718 Cedar Street in Sandpoint. CCS serves as a central information and resource center for cancer patients, according to its executive director Patty Hutchens. The facility was conceived by local resident Heather Gibson, who was first diagnosed with cancer five years ago.

“ . . . she found there was no place to go for resources and information,” Hutchens explains. “She gathered together people in the community and started exploring the possibility of a cancer-resource center. Specifically, she wanted a place that was a non-medical setting where people could go for support and assistance with things such as transportation.”

Since its grand opening last October, the cozy and inviting CCS facility—adorned with magnificent paintings donated as memorials or painted by local cancer survivors—has served hundreds of needs for approximately 30 cancer patients, according to Hutchens.  Working diligently to avoid duplicating services offered by Hospice or the North Idaho Cancer Center, CCS supplements the other cancer entities through its library, its mentoring and educational programs, and gas vouchers for patients traveling to treatment centers.

The facility even provides wigs or hats for patients undergoing treatment as well as Internet access for those seeking additional information. Hutchens wants the community to know that CCS serves patients with all forms of cancer—not just those with breast cancer. She also stresses that the facility does not give medical advice.

Hutchens first met Jenny Meyer last fall at a CCS board meeting. Since then, Jenny has completed the mentoring program and has provided emotional support for three other cancer patients. She also volunteers as a receptionist at the center.

“My impression of Jenny is that she is an amazing and courageous young woman,” Hutchens says. “Her faith in God has carried her through a great deal in the past four years. Jenny is an example to emulate—not only as a person but also as one who is fighting the cancer battle.”

Jenny’s battle began four years ago when she was 26. She was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer just weeks after learning that she and her husband Jeff were going to be parents. Since then, her story has filtered out among friends and acquaintances throughout the community. She also frequently speaks about her struggle at her Cedar Hills Church or at cancer seminars.

Anyone who knows Jenny will tell you she’s a fighter.  Through excellent medical guidance and pure grit, she has waged an ongoing effort against the disease. She has also realized many goals since her first diagnosis.

Her beautiful daughter Grace will turn 4 this November. Her lifelong dream of being a “rancher” has just begun. Jenny, Jeff and Grace moved this past week to an 80-acre farm near Elmira. She will have chickens-----and a horse. She’ll be taking riding lessons from one of her former teachers soon. Another of Jenny’s goals is to see Grace go to school.

For four years, Jenny’s odds of overcoming the disease have been dismal. Yet she fights on and eyes the future. And the folks around her sometimes feel helpless that they can’t do more. This is exactly why Julie has created the “Celebrate Life” walk on August 14.

“So many times, I have felt helpless as I watch my sister at the young age of 30 continue to fight this disease,” Julie says. “As a family member, your need to help in some way is great. As an RN in the Sandpoint community, I care for many whose lives are forever altered by a cancer diagnosis. As people leave the hospital, I wonder, ‘Do they have support? Do they have resources? What can I do to help?”

Julie has found the answer to her last question. Now, she needs your help.

Let’s fill the bridge Saturday, Aug. 14. Let’s also fill the CCS coffers to support the continually-growing needs of our local cancer patients like Jenny Meyer. By participating in this great cause, we can kick off one of the biggest recreational days in Sandpoint, which also includes the POAC Arts and Crafts Festival and Super Swampy Saturday at the Festival at Sandpoint concert.

Let’s once again demonstrate a beauty far beyond anything we’ll see as we enjoy those breath-taking views while walking across the bridge. Sandpoint’s inner beauty manifests itself day in and day out through its caring people. The “Celebrate Life” walk presents another opportunity to demonstrate our community’s greatest quality—generosity toward others . See you all there. If for some reason you can’t participate in the walk, you can send “Celebrate Life” donations to CCS at P.O. Box 2213, Sandpoint, ID 83864. You will receive a receipt for your tax-deductible donation. For further questions, call 208-255-2301, or check the website.

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Author info

Marianne Love Marianne Love is a freelance writer and former English teacher who enjoys telling the stories of her community. She has authored several books, the latest of which is "Lessons With Love."

Tagged as:

cancer, Jenny Meyer, Celebrate Life, Community Cancer Services, Heather Gibson, Patty Hutchens

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