Hope “Chirps”

Dear Reader:

Redbirds have some of the strangest habits that keep me in stitches. For two spring/summer seasons I had a little redbird that kept banging its head against the sliding glass door on the upstairs garage balcony. Bang! Bang! Bang! Over and over and over!

I reckon, when he saw his reflection, he thought it was another bird…I still haven’t figured it out quite yet…but for either two or three seasons there was the little red bird banging his head again and again. I really feared he was going to have permanent brain damage.

Time passed and over this previous weekend I heard this loud chirping going on around my car. Suddenly I noticed (from sitting on the front porch steps) that once again, a little red bird was sitting on top of the side mirror extension, peeking in the mirror and then banging his head against it too.

Not again….I thought! I must be raising a family of red birds that have inherited this “mutant” gene for head-banging…I will soon have a whole “colony” of special needs redbirds!

Still, since redbirds are supposed to bring good luck, I will take it wherever and from whomever passes the good karma my way…even “special” redbirds with a narcissistic personality disorder.

May you remember cardinals appear when angels are near.

So go now, sit outside and drink your tea.

Keep a look out for the little red bird — It is there where your loved one will be.

–Victoria McGovern

What excites me about writing a blog post…is that once I hit “SEND” (for better or worse) my thoughts and ideas are “out there” and can’t be retracted. A scary thought sometimes…but not in this particular case.

Yesterday I saw where I had gotten a comment about the blog and a personal story… that followed for everyone… especially Michelle and all of us who are fighting potentially life-threatening diseases. (Our loyal readers now include others from around the world and this time, it is a storyteller from British Columbia, Canada, Lynn Gamache. She wrote her story through the Chapel of Hope Connection page.)

*I know Beverly Barutio would love the fact that the chapel blog continues helping others through its beacon of light… like her chapel. It is simply an extension of the chapel for everyone who might never have the opportunity to physically go there.

*Lynn, we must meet sometime…I loved how you started your story with (what I call) a “Dingle Jingle” ….we have a lot in common! And now here is Lynn’s story of hope and courage…and lots of God Winks! She hopes her story will encourage someone else walking behind her.

Hello Dear Becky,
I have been reading and relishing your blogs for some months now. Love story-telling too! And now I have my own “cancer story” to share with you, Michelle, and other “sisters in crisis.”

Sisters in Crisis

Lynn Gamache, Quadra Island, 1997

As I look at the photo there I see,
Someone who looks a lot like me.
‘That must be your sister’, several have said —
Which makes me smile, but I shake my head..
For we’re not related by birth or by blood
But we do both belong to the family of God.
So if you have time, let me tell you the story;
I hope it will bless you and bring to God glory.”

Yes, as I look at the photo now, it reminds me of that day so well…the morning of Saturday, January 4, 1997.  I’d looked forward to this holiday for awhile.  Just being in Victoria with my husband was a treat.  Now, this morning, he was coming with me to the home of my friend, Dorothy.  He would meet Dorothy and I would finally get to meet her husband Jack and sons, Jonathan and David.  This was a day that I’d eagerly anticipated for some time….a happy day!

This reunion, I was sure, would be so different from my very first encounter with Dorothy, just one year earlier.  Then it was December — December 15th, 1995 and just ten days til Christmas and one week until my 49th birthday.  But that damp, grey winter day I was not really excited about either Christmas or my birthday.  Somehow these dates, once so special, were only that — dates on the calendar.  They were days that I hoped I would be able to enjoy, but sometimes I wondered  

...and worried too.  For on this Friday the 15th I was scheduled to begin my chemotherapy treatments.  It was my very first appointment at the Jubilee Hospital Cancer Clinic in Victoria, B.C.  I dreaded going — hated even the thought of going!  Tales of “chemo” are usually awful.  Besides, I’d visited this same hospital before — years before when my mother, still in her forties, lay dying of cancer.  Now, here I was, some 28 years later, entering this same clinic with the same dread disease.

My prognosis was not good.  The lab report which returned after my first mastectomy had clearly indicated that I was a high risk patient.  Thus when I met with my oncologist the week before, she had offered me two options for treatment.  I could choose to be part of a select study group receiving high doses of chemo as well as a bone marrow transplant, or I could opt for the more usual method of treatment involving four months of chemotherapy followed by several weeks of radiation.  It was a huge decision, but without too much deliberation I chose the more routine and simple plan, trusting God to carry me through the days and months ahead. 

Still, the prospect of weeks of treatment and all the possible side effects was not a pleasant one.  I went to that first chemo session with uncertainty and fear gripping my mind and body.  My questions were many as I climbed the flight of stairs and walked into the nearly-empty waiting room.  It was a very lovely room especially arranged for cancer patients and their families.  I was so thankful for my mother’s youngest sister who was there with me.  And I believed that God was there too — but somehow I longed for some special evidence of His presence and personal care at this time of great need.  And so I waited, watched and prayed.

Finally it was my turn and I was ushered into the chemo room by a nurse named Dorothy Reimer.  She was tall, slim, smiling and very efficient too.  Soon I was seated in a comfortable chair and the intra-venous needle was in place.  I tried to relax while Dorothy proceeded to carefully and very thoroughly explain exactly what she was doing and why.  She also informed me about many of the possible and probable side effects.  I might be nauseated, lose my appetite, develop sores in my mouth and for sure I would lose my hair, but probably not my eyebrows — a small consolation along the way!

Finally the subject changed and we talked about other things.  I needed that diversion — any distraction from thinking about the potent chemicals which were silently dripping into my body.  My aunt had her own diversion.  As Dorothy and I chatted she sat quietly knitting.  I knew that she was trying to stay calm and courageous with me.

In time our conversation detoured again as Dorothy inquired about my aunt’s handwork project: “Are you knitting something for Christmas?” Dorothy queried.  But the answer was not in the affirmative, for the knitting project this day was a simple toque destined to go to the Vancouver Seaman’s Mission.  This we explained to our nurse was a special maritime mission with the goal of reaching out to foreign seamen who sail into port and find themselves alone in a new land.  “Oh, do you mean that it’s a ministry like the Shantymen?” Dorothy responded.  Then she eagerly went on to tell us all about a book that she had recently been reading which told of the work of the Shantyman’s Christian  Association on Canada’s west coast — a book entitled Splendour from the Sea by W. Phillip Keller.

As Dorothy rambled on, my aunt and I looked at one another with wonder.  Or had we really heard right?!  Hesitating for only a few seconds, my aunt then turned to Dorothy and quietly replied, “Well, Lynn is his daughter”….We instantly found ourselves with tears in our eyes.  Dorothy was astonished and overcome with awe and amazement.  Calling to the other nurse in the room that day she exclaimed, “Mary, this is such a delightful surprise!  This lady is Phillip Keller’s daughter.  I’ve been reading his books for years.  He grew up in East Africa and I think we even attended the same boarding school there in Kenya because my parents were missionaries too.!”  Soon her excited monologue changed to more of a dialogue as she plied me with questions about my Dad, his many books and my life too. 

As we talked, I relaxed.  More than this, my own doubts and fears were replaced by a very real sense of joy and peace.  Obviously God had directed my steps along the way, bringing me to this particular chemotherapy room at this precise time on this dark December day.  I was not here simply by chance or doctors orders! 

I was quite convinced that this was not some strange coincidence.  Rather I saw this meeting with Dorothy as a wonderful gift from my heavenly Father.  It was a special reminder of God’s personal care for me and it also meant the beginning of a beautiful new friendship with a nurse named Dorothy who looks a lot like me!

Added Post Script Note:

…The story goes on.  In August of ’96 Dorothy was diagnosed with breast cancer and proceeded with months of treatment similar to mine.  So the letters and phone calls have continued as we eagerly share notes on our health care and cancer concerns.  When we visited on that day in Jan. ’97 I was finished with treatment and Dorothy was in the midst of hers.  Dorothy now wore the wig while I had my own hair back again.  So there we are (as we look at the picture taken that day) — two women with cancer but not just sisters in crisis.  We are sisters in Christ, both so thankful for our very first meeting and the unique friendship which has blossomed over the past years.

*Linda Carson…I couldn’t help but think of you in this story…you were and are my “Dorothy” ….Lynn and I were both lucky to have chemo nurses whose compassion and encouragement helped us through some tough times…along with some major God Winks! Michelle, here’s hoping and praying you are finding the same compassion with your nurses and doctors.

So until tomorrow… Thank you Father for shared stories and special sisterhoods in hoping and healing.

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

  • Thank you dear readers for all your encouraging words of hope and prayer for Michelle as she prepares for the next set of treatments (hopefully a new drug) to stabilize her breast cancer.


About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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8 Responses to Hope “Chirps”

  1. Jo Dufford says:

    Becky, I am amazed at how far your stories go and how many people they touch. Keep putting your thoughts and words “out there” as you say because you have a story to share, and sometimes it may be another’s story, like Lynn’s. Lynn’s story is so inspirational, and truly shows that God is always at work in our lives. . I have several of Phillip Keller’s books, and they are so great. I particularly enjoyed “Lessons From a Sheep Dog” (don’t know how to underline the title), but all the ones I have read are very good. Have you read “A Gardener Looks at the Fruits of the Spirit”?


    • Becky Dingle says:

      No…I haven’t.Did he write that too…sounds like my kind of book!


      • Lynn Gamache says:

        Yes, my father did write the book that Jo mentions re the Gardener…plus nearly 50 other books before he passed away at age 77!!


    • Lynn Gamache says:

      Dear Jo…how delightful to connect in this way! I wonder where you might live…in the USA somewhere? Also wondering if you knew there is a children’s version of the book, “Lessons from a Sheep Dog”? If you have grandchildren this makes a great gift. It is not written by my father but is based on his book and is filled with beautiful colour illustrations too. Blessings, Lynn


      • Jo Dufford says:

        Dear Lynn, I live in Summerville not too far from Becky. I didn’t see your post to me until Becky told me it was on this blog. Thank you for writing me, and no, I had not seen the children’s version of the book. I will try to locate it because I now have a great-grand who will soon be old enough to enjoy it. And yes, I have been blessed with enough years to have a great-grand. Although Becky is quite a bit younger than I, we share several things in common such as both having taught social studies in this district and both having enjoyed a number of years telling stories. I just know you must be great with stories if you are Mr. Keller’s daughter.


  2. Boo, I always heard that cardinals were meant to be loved ones visiting you. On the anniversary of my sisters death my mom was looking out the window and said “ok Amanda it’s time to show up” and right then the cardinal flew right into the back porch. She says it visits often. I’ve seen them a time or too myself 🙂


    • Becky Dingle says:

      You are right Kaitlyn…that is what the little verse under the photo of the cardinal is implying…that when you see a cardinal…a loved one, who has gone before, is contacting you. I love it…so sweet!


  3. Lynn Gamache says:

    Hello dear Jo….sounds like you live in a beautiful part of the USA if you live near Becky. I have a dear friend who has retired with her husband in Franklin, N.Carolina. I’ve visited Ronda twice now and just love that part of the country, especially in the Fall of the year.
    Then you and I may be nearly the same age as I have some older grandchildren who might marry one of these years so we can have “great grands” too! And I am also a teacher by training tho always a mother at heart. I do love telling stories of all kinds and am presently working on a book that I hope to have finished by the time our 50th anniv. comes around in 2 more years.


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