“CANCER GENES TENDER SECRETS”; FRIENDS, FAMILY SHARE JOY
Beverly Birdwell Blair, diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia Labor Day weekend 1999, searched fruitlessly for a bone marrow donor for weeks afterward. Various drug therapies failed her and by November, after suffering through a course of Interferon, she despaired of life itself.
Her husband Bob, always thoughtful, but disheartened as well, set up a five-foot somewhat straggly spruce for a Christmas tree that year. The two-story atrium in their living room dwarfed the tree.
Despite the obstacles, through prayers and tears Beverly determined that she wanted to live. She asked Bob to get another tree.
Bob delivered with 10-foot tall silk tree.
As the weeks went on, Bev, empowered by the love of her family, by the prayers of hundreds, and her desire to live, followed every possible lead for an effective treatment. She discovered Dr. Charles Schiffer’s study of the drug Gleevec going on at Karmonos Cancer Center in Detroit. Persisting until granted an opportunity to try the drug, Bev’s hopes soared.
Since beginning this drug in 2000, every test for cancerous cells has been negative including molecular level screenings. She emailed me a link to today’s New York Times piece, “Slowly Cancer Genes Tender Their Secrets” describing the development of cancer treatments based, “not on blasting cancer cells with harsh chemotherapy or radiation but instead of using a sort of molecular razor to cut them out.”
Becoming relentless fund-raisers for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Bev’s brother Barry Birdwell and his wife Michele, train themselves and mentor more that seventy others though the Leukemia Team in Training program. Their goal this year is to run the Musical Marathon Series which includes four marathons. Barry serves on the Central Florida board of the society.
Beverly, my best-friend since childhood, thrives this Christmas of 2005. When she entertained the faculty from Warren, Michigan’s Lincoln High School, where Bob serves as principal, someone commented that Bev's tree was the most beautiful tree they had ever seen.
Under that ten-foot tree Bev celebrated the holidays with family including Bob’s sister Dr. Rhonda Blair, a drama teacher at SMU; her oldest son Jesse, a teacher and coach at David Lipscomb High School in Nashville, completing an MBA; her second born son, Zachary, a missionary in Guatemala this year and a likely law school student next year; her youngest son, Alex, an undergrad at Harding University; her brother Barry and his wife Michele working and running in Melbourne,Florida; and her mother Lois, living close by loving Bev and the boys.
From the age two until our twenties and marriage took us away, we spent every Christmas of our lives together. When I read the headline today, “Cancer Genes Tender Secrets…” I thought of the secrets tendered by best friends over the years. A flood of love and memories overwhelmed me and I had to pause to say thanks to God for the grace of friendship and for each day of life he has afforded us.
I know for Beverly Birdwell Blair thankfulness to God for his grace and Gleevec dwarf chronic myelogenous leukemia.