Monday, March 23, 2015

We Are Family (not a sing along!)

We all have interesting and unique definitions of whom we include in our families. Depending on your culture, religion, or ethnicity, that definition could be wider or more narrow than someone else.

This weekend I had the immense pleasure of witnessing a family wrought out of caring and love for each other regardless of the circumstances that have transpired previously. I am a part of this tribe. This family of friends, relatives, spouses, former spouses, neighbors, and coworkers. We are rather like a spider web, woven tightly with delicate threads that alone are vulnerable but together form a miraculous safety net.

Angie's Army ready to show our support for Angie Gildea at the Irish Jig 5K Run in Grand Rapids. The race supports colo-rectal research efforts.

Our mission this weekend was to cast this safety net out into the universe in protection of Angela Nauta Gildea (check out her blog here and follow along on her journey toward a cancer-free life). Angie was diagnosed only two weeks ago with colon cancer stage IV, the cancer has spread to her liver. Angie is a spunky, busy mom of two young ladies (ages 9 and 10), a professional, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a neighbor, a Christian. And, according to the group gathered on Saturday, Angie is destined to be a SURVIVOR. 

Angie cheering on her team at the finish line of the Irish Jig 5K in Grand Rapids.

The complexities of the family gathered to support Angie are unusual. Yet, also representative of the diverse lives we all live now. My son considers her to be Aunt Angie, even though she is not related to him through traditional family ties. But, when the chips are down and the need for one more set of hands clasped in prayer seeking healing work both spiritually and at the hands of a seasoned medical team...we are all family. 

Angie's Army of BELIEVERS gathered after the race at Derby Station to celebrate her future success.

Like most families, we tease, we banter, we call each other out for silliness and downright dumb-headedness (it is a word, trust me!). We forgive when merited. And, ultimately we circle the wagons and call in support to help when one of our own is down.

The heart of Angie's Army and our Family of supporters are the Chick-Lits, our book club. We were missing a couple of ladies, but they were with us in spirit.

As Angie wages her battle, this family will keep our web woven tightly and at the ready to catch her when she needs us...or just to provide a playful bounce now and again, like at the trampoline park. We will not let her down because at the heart of everything is the common denominator of love for someone special and a sincere desire to lift her up in success and happiness.

We all have our roles: the serious one, the goofy one, the smart one, the one who cooks, the one who cleans, the one who dances in order to evoke get the picture. Ultimately our roles do not define us, they are just one more element in our wacky family tree. A part of the nutrients that are needed to establish deep roots. 

Now, that is a family. That is my family. You are welcome to join us, as long as you have heart!

A word about colo-rectal cancer...screenings begin at age 50. But, recently we've seen an increase in the number of people diagnosed with this disease before that age, Angie is only 41. So, be aware of the symptoms and take action if you notice them! Please.

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