This is my beautiful friend Yvonne. Here is a tiny portion of her story and what she has taught me about thriving through adversity.
“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”
― Brad Meltzer (or Ian MacLaren 1898, worded slightly differently)
We had lived in the tiny rural town of Saint David, Arizona for 8 years…My average for staying in one house was 1 year…over my entire lifetime! I felt like I knew people pretty well in that farming community of just over 25,000 people - so small there wasn’t a single stop light and the school was Kindergarten through 12th grade.
When we made the decision to move to Southern California for my husband’s work the spring of 2015, it was a difficult task saying goodbye to people who often felt more like family than just friends. Yvonne Mayberry was one of those people! She gave hugs, shed tears, and brought treats! From my point of view, she was a happy, healthy, giving, and loving woman just doing her thing and giving service to everyone around her. She has always been an inspiration to me! I had no idea that at the same time, my dear friend Yvonne had been battling thyroid cancer.
After a complete thyroidectomy (a two surgery procedure that removed her thyroid and lymph nodes) and treatment with radioactive iodine, Yvonne was declared cancer free. Some of her challenges at that point were regulating the thyroid medication and struggling with very low energy. However, she was able to find a new normal and continue doing most of the things she loved, like snuggling her grand babies, working with makeup to help other women feel beautiful, and continue serving in her community.
Then, in April of 2018, her world was rocked again with the news that her annual exam detected cancer present in her body again. This time, however, the cancer was behaving differently. It was following the nerve path inward towards her esophagus, making it progressively difficult for Yvonne to breath, speak, and swallow. The oncologist and ENT surgeon determined that a complete laryngectomy was necessary. This would entirely remove the larynx (or voice box) making it necessary for her to learn new ways of breathing, swallowing, and speaking. The following are Yvonne’s own words:
“This was not easy news to receive. However, with many hours of prayer, and listening, I came to the conclusion, that if this was the Lord’s will for me, I would endure the laryngectomy. I’d researched slightly, watched YouTube videos of successful laryngectomies....Fear weighed on my mind, sleepless nights filled with many pleadings with my Heavenly Father. My breathing was becoming more restricted daily.
“I knew this was going to be one of those experiences that required deep trust and confidence that the Lord knew what I needed. I became accepting of this outcome.
“It was at another visit with my ENT surgeon, when he felt impressed to have me meet with a very qualified Radiation Oncologist to determine if in fact radiation would be a successful choice for my cancer. I met with him, he had received all my scans and file, and determined that we could successfully eliminate this re-occurring cancer with high doses of radiation treatments.
“This was a huge blessing from Heaven for me. Within two weeks of this amazing news, things were changing even more. I was having great difficulty breathing and I made a call to my doctors who quickly got me into surgery to have a tracheotomy placed. My cancer was growing quickly, the tracheotomy was vital before the wheels could be set into motion to have all the additional scans, head neck mask created, and mapping of all the scans to be able to successfully begin treatment.
“7 weeks every day of radiation treatments.
“Life with a trach... not so exciting, with loads of upkeep, but knowing that more swelling would occur and breathing would be impossible....I am very grateful for it!
“Life with a trach…
“…not so exciting, with loads of upkeep, but knowing that more swelling would occur and breathing would be impossible....I am very grateful for it!”
“Breathing was extremely difficult with the increased secretions and side effects of the radiation treatments. Every day as I struggled, I would count my blessings. I would reach out to others having challenges and difficulties with their health. I believe it’s reaching out to help someone who is facing a trial that is what I needed to do. We could help, listen, pray and just be there for each other. What a blessing, to be able to help someone else because of this challenge!”
Recently Yvonne’s treatments have had to be put on hold as things within her are shifting making the radiation treatment dangerous. It must be perfectly calibrated to target only the cancerous tumors or it will severely injure her. She has also required a larger trach to be able to breath a little easier. I was blessed with the opportunity to visit with her this morning via a video chat, and after only a few minutes she was coughing and struggling to breath and speak. But that’s not the story here.
Through it all, Yvonne is reaching out to others. She is serving and loving. I asked her about her biggest challenges and this was her response:
“I miss being able to carry, hold, and play with my 7 grandkids, the 2 youngest babies go straight for the trach, lol! I miss doing chores at the barn, cleaning my house, working my full time job. But the blessings I’ve received are trusting in God, inspiration received, blessings of wonderful family who step up greatly as I’ve had to step back. The love of others and the strength I receive from their prayers, I’m truly not alone in this journey....I didn’t realize so many loved me! Helping others weather their storms and the peace that brings to me and a bigger sense of GRATITUDE! Things could always be worse.
every day of radiation treatments.”
“There is much behind the scenes, that I do not share...the lonely dark nights struggling... and yet I feel the arms of Heavenly Father around me daily and through these dark nights, whispering ‘You can do this Yvonne, I am here!’ Whenever I feel weak....immediately truthfully, counting all that I have been blessed with is the strength that fortifies me to get through another minute!”
Learning her story has taught me so much about life and finding joy even during immense challenges. Every human is battling a raging war of some kind. Some of those battles are outwardly obvious and some of them are hidden from the world. Yvonne has taught me three keys to thriving while in the midst of serious trials:
One of the best antidotes to human suffering is to reach outside of oneself to help and uplift another.
The second best way to relieve ones own suffering is through intentionally feeling sincere gratitude.
Third, having faith in and a personal relationship with God brings peace during the raging storm.
I am so thankful to know you, Yvonne! And honored beyond measure to call you my friend! Thank you for having the courage to #BeSeen!
Images from a photoshoot with Yvonne at her Arizona ranch home just before beginning treatment and receiving her tracheotomy.