I want to tell you the story of Louella Gaines from Ypsilanti, Michigan, who has persevered through many bouts of cancer, during which she has lost a lung, a kidney, her female organs, and many areas of her skin. May you find some strength from the insightful words from this remarkable woman, someone who continues to triumph over tragedy. In her own words, she is “a tough lady!”

Louella’s heartbreak started early in life with the loss of her mother at the age of three. Being the youngest of ten children, she was fortunate to be loved and taken care of by her older siblings. Later in life, she mourned the loss of her newborn baby, and she also experienced the death of her adult son, Don.

She has endured a 40-year battle with cancer too. She’s overcome a hysterectomy, mastectomy, the loss of a lung and kidney and frequent bouts of skin cancer (melanoma). Louella’s routine often includes weekly trips to the doctor’s office. The alternative isn’t a choice.  When I asked her if her battle has been worth it, she replied, “Yes, it is worthwhile for me and my family. I am happy to be alive and doing well!”

She credits her success to her support system: the love of her family, strength from 61 years of marriage to her husband Gene, and faith from her relationship with God.  Suzanne, her daughter, explains that her mother’s strength comes naturally. It is a part of her; she never had an option to be anything other than strong.

What advice does Louella offer someone who has just been diagnosed with cancer? She said firmly, listen to the doctor, and get the surgery if necessary! What does she say to someone who is afraid to go to the doctor? “Go, learn to trust your doctor, develop a relationship with him and be very conscious of your body.”

I imagine someone who has endured such a devastating journey might justify living life resentfully. But this isn’t Louella. She exudes warmth. She continues to stay positive, thanking God every day for her life!

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Kathryn Williams Raths

I have always had creative threads of inspirations in my life. I can fall into an oil pastel drawing like the average person falls into a good book. It is a grounding process, allowing me to lose myself in my work, lose track of time and escape the pressures of everyday life. Unfortunately, I have not spent much of my life devoting time to my heart's desire; writing and exploring my creative impulses. I'm a single mom first and I've been a full-time employee in the business world for over the past 20 years. I’ve earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science. I live in the cornfields of Ypsilanti with my 2 sons, who are thirteen and fourteen, and my boyfriend, a wonderful man whom inspires and supports my dreams. During 2008, I had some life-altering experiences which have given me a new perspective and enabled me to reprioritize my responsibilities. I lost my father and my job, both of which I devoted much love and energy to and truly treasured. In the aftermath of my father's death, I reached deep within my core and wrote my book, What Can I Say When Words Escape Me, being present during times of sorrow. I can only hope these words of encouragement and nature photos touch your heart and up lift and hug your soul as they have for me. I currently write for the Examiner.com, Detroit market as a Healthy Living Reporter, http://www.examiner.com/x-27409-Detroit-Healthy-Living-Examiner. I'm grateful for my life's journey thus far and thankful for a nurturing, fulfilling future that enables me to reach out and help others struggling with hardship. http://still-waters-counseling.com/kathryn-raths-m-a-llpc/

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