Cancer is one of the scariest words that can be uttered during a physical examination. It often redirects the path of our life and re-channels our values and spirituality. This is a story of how a deadly disease became a gift to our family. A gift that was presented unknowingly by a unsuspecting and humble individual who is a hero to everyone who knows her.
Circa 1990, Gina Lamons was diagnosed with cancer and given five years to live. The photo above shows Gina with our family in 2014, 24 years later and now one of the longest living people with her type of carcinoma.
God knows what she is going through and is always there for her - no matter what the circumstance...
....One week before her scheduled surgery, the hospital called to tell her that her surgeon was killed in a motorcycle accident and that there was no one else that could perform the surgery...
Gina's example teaches us all to live by faith and count our blessings every day...
When you hear you've got cancer, something in your
body growing without your permission, something looking to cause you
harm, to change your life and the lives of those who love you and you only have five years to live because there is no
cure, the shock and dismay can weigh on you like a mountain on your chest. Before
you're able to wrap your mind around the word cancer, you're submerged into a new cycle of chemo,
radiation, surgery, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, pain and fear. If you're
lucky enough, you get to repeat it again and again and again.
Gina's “agains” spanned 24 years. During that time, she continually turned the medical profession on its head and amazed anyone familiar with her story. Her doctors and caregivers attest to having never seen anyone like her. As a family, we know she is our "Gift", an incomparable example of quiet assurance, belief and determination. She has taught everyone that survival requires much more than medicine. Her miraculous longevity can be largely attributed to her strong spirit and her trust that God knows what she is going through and is always there for her. Her life changed but her vigilance never wavered.
Through spring 2014, Gina flew alone from Oakland to Los Angeles for chemotherapy infusions. During her trips, she would hit the shopping spots, stay overnight for her 24 hour infusion, then get in a plane to return home. In 3 week intervals, she did this for many years. In the interim periods between treatments, she would travel, help others through their tough circumstances and provide her mother, children and husband with the time and care they needed. She also took long walks on the lake and did water aerobics. She continued walking and traveling even when she had to rely on oxygen.
She has faced many obstacles in her 24 year battle, including 10 years ago when her tumors were growing at an alarming rate. Gina flew to the East Coast to see a world renowned thoracic surgeon. His patients seek him out from all corners of the globe and he and Gina bonded at their first meeting. One week before the scheduled surgery, however, the hospital called with the news that the surgeon had been killed in a motorcycle accident and there was no one else who could perform the surgery. Gina's tears were for his family's loss and the loss of a new friend. This was just one of many obstacles she faced and overcame.
This past July, she was hospitalized for respiratory failure and multiple infections. Doctors said this was the end of the road and nothing else could be done. After a summer in the hospital, Gina was back home with a tracheotomy and ventilator. Her progress amazed us all. Within months, she was walking even though she was on a ventilator and feeding tube -- who does that?! Once again she flipped the medical community on its head. At one point, Gina returned for a follow-up visit with a surgeon. The surgeon phoned her oncologist while Gina was in his office and exclaimed, “what kind of miracles are you performing?”. The reply was immediate, "Oh, you must be seeing Gina Lamons.”
As Gina continued to thrive, so did the cancer since all treatment had stopped. The tumors found their opportunity to grow and the masses in her spine grew and caused paralysis and other complications related to paraplegia. Many of the complications were so serious she had to return to the intensive care unit. On the morning after she was admitted, she was so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed that the admitting nurse expressed shock that she was still with us. Again, she turned the medical community on their heads, but when you tell her she is amazing she says, “God is good.”
This latest journey has been a tough one for Gina and her family. Yet she is still the master of independence and make no mistake about the fact that she is still calling the shots. Gina's gift to us all is her example of living by faith and counting our blessings every day. The way she lights up around her children reminds us all how important every moment, every word and every gesture is. If you are lucky enough to be one of her Facebook friends, you might just get a dose of inspiration from her. And as for you, "tumor," the message from Gina is, "I am not giving up, I am just fighting you with a different pair of gloves.”
Gina is a GIFT, a true testimony that we are not defined by what ails us, but how we choose to get through it. She truly lives life, loves life and laughs because she can. Gina will be a Grandma in April and she can't wait to meet Ms. Devin Ashley-Nicole Robinson. She will tell you in no uncertain words that GOD IS HER FORCE and she is forever grateful for the care her family is providing. Her family will tell you what a privilege and honor it is to care for her and how grateful they are for her example and inspiration.