Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"Be Strong and Take Heart..."

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  Below is a post from September 2014 about our friends, Kelley and David Mitchell--and their youngest daughter, Belle.  It seems appropriate to share this with you again--as our hearts are still full and our memories are vivid.  Belle went home to be with Jesus, the very best of Physicians, on January 17, 2015.  This post is a tribute to those who continue the fight--on the front-line.  The families, the cancer warriors, and the amazing folks at St. Jude's who are finding cures and saving lives. And for those whose dining room table now has an empty chair.  

Five years ago today, my dear friend of two decades, Kelley and her husband, David, heard two words that would change the course of their lives.  “It’s cancer,” they were told by the doctor.  Belle, the youngest of their four children, was diagnosed with Choroid Plexus Carcinoma, a rare brain tumor.  I still remember getting that phone call from Kelley.  My heart broke with her--and for her family. 

We had just visited with their family in August--a long-overdue visit, I might add.  Belle had broken her finger in a car door and had some trembling in her hand.  Given the trauma to her little hand, this seemed like a normal side-effect.  Other indications that things just weren’t right eventually brought them to a neurologist.  And, the discovery of this tumor.  Brain surgery was immediately scheduled.  And, a treatment plan was prayerfully considered. 

Within a month, Belle and Kelley landed in Memphis, Tennessee to begin treatment at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.  On Kelley’s birthday.   We spent the day at the Zoo--the “smelly zebras” were a favorite--and the next day, she started treatment to battle this unwanted invader.  From the beginning, I was overwhelmed and so thankful for what St. Jude’s could and would provide for Belle and the Mitchell family. 

In 2011, after some conversation (and a challenge from the younger generation!), we decided to form Team Belle--Jackson, Tennessee.  And, let me tell you, this was just the beginning of what I came to call “oh my heart” moments.  Putting aside the fact that I turned forty, lost my non-athletic head, and decided to train for a half-marathon in honor of Belle, I  witnessed countless acts of thoughtfulness and generosity on behalf of the Mitchell family.  In the midst of ashes, there is insurmountable proof of the promised beauty.  Only He could orchestrate such events.  And touch so many hearts.

People joined the Team from Kansas and Mississippi--because they read Belle’s story and had to be a part of this.  Young friends from a local church saved up their allowance and donated it to St. Jude’s in honor of Belle.  They prayed.  Hers was a face that looked like a friend, a younger sister, a neighborhood playmate.  The sweetest place in Jackson--HaliHannigan’s Cupcakery--well-known for their tireless support of our community and warriors in the cancer battle themselves, have been on the front lines of raising awareness and funds by sponsoring Belle Day, giving 10% of all profits since the beginning of our local Team efforts.  Families, unknown to me, giving sacrificially, simply because they were grateful for the health of their own children--and they wanted to help Belle win her battle.   Another sweet young friend makes and sells Band-O-Loom bracelets for Belle.  Oh my heart. 

September is Child Cancer Awareness Month.  These dear friends, and too many others, are more aware of this disease than most of us.  Places like St. Jude, Target House, and Ronald McDonald House provide support, first-class health care, a place to live, and community--at no cost to the families.  Absolutely no cost. 

I can’t even pretend to know what it has been like to walk Kelley and David’s path these last five years.  I do know this one thing--it is their faith in God and the constant prayers of countless people who have sustained the Mitchell family.  Below is an excerpt from Belle's CaringBridge site--straight from Kelley's heart.

“These past 5 years have brought many blessings in many ways to our family.  We have had moments full of joy and laughter and made memories that we will cherish forever, but along with the triumphs, we have also had to live in the face of reality and with the fact that Belle's prognosis is not good.  We were reminded of that once again this past summer when yet another tumor appeared.  So, it's your prayers for strength and trust that mean the most as well as the love that we are shown on a daily basis.  ‘Thank you’ doesn't begin to express the amount of gratitude that we feel.” 

Kelley and I go way back--PBA--1992!

Kelley and Belle at the Memphis Zoo--October 2009

Ain't it the truth? July 2010

Back to school and sassy--September 2014

“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord” ~ Psalm 31:24

To learn more about Belle's journey, visit her CaringBridge site by clicking the link.
To learn more about St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, click the link.
To financially support St. Jude's via Team Belle, click here


  1. ❤He is so good to impart blessings in the midst of suffering .
    Love you !

  2. Thanks, Cher--there is great Hope, my sweet friend!