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Thursday, October 6, 2011

"APPRECIATING THE MOMENT: The LaShunda Lewis Jones Story"

by Cyrus Webb

All of us want to feel as though we are living for something, that the time we have on this earth mattered and means something. For some this means finding somone who completes us and adds fulfillment to our lives like nothing else. Such is the case with LaShunda Lewis Jones.

At the young age of thirty-five the Mississippi native has experienced some of the highest of highs and life's lowest of lows. In 2004 she met the man she believed she would spend the rest of her life with. In December 2010 she found herself having to say goodbye after losing him to cancer. It is the life they lived in between those two dates that showcase what it means to make the most of each day and how to deal with events that threaten to destroy you.

"I met my husband (Tommy Jones) in September 2004," LaShunda told me. "He was a family-oriented person. Very quiet, not outgoing at all. We both had children, and we were both interested in making each other happy."

The two moved in with each other in September 2005, and for LaShunda it seemed as though everything was headed in the right direction. It was two years later, though, that the couple experienced what was to be a first in a series of setbacks.

"Tommy had been having a lot of stomach pain," LaShunda says. "It had been going on for over a year. In July 2007 he was admitted into the hospital and after a colonastomy it was revealed that he had stage four cancer." She was to learn later that at least four people in his family had passed due to cancer. One was even colon cancer.

The diagnosis had an immediate effect. "Tommy became really depressed after that," LaShunda told me. "From that time until he passed he was always having ups and down, good days and bad days. This is what people don't seem to understand. With cancer one day you are laughing and talking and having a blast, and the next day you are feeling so bad you can't get out of bed."

In spite of the cancer diagnosis and the realization of what the outcome might be, the two became engaged in July 2009. They had found something that they wanted to live for: each other. What did LaShunda think about when he proposed? "There was never a time when I thought I couldn't marry him," she says. "He would want to talk of what I would do if he didn't make it, but I tried to keep him positive. I was the support. 'Let's speak positive words,' I would say to him. 'We are going to get through this.' One day we were sitting down talking and he told me that this was a lot of emotional stress. 'The only thing I need for you to do is be there,' he said to me."

At this time even though LaShunda and Tommy had been told that he had stage four cancer, she still was holding out hope for the best. "It never dawned on me that stage four was the last stage of cancer," she said to me. "I really thought we had some hope until the very end."

Sadly, Tommy Jones lost his battle with cancer on December 27, 2010. Today LaShunda is still dealing with the loss of her husband and making sense of her life and how to move forward. "When a person you love has cancer the whole family has cancer," she told me. "When he was happy, I was happy. When he was sad, I was sad. I went with the flow. I don't think people understood what I was going through or what I am going through now."

As a person who has always seen herself as a believer, how has her faith held up during this process? "I feel like my faith was tested in many ways," she says. "The only thing I relied on was God and scriptures. I thought God would answer my prayers. As time went on I couldn't understand why Tommy wasn't getting better. I was praying 'Please, Lord, let him make it.' When he didn't I have to admit that I started to have some doubt about Him. I then began asking 'Are you up there? Are you hearing me?'"

"It's a lot of stress dealing with someone that ill, not knowing if they are going to get better or not. I would say whatever they want, do it. You never know if that is going to be the last moment or the last day. Don't take any moment for granted."

When asked was there ever a time when she thought about giving up, LaShunda's answer was quick and truthful. "Yes. Without a doubt. I went through the stage of I couldn't do it any more. It was all too much. I felt alone. It was like I was dealing with this by myself. What I wanted is for someone to relieve some of the stress from me. I wanted someone to understand what I was going through."

I think we can all understand the feelings behind LaShunda Lewis Jones' story. Learning to love yourself can be hard enough. Loving someone else can be almost impossible. As in LaShunda's case, however, the reward can be more than worth the risk, and what comes out of it might be a larger lesson and appreciation that we couldn't have even expected.

May we make it our goal to not only take that risk but be there for those who might be in need of that extra encouragement. That way we can make sure that no one feels as though they have to go through the dark days alone.

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