By Tammy Stansbery
“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13
My journey with lung cancer officially began in April of 2011 but I believe on July 30th, 2010 is when it all started. On that dark day my first-born child, Michael, who was just a few weeks into his second deployment with the U.S. Army, was killed in Afghanistan serving his country.
As early as kindergarten, it was apparent that Michael wanted to be a soldier. He always knew what he wanted and went after his dreams. He was so full of love and light; always smiling. He was one of those people you just wanted to be around. He was honest and reliable; would do anything for the people he loved.
After Michael’s death, I found myself in a state of deep grief; I walked through daily life in a haze. I was run down and sick all the time. When I went to the doctor, they diagnosed me with “grief” and sent me home.
After a trip to Arlington National Cemetery to visit Michael, I found myself with an ear infection and the right side of my neck was swollen, so back to the doctors I went. I was sent for an x-ray to be tested for walking pneumonia. Little did we know another storm was coming; stage IV lung cancer, non -small cell adenocarcinoma. I have never smoked a day in all my 45 years.
It has not been an easy road but I have so many things to live for and celebrate. My daughter, Michelle, just recently graduated college, got married and became a nurse! I have a husband of 28 years that loves me in health and sickness. Amazing friends and family who fight for me when I am too weak to fight for myself. Even though Michael is not physically here, he plays a large part in my life. It is because of Michael’s courage and heroism that I know I can fight this battle. I miss him more than words could adequately express but I know that I have to live for him.
Some days I just want to be with him. Be in his presence. Hear his honesty. His laugh. I feel as though people believe that just because he is not here, he is not a part of our lives. Michael is still very much a part of our family. We still talk about him and celebrate him every day. The incredible courage and strength he demonstrated on a daily basis, on and off the battle field, give me the push I need to keep going. I can still hear him saying “just walk” and “you can do it.” With that he is just as much a part of this journey as anyone else.
Today on Veteran’s Day, a day that has always been very special to me, we celebrate Michael and all those who have fought for our country. I am blessed with 21 years of being Michael’s mom. I am so proud to say my son is in Arlington National Cemetery; that he is an American hero. Today we are wearing our “Michael shirts” and telling our favorite Michael stories, as we do every year on Veteran’s Day.
If Michael could fight for us, for his country, for himself; I will fight for him, my family, friends and myself.