Fight, Alice, Fight!
by Don Osborn
It's been a while since I've written and here is why: my cousin Alice is fighting for her life, and it's going to be a tough fight. I've wanted to write about her but haven't known what to say. Finally over the last couple days I have thought of a way to summarize her situation and portray her optimism.
Alice was diagnosed with leukemia in August 2004. At the time an email went around with the news, and it sounded terribly severe. I remember feeling as if she was going to die within weeks, it sounded so bad. And then I didn't hear much. She somehow made it through the initial treatment and life seemed to go on. But now recently things have gotten worse, and she is in a Twin Cities' hospital getting serious attention. You can read about her situation in her journal which is updated nearly every day, usually by Alice herself.
Reading her reports, I'm usually left dumbfounded. How can a person facing such dire prospects be so optimistic? How can the joy that radiates from her entries even be possible in a time like this? I'm sure Alice would respond instantly with "it's a God thing." You know what? I have to believe her.
What makes this story even more heartbreaking are the things that have gone on in Alice's life, as well as in our extended family over the last number of years. I don't know the details, but I know that Alice and her husband Jerry worked long and hard to adopt their first son, David. They were so ecstatic to finally have a child and their enthusiasm was wonderful. Years later, they adopted a second boy named Daniel. I have talked to some people who have gone through the adoption process. It usually sounds emotionally draining, with sudden ups and unexpected downs. So, a beautiful family, finally come together after years of work, is now jeopardized by this brutal disease.
Alice's family has not been without its own health struggles. Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer a couple years ago. Her life was threatened, but for the time being her cancer is "inactive." I don't believe she is out of the woods completely, so that is another emotional weight the family bears.
And about six years ago our family suddenly and tragically lost our beloved patriarch, Grandpa. The man was a joy to be around, always laughing, telling jokes, and if encouraged, playing old time songs on his guitar. Family reunions around Christmas filled his house with his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. He died suddenly in a car accident and it was a unexpected blow to the entire extended family.
You want more? Do you remember the story from last hunting season when hunters were gunned down and killed in northwest Wisconsin? Two of the victims were another cousin of ours and his son. The news rocked a family already going through some tough times. Robert was in the prime of life with a beautiful wife, children, and a successful business. Thinking about it now, it seems as horribly surreal as it did last November.
And in the context of all of that struggle, death, and disease, Alice is fending off death one day at a time. It just seems like this hard-working, down-home family mostly based in Rice Lake, Wisconsin has just about had enough to deal with for one lifetime, thank you very much. How about a little relief? Leukemia is not sympathetic, and so Alice wages her optimistic battle of faith, hope, and love despite some fairly long odds.
Well, Alice, your guestbook demonstrates just a fraction of the love and support surrounding you. We all love and pray for you. Keep fighting Alice. You're going to make it.
Addendum: Alice Van Dyke lost her fight with leukemia on Thursday September 2, 2005. She was buried in Chippewa Falls, WI on Monday September 5.