(Editor’s Note: The following is the second installment of a new monthly feature, focusing on local women who have overcome some daunting obstacles in their lives. This feature will spotlight them and demonstrate their strength and ability to persevere when life is at its most challenging. If you know of someone we should profile, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get the information to our writer, Elle Jaye).
Cour-age ’kur-ij n : the ability to face danger, difficulty, uncertainty, or pain without being overcome by fear or being deflected from a chosen course of action.
This is the definition of courage from the New Merriam-Webster Dictionary. I began last month’s column the same way, as you may remember, and I may begin this way each month as a reminder to myself of just exactly what the mission of this profile is. It is to give a glimpse into the lives of women who have demonstrated tremendous courage; showing how they have chosen to live their lives with a positive focus and as a result, inspire others.
The concrete definition of courage is what our minds comprehend it to be, but it is the abstract action that makes it a reality. It is that abstract action that shows us how each one of these incredible woman have demonstrated courage in a different and unique way, all having been shaped by different unforeseen circumstances that have led them to where they are today — strong and mindful.
This leads us to Marylou Jones, wife of 45 years to Mike, mother of four daughters, grandmother to six grandchildren and a long- time sufferer of Rheumatoid Arthritis.
It was a clear February afternoon that I met with Marylou, chilly, but bright. As I let myself in the front door and made my way through the house, I found Marylou sitting in the kitchen. There she was by the bay window in her wheelchair looking more like a cheerleader than someone who was recuperating from major surgery.
I was greeted with her big smile and a warm hug and then immediately directed to the stove to fix myself some tea. Meet Marylou … .strong, kind and determined.
Flashback to the year 1973, a then 29-year-old Marylou was living life and caring for her four young daughters. The symptoms were vague at first — pain in her left heel that just did not want to go away, fatigue and then the progression of joint pain began to increase. Now before you go running to “WebMD” and start plugging in symptoms, Marylou assures me that you would know something was seriously wrong as her symptoms took off like “a wildfire”.
She was hospitalized after a dramatic weight loss of 40 pounds and progressive joint pain. There the tests were run and the diagnosis was made … Rheumatoid Arthritis, thus, the beginning of the trying illness that would shape Marylou.
As she and I spoke that afternoon about her life, the most obvious trait to me was her magnificent sense of humor, which I know, in all honesty, was meant to make me feel more comfortable. It worked. She attributes this part of her personality in giving her the ability to cope with the pain and physical disabilities that this illness has caused.
Marylou begins to tell me of her latest surgery to repair a broken femur, the result of a fall over Christmas, and about the full length brace on her left leg.
“Allow me to introduce you to ‘Brutus’…he and I have gotten very close these days,” she said.
She explains that it is the humor that was a turning point for her years ago during one of the many hospitalizations where she made another patient her “project”. She realized that this woman had difficulties far worse than hers and it was her mission each day to make her smile. Once again, it worked.
Marylou attributes her strength and ability to go on each day to, “Faith, family, friends and funny bone.”
I asked her about her faith and she replied that, “I see God in everything…and I know through Him I will make it out of this wheelchair.”
As she says this, there is a tear in her eye and says that this has been the toughest part and that she knows it is okay to feel this pain. That it is okay to grieve the mobility that she has lost. There are days that her greatest challenge is keeping a positive attitude. In recognizing it, she knows she can deal with it.
As we were winding up our tea and conversation, she tells me of another project that she may take on … writing a book titled, “I Just Did It For The Attention…My Life As A Pin Cushion!”
Her parting words to me were…”don’t ever, ever, ever, give up and please tell people to get good medical advice and educate themselves on their conditions …”
I know with her strength and determination that it won’t be long before Marylou is back volunteering at the hospital and working with her church … without “Brutus”.
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will, When the road you’re trudging seems all up hill, When the funds are low, and the debts are high, And you want to smile, but you have to sigh, When care is pressing you down a bit, Rest if you must, but don’t you quit…..
Edgar A. Guest