In the weeks leading up to the Pink Arrow game on September 22, 2023, we will be sharing stories from Pink Arrow Pride. Today’s story is from Shannon Jammal-Hollemans.
My father was diagnosed with lung cancer early in 2018. The news was heart-rending. But there was more heart-rending news to come. As my dad was recovering from surgery to remove a lobe from his right lung, my younger sister learned she had breast cancer.
I know my family is not alone. Most of us have been touched by cancer in one way or another. Cancer is an indiscriminate predator, attacking the young, the old, the strong, the weak, and everyone in between. Since beginning my job as pastor here at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Lowell, I have heard stories of the ways that cancer has touched the lives of the people in our congregation–stories of ongoing battles, stories of remission, and far too many stories of family members taken too soon.
I also have a front-row seat to the work of Senior Neighbors and Gilda’s Club, who share our building here in Lowell. Many of the people who come for Senior Neighbors during the week have stories of how their lives have been touched by cancer. On Tuesday nights, Gilda’s Club holds support groups for those impacted by a cancer diagnosis and grief. There is so much good being done, even in really challenging times.
I grew up in Grand Rapids, but prior to last year, I had only ever ventured to Lowell for high school sports events. As I get to know Lowell’s people, businesses, organizations, and their stories – I am impressed by how this community refuses to give in to despair through the Pink Arrow campaign. There is power when people come together as a community. A society that pulls together every year to support those whose lives are being impacted by cancer is a beautiful testimony to that power and the ways that people can work together to provide hope.
My husband’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993. She was just 44 years old. The cancer took her life three years later, devastating their family. Not only were they left with the void of life without a wife and mother, but they were also left with the burden of medical bills that would take years to pay off. No one should have to struggle under that burden.
I thank God that people struggling with the burdens imposed by cancer do not have to do so alone here in Lowell. People are coming together to share resources, to comfort one another, and to offer hope. As a newcomer to Lowell, getting to know people and their stories, joys, and pains, I am grateful to be making this place my home. I am also eager to be part of the hope-inspiring and life-giving work of Pink Arrow.
My sister, who was diagnosed with cancer, underwent treatment and has been in remission for years. While my dad’s surgery successfully removed the cancer from his lung, a later scan revealed that his cancer had spread. It was in his lungs, liver, and even his bones. In 2019, he was told his cancer was stage 4, and his oncologist gave him six months to live.
But four years later, my dad is still with us because of an experimental, targeted chemotherapy that worked for him. Yes, my dad still has cancer. But God gave him more time, and for that time, I am so very thankful.
I am also grateful for this community to make my home.
As we go into this fall season, I pray that each of us will have the eyes to recognize what we have with gratitude in our hearts and be inspired by the hope of being part of the Pink Arrow campaign.