kindness activist

kindness activist

Monday, February 29, 2016

Locker Room Kindness

This story of kindness happened 11 days ago.  I have been wanting to write about it ever since, but it is a tough one to put out there, and I have not been able to bring myself to write about it.  It involves someone I love being on the RECEIVING END of an amazing kindness.  But before I can introduce you to the newest Kindness Activist, I have to tell you something I have not wanted to admit:  my big sister has breast cancer.

Sherry during less stressful times, checking out cherry blossoms when she was visiting us in DC
There are 3 sisters in our family – Sherry, Annette, and me (Susan).  Sherry is definitely the glue that holds the Thompson family together.  She is smart, loving, extremely organized, giving, and KIND.  In fact, she was one of the first Kindness Activists featured in this blog, because she is practically the definition of Kindness Activist.  In fact, if the dictionary ever decided to make “Kindness Activist” an official word, I would not be surprised if Sherry’s picture was what they used to illustrate the word.  To read the story of Sherry’s kindness (one of mannnnny she does) go here:  Sherry's Holiday Kindness

Here are the 3 sisters with our mom - Annette, Mom, me, Sherry (back in 2002)
So let’s put it out there – Sherry has breast cancer. 

She doesn’t have all the details yet.  She has had a biopsy, met with the surgeon, had an MRI today, and has a meeting with a plastic surgeon coming up.  Right now it is “wait for MRI results” time, then comes the treatment.  She doesn’t have a stage yet, doesn’t know for sure what next steps are, and isn’t sure what these next few months will involve.  It is obviously a very scary time for her.

Now let me introduce you to a GOOD part of this story.  Her real name is Heather, but we like to call her ANGEL. 

Sherry had her biopsy and was waiting for results.  They didn’t come as quickly as she had hoped (do they ever???) and when the call from the doctor finally came in, she was at the gym doing her early morning workout.  When the doctor asked if she had someone with her and if she was sitting down, that was a pretty good indicator that the news coming up was not going to be good…

She grabbed a pen and paper and scribbled down what the doctor was saying.  And when she hung up, she crumbled into a puddle on the locker room floor, crying.

Enter ANGEL.

Angel saw Sherry, a complete stranger, crying and came over to her.  She held her, comforted her, and talked to her.  ANGEL WAS THERE FOR HER.  Here is how Sherry described it:  “I have to tell you this story because it shows me that when I am without strength, God provides others to hold me up. I got the call from my doctor yesterday when I was at the gym. I quickly grabbed my phone, jumped off the treadmill, and went into the locker room.  I knew it wasn't good news when he asked if I had someone with me (no, I did not) and if I could sit down (I was too stunned to sit, but stood there).  He proceeded to tell me the biopsy showed I had breast cancer and he gave me a bunch of into to write down.  I somehow opened my combination lock, found a scrap of paper, and wrote the names and numbers he repeated for me.  When I hung up, I burst into tears and fell to my knees.  It was at this moment that a woman walked into the locker room.  She quickly walked over to me, asked if I was okay...  pretty obvious I wasn't, and threw her arms around me.  She held me as I sobbed there on the locker room floor.  She cried with me as I told her the news I had just received.  She stayed with me and softly reassured me that I could do this.  I had never met this woman, I don't know her name, but she was a gift from God to me yesterday.  I think I will call her Angel."  

Angel was there at just the right moment.  And she didn’t turn away, avert her eyes in embarrassment and leave my sister there alone.  She walked over, hugged her, and let her cry.  She even cried along!  And until I communicated with Angel, I hadn’t thought of what the whole situation must have looked like from her point of view.  She said, “I turned the corner to the locker room and saw her struggling to stand and she was sobbing.  I was just drawn to her, as she was clearly in distress.  I went to see how I could help, as anyone should when they witness another person in need. I was panicked at first, because I wasn’t sure what was going on.  After wrapping my arms around her and hearing her voice say to me, “I have cancer, my doctor just told me I have cancer,” I was overcome with emotion and cried with her.”

You know, I had an experience a few years ago in an airport where a stranger helped me when I was crying.  I was on a business trip and I got a call while on a layover saying that my dad had prostate cancer.  I walked up and down the halls of the airport in a daze, crying.  And one person, one business man, didn’t ignore me.  He was not put off by my tears, but instead gently approached me to ask what was wrong.  I cried harder and told him through tears that my dad had just been diagnosed with prostate cancer.  And I remember that stranger’s kindness, his sweet voice and his gentle words, reassuring me that it would be ok, that my dad could beat this, that this type of cancer wasn’t a horrible diagnosis.  He was right, my dad is still living.  And I have often thought of that kind man and wished I could thank him.

So I told Sherry, we MUST FIND ANGEL!  She is a true Kindness Activist, and needs a Kindness button to wear!!  I wrote a little note for Sherry to print and put up in the locker room, and she edited it to make it just perfect.  She printed it and hung it, and our “fishing expedition” started.  We were fishing for ANGEL!
This is the note Sherry hung in the locker room...  Let the fishing begin...
And it didn’t take long – Sherry found her!  First Sherry texted to say, “The note is missing!!”, but we were not sure if Angel had found it, or if the manager took it down.  But Angel found it!!!!  And she saw Sherry (at the gym) and came over to her!  Sherry later said something like, “I can’t believe I didn’t realize how TALL she was!” J. 

Angel (aka Heather) and her sweetheart.  Doesn't she just LOOK like an Angel???
When I told Angel how special her actions were, she humbly replied, “I feel so blessed to be called “Angel” but I am really no angel at all.  I just saw a person in need of support and was happy to be there.  It’s just the right thing to do.  J  I would hope anyone in my shoes would have done the same for her.”  I can tell you this much:  not everyone would.  It takes a kind person to be willing to comfort someone.

So Sherry has been able to thank Angel in person for being there at just the right moment and being so, so kind.  I would like to thank her, too.  I live quite a long plane ride away from the rest of my family, so being there at “just the right time” is difficult when it is not something planned in advance.  I feel bad that I wasn’t there to help Sherry through these difficult first steps on this journey, but I am very grateful that Angel was.  Angel told Sherry that she had thought a lot about her since they met in the locker room, had prayed for her and even cried for her.  And she told me that she has now been praying about ways that doctors can deliver this type of very difficult news in a more sensitive way.  She said, “I hope to help our hospitals adopt new best practices on ways of communicating unfavorable news to patients”.  Yes, the woman who was such an angel to my sister works in HEALTHCARE.  It is lovely. 

And Heather, I hope you don’t mind if we don’t use your given name.  To our family, you are Angel.  And you told me that you hope that Sherry felt some warmth and comfort from you – TRUST ME, she did.  
The 3 Thompson girls when we were a bit younger :)

If you are the praying type, prayers for Sherry are appreciated.  If you are the wishing on stars type, can your wish tonight be for her?  And if you are the “sending good vibes” type, send them her way please.  And if you are the commenting type, she is an avid reader of this blog and will read your messages.  However you can support her, she (and her sisters) appreciate it. 

This type of thing normally happens when the 3 of us get together, so if Sherry has to have chemo,
that hospital is gonna be a mess...
Thank you, Angel.  And LOVE YOU Sherry.

I can't resist one final photo - us with our mom again.  I am not sure why Sherry didn't have to wear a matching itchy plaid dress, but at least we all had the same gogo boots.


  1. What a sweet story. I thank Angel, too. Best wishes to Sherry. Thank you for sharing it, Susan. Yanomi

    1. Thanks Yanomi. You would love Sherry. Someday you need to meet. Sherry and Annette need to meet Kiss Around Pass Around.

  2. Great story! I love Angel and I've never met her! Angels are always at the right place, at the right time, aren't they?! I'm so thankful she was there to comfort my sister! Hugs to you sweet Angel!

    1. We need to take Angel out and do something fun!

  3. Sherry, I'm praying that God will give you strength and grace as you fight this cancer. He is a miracle worker.
    Pam Kooiker

  4. Sherry and Susan, This story has moved me to tears (of course) and also some pretty awesome feelings of joy for the kindness of strangers. I will be thinking of you, and praying for you! You will clearly rock through this sucker!!!!

    1. Strangers rock sometimes, don't they? It is amazingly perfect that Angel was there at just the right time. :)

  5. Oh Susan, I cried my way through this, for all of you. It's beautiful & so are you. I know what you have been through & I know how scary this is for you & your sisters - and your dad. So definitely you will all be in my thoughts, prayers, wishes, with a very special blessing going out to Heather. My heart goes out to your lovely sister. She is so blessed to have you as her champion. Looking forward to following her on her journey. It's not going to be all bad. There will be other Heather's to light the way.

    1. Thank you Cheryl. Good reminder to keep our eyes open for Heathers along the way.

  6. All three of you sisters are kindness activists. It's no wonder an Angel was there to comfort Sherry. My prayers and wishes are of course sent Sherry's way and I am here for ANYTHING you might need.

  7. This comment came to me via email - the writer tried and tried to get it to post and it wouldn't work. Aunt Nancy writes:
    "What a special Angel Heather is! And Sherry you are an Angel, too.
    We are thinking of you and praying for you as you go through all this. We pray you will have a full and complete recovery. You are very special to us and we love you sooooo much! Aunt Nancy and Uncle Bill"