Listening to all the letters and Facebook posts we’ve been reading to her, my mother has had a
hard time believing how people really see her. She seems truly bewildered that she inspires people so much with her signature combination of passion and gratitude. With her passion for cooking and teaching kids to cook, she’s inspired an extraordinary proportion of her pupils to go into the culinary business. She inspired many people with her walk on the Camino de Santiago, and with the blog she wrote of her journey with cancer before, during, and after the Camino. On Facebook, and especially in the Teal Warriors group of women with ovarian cancer and their caregivers, she is known as an eternally positive, encouraging presence, and readers are clearly inspired by her perspective, like her gratitude for nature’s beauty even in the midst of life’s great challenges.
Here’s what I’m talking about. Herewith, a letter from Grace, whom I met in Washington, D.C. several years ago, and, below that, a number of Facebook posts from my mother’s Teal Warriors, a wonderful Facebook group consisting of women with ovarian cancer and their caregivers:
We have never met, and yet, you have influenced my life immensely. I write these words to you today with so much love and gratitude.
Many years ago, I decided that someday I would walk the Camino de Santiago.
Last year, when the funds were (finally) there for me and the trip became a real possibility, I began my research and planning.
Your blog, Camino not Chemo, appeared on my Google search.
I read the entire story in one evening. I remember so clearly curling up on the couch, laptop there with me, ignoring my phone as it rang, literally blocking out the world… reading long into the night. “Just one more entry…and then I’ll go to sleep…”
But I couldn’t stop reading. Hours went by. Quickly!
Reading all about your journey, the physical one and the spiritual one, was a godsend to me. I know the words were sometimes yours, sometimes Cameron’s, but what shined through always was your strength. Your infallible spirit. Your determination. Your bravery. You are, quite frankly, one of the strongest women I “know”.
I was truly overcome with emotion when I saw the pictures of you there, outside the Cathedral in Santiago. A beautiful, joyful face. Healthy in body and soul.
And then, upon your return to America, I continued to follow your journey…
This battle that you have faced with such dignity and courage.
Many months later, when I began my own pilgrimage across Spain, you were with me. I thought of you as I followed your footsteps across the Pyrenees, when I knelt at the base of the Cruz de Ferro, when I swam in the lake at Molinaseca, and when I embraced my friends when we arrived in Santiago. I thought of you as I continued on to Fisterra, when I jumped in the ocean there at the “end of the world”; for me a pagan baptism, of sorts.
And I think of you now. Everyday! With so much love and gratitude.
Thank you Inge. Thank you for sharing your journey. Thank you for sharing your life. Thank you for educating so many of us, your faithful readers, on healthy living.
Your story has inspired me. In many ways, you have changed my life. My journey would not have been the same without your words. And I will think of you as I continue to walk my life’s journey.
I am eternally grateful.
The notes below are a sampling from the comments from members of Mom’s Facebook group, Teal Warriors:
Denise: Please tell Inge I’m thinking of her from the UK. Her posts, her pictures helped me through my toughest times with my late ‘Little Mum’.
Pam: There are no words to describe my feelings and I am sure those of many others. Inge Cheatham – you are an amazing warrior. As Kerie said, you have set a very high bar. I too was drawn in by the beautiful pictures and inspiring comments you posted each day. I miss them but mainly because they reflect you. Even through all of what I just read about, you were posting encouraging positive comments when you could. I am pleased that you are receiving such wonderful support. We will have tea together in a beautiful flower garden someday… Praying for a miracle. Also comfort, peace, and some joy in each day. I love you my friend!
Susan: Please Let dear Inge Cheatham how very much she is loved by us all. We are keeping you all in our thoughts and prayers. She has warmed all of our hearts at one time or another.. God Bless
Linda: This flower is for you Inge… Protea – the flower of strength. Love and Prayers to you sweet Inge. Thinking of you now and always.
Andrea: All the beautiful words and photos you have given us Inge here is one for you [with a photo]
Colleen: Thank-you for letting us know ,your Mom has helped so many of us please let her know we are sending her positive healing thoughts.
Betty: Inge, my dear teal warrior sister, never have I known a more compassionate and loving lady that understands the sad part of our illnesses yet always finds joy in everyday. I love you, Inge. Please find peace and comfort in your coming days. God bless you, my special friend.
Valerie: Inge….you are an inspiration to a lot of us,,,you are very courageous and beautiful. Prayers to you my dear.
Victoria: Cameron! Thank you very much for updating us. I am thinking about your Mom every day, and she is in my prayers. Even when i am not feeling good and can not write my post, i am looking if there an update from Inge. She is Amasing. Sending my prayers, energy and healing hugs to her. God bless your family!
Karen: When I check Facebook, I usually start by looking for Inge’s post. The beautiful pictures and encouraging words are a great start to my day. Even when she is going through a rough time, she remains optimistic and informing. I have been going through a rough patch and had not checked for Inge so this news is hitting hard. Please let her know what an inspiration she is to us and what pleasure she gives us. You, Cameron, are such a loving and caring son. I’m sorry for all you’ve gone through but you have given so much to your mom and her pride in you comes through in all her posts. My heart is breaking but thank you for keeping us informed.
Ruth: Please tell Inge all the messages she is getting, she has helped so many of us. She inspired me to get on with life. Cancer does not define us, it’s a part of us. She has helped so many of us to stop and see the beauty in nature around us. She is the rock on our teal warriors. (((((((((((((((Biggest hug ever))))))))))))
Susanna: Thank you for letting us know Cameron , I think about you Inge every day , you are my backbone , you giving all of us hope and strength , and a lot of useful advice, a kick in the butt sometimes, you made us cry, and you made us laugh, you are an absolute angel. Lots of hugs prayers for you and your loved ones.
Sharon: Prayers for you Inge Cheatham, you have given so many of your teal sisters inspiration to keep going. Love and hugs to you.
Beth: Inge Cheatham has been a beacon to me. She is the light of love and caring. Always striving for just a bit more of life’s beauty.
Want to see what they all mean? Then enjoy this!