By Alexia Helmer
“I have breast cancer…but I have hope,” Gwenn Eyer said to me as we discussed her recent diagnosis. Having just received the confirmation that the lump in her breast is cancer, Eyer, who calls herself a “dreamer,” has been rather pragmatic about her sudden situation. “It’s not like I’m denying it’s happening,” she said assuredly, “but I just am saying that it’s the Lord’s will and that good will come from it.”
Gwenn Eyer, a mother and self-employed worker on contract with DCFS, is also the owner of Blessings on State, a cute and upscale Bed & Breakfast located on State Street that embodies the type of vintage elegance one would hope to encounter in a homey B&B. As I interviewed Eyer, I could see how proud she was of her business and the town in which her and her family have chosen to make their home. Although Eyer and her family are originally from Alton, they’ve spent the last eight years becoming accustomed to the community of Jacksonville, and she showered nothing but kind words over the town that immediately had welcomed her family: “I love Jacksonville. I love the people that I’ve gotten to know. It amazes me how welcoming the community has been, and when my guests come…the community welcomes them too.”
As Eyer and I continued to discuss her business and her plans to push on throughout her bout with cancer, she didn’t seem too unsettled by the fact that she is choosing to keep Blessings’ doors open. “I’ve had a real peace in my heart about the whole thing,” she said, “…you have to have goals and you have to have dreams. This is a dream. It wasn’t something I did, it was something the Lord did. The Lord gave it to me and I think the Lord’s going to protect it and keep it going until He wants me to do something else.”
In briefly getting to know Eyer, she radiated nothing but love and affection for her family and friends, as well as sharing her interest for needlepoint, reading, snow, and relaxing on her front porch. She expressed her strong belief in the power of prayer, and how God has already answered her prayers by showing her that she has a strong network of supporters to help her get through this tough time.
Eyer shared with me the story of how her dream to own a Bed & Breakfast came to be. It all started when she was a child. “I grew up in a home with a country preacher that had missionaries and visiting evangelists…stay with us, and so as a child I got to meet people all over the world,” Eyer said. After honeymooning in Canada thirty-four years ago where her and her husband balanced their budget by staying in many Bed & Breakfasts, she dreamed of owning her own B&B. It wasn’t until they moved to Jacksonville that Eyer’s dream finally came true.
Her newest dream she shared with me is her desire to “Turn Our ‘Heads in Beds’ Into Beds for More Heads,” as stated on the flyer she gave me which explained The James Project. The Eyers have a place in their hearts for foster children, having adopted five foster children which they now call their own, their hope is that they can help The James Project to provide “home and support to fostering families in the Springfield, Illinois community.” Through the ability to put “Heads in their Beds”, the Eyers hope to encourage their guests to donate to a cause in order to provide “Beds for More Heads.”
As Eyer continues to “[move] forward in faith, believing that the Lord has it under control,” she will be undergoing a Lumpectomy on February 8th to see what her next step in finding the cure for her cancer will be. I asked Eyer if there was anything specific that she wanted to share with those in the Jacksonville community, and to her friends and family she stressed her need for positive vibes, the focus on recovery, and consistent support. To the whole community, she stressed the importance of regular mammograms, as well as reporting suspicions one might have. She also gave me three specific requests: firstly, to pray for her and her family as they continue on through this trial; secondly, “to go out of your way to provide support to someone who’s facing a major life challenge” and do what you can do encourage them; thirdly, send your friends and family to stay with them at Blessings on State with the promise of an exceptional experience!