What a difference a year makes!

Dear Marcy,

What a difference a year makes!

I’m writing to let you know how much I appreciated your recent profile of Ms. Kristen Kinstle, written by Angela Beal. Thank you! I always enjoy The Source, but this story captured my attention due to our shared experience with breast cancer. Mine was stage 1, but also very aggressive, grade 3.

Kristen sounds like a terrific woman, and her outlook is a great example to others. Reading about her approach to life is very inspiring. Her faith and her sense of humor (and her stubbornness!) are great assets, in my book. I pray that the Lord continues to bless her and use her in the lives of others. I was also thrilled that your writer noted that Kristen’s dentist-employer indicated that no matter how lengthy the treatment, she still had a job. Way to go, Doctor!

Just over a year ago, I was the one being profiled. I had been pondering everything … survival, first of all; the impact on my family and friends; how I’d run the Bed & Breakfast; how I’d ever keep up with my DCFS work; and how I’d pay the bills. My head was swimming with all that was happening, and as much as I love being an innkeeper, it was hard to imagine how I could continue. The alternative was simply too heartbreaking to consider. Your reporter’s interview gave me the impetus to just make the decision to hang on, and it’s the best decision I could have made! Friends offered to cook, clean and help in any way they could. We continued to have guests, and our guests were very gracious. They loved that Valerie, then 12 years old, had stepped into the innkeeper role. They didn’t care that someone else was cooking and serving breakfast. They didn’t care that I was bald. They didn’t care that they had to come find me in order to visit. They hugged me and prayed for me, and several came back again and again.

After your newspaper article came out, I was overwhelmed with community support. Alexia Helmer, your reporter then, captured my thoughts beautifully. As you know, Jacksonville isn’t my “real” hometown. We’ve lived in Jacksonville just under 10 years, but it truly feels like home. We’ve felt welcome from day one, but this experience just reinforced our sense of community. ‘Book Store Andy’ caught me on the sidewalk, asking if he could give me a hug. I wasn’t crazy about the big ole photo you used, but strangers recognized me and came up to me in stores to say that they’d read about me and were praying for me. Fellow board members excused me from meetings when I couldn’t attend – or when I did attend, but shouldn’t have. One woman I didn’t know well offered to make me chemo caps – and she did! Our neighbor a few doors down, a friend of a friend that I’d never met, rolled her little red wagon down the sidewalk, loaded with bounty from her kitchen. (Twice!) Many people posted on Facebook, sent cards, made calls and loved on our whole family. It was overwhelming, at times, but I’m very appreciative of their love and concern.

I just reread the article. One year later, I still have hope. I still have faith. I still cherish the prayerful support of others. I still love my new community, and I still encourage everyone to go out of their way to provide support to someone who’s facing a major life challenge, encouraging them in any way possible. If anything, I have an even stronger commitment to all those things. And, yes … I still would love for everyone to send their friends and family to stay with us at Blessings on State Bed & Breakfast!

In addition, I’d really like to use our inn to offer complimentary ‘Cancer Survivor/Caregiver retreats’ a few times a year. My dream is to offer both suites at one time, so we could easily accommodate up to five guests each time. I’ve been discussing with others on our local Facebook page, and I think we’ve put together some good ideas. I’d love to peg in with local donors, like I do for B&Bs for Vets, offering complimentary lodging, meals, flowers, gift certificates, etc. I can manage a two-night’s lodging and great breakfasts, but I’ll need to get community support for the rest of it. I’ll also need a way to identify/select recipients. If you have any good ideas, I’d be glad to hear them!

Again, thank you for your profile of Ms. Kinstle and thank you for profiling me last year. You are making a difference.

XOXO, 

Gwenn

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