I first met Leslie McGarry in 2015 when I was interviewing her for a story. Friends of hers were organizing a race as a fundraiser to help with her medical bills after her cancer returned.
Sadly, this isn’t a story I’m unfamiliar with. This life is beset with tragedy. But while I walked in prepared to extend compassion, I was completely blindsided by the compassion I received, which completely overshadowed what I had offered.
After we talked, I excused myself to her, telling her I had to leave before the gathering concluded so I could check on my sister who had just the day before undergone surgery for thyroid cancer.
She hugged me. And asked questions about my sister Casandra. She wrote down her name so she could pray for her.
In a couple of weeks following, the three of us met for lunch where the two women bonded as mothers battling a deadly disease. Leslie gave Casandra a meal she’d prepared for her family.
It was a truly beautiful exchange in the midst of an ugly experience.
Over the past couple of years, Casandra has moved forward cancer free, left with the lingering effects of losing her thyroid and paralyzed vocal chords.
Leslie has remained in the heat of battle.
After her first diagnosis about a decade ago, she went into remission and received a completely clean bill of health in July 2014. In February of the following year, she went to the doctor with flu-like symptoms.
Her cancer had returned. This time it was stage 4 in the lining of her lungs and in her brain.
She has been fighting it with traditional and holistic treatments, while living her life fully raising three young children and being grandma to three more.
Last fall, she even joined the Evoke Fitness Breast Cancer 2 Bikini competition and was featured on KTVN Channel 2.
But two weeks ago things changed.
“Her journey took a hard shift, and after a few days in the hospital it was determined that a tumor had found its way in her brain and immediate action needed to be taken,” explained longtime friend Cindy Thompson. “She was scheduled for her third brain surgery. As a surprise to her, when she arrived at the hospital more than 100 family and friends were there to greet her, hug her, love on her and pray over her.”
Thompson has organized a GoFundMe page to help the family with the medical expenses.
“Leslie has not asked for our help, nor has her son or family that never leaves her side,” she said. “They only ask for prayers. But all know that there are needs in times like this. So let’s join together to help her and her family. Any amount will help and go far! The need is real and urgent.”
You can donate at https://www.gofundme.com/leslie-mcgarry-cancer-warrior.
Teri Vance is a journalist, freelance writer and native Nevadan. Contact her with column ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.