The reminder in the leaves of October

Published 5:24 pm Wednesday, October 4, 2017

In October, the mountains of Tennessee are resplendent with the colors of autumn.  I spent my childhood among those colorful trees.  I remember thinking as the leaves fell, they were waving goodbye until spring.

Daddy would rake the leaves of gold, orange and red in piles for me to jump into. He would shake his head as I scattered them about. I don’t know how many times he re-raked those leaves and shook his head, but I laugh now as I remember.

I was a Girl Scout most of my youth. When I was 14, our troop was assigned to work with an organization to hand deliver pamphlets in an impoverished area of our town.

The pamphlet was written in black and white.  The words were to explain to women how to do a self-exam for breast cancer. I did not understand what it was all about at the time, but I knew it was important.

While an adult waited in the car, I walked to the door on a wooden board that was used as a sidewalk. The house was set on cement blocks, and white paint chips were scattered on the dirt yard from the peeling clapboard.  The door was ajar as I attempted to knock on the frame around it.

A young woman asked me in. The house had one room and children were barefoot as they ran around happily in the confined space. She held a baby in her arms.

“Ma’am, I am with the Girl Scouts, and we are handing out information today to help with the fight against breast cancer. This is to explain how to do a self-exam,” I stated in the most adult voice I could produce as I handed her the folded pamphlet.

Tendrils of blond hair escaped and fell around her pretty, petite face.  Her dress was worn and soiled as it hung on her thin frame.  The baby was squirming.

She started to ask me questions that I couldn’t answer, so we just read the pamphlet together. As I read it to her, a look of fear crept over her face.

“Honey, I sure hope that ain’t gonna happen to me! I can’t leave my babies!” she exclaimed as a tear welled in her eye.

My heart sank as I noticed I didn’t see a baby bed anywhere.

“Where does your baby sleep?” I questioned as my eyes wandered.

“Oh, he sleeps in the apple crate over there,” she said as she pointed to the little wooden box outfitted with white sheets and a tiny blanket.

My inquisitive 14-year-old mind seemed to stop her fear and my tears as our conversation turned to her baby and where he slept.

As I went to the car, I turned and waved goodbye to the sweet young lady holding the pamphlet with a baby in her arms.

For some reason, I knew I would never forget her.

I believe that God has a way to prepare us for our own life. It can be in subtle ways that we don’t see as they are happening, but are revealed to us as we remember our days.

Tendrils fell from her blond hair onto the shore as she watched her child run and play in the sand. Her thin frame shaking a bit from the ocean breeze on a sunny day in October 2011.

She had been diagnosed with breast cancer in August.  September was hell, and by October one round of chemotherapy had been administered.

October 11 was her 38th birthday.  She was surrounded by family and laughter filled the room. She hugged her little girl as she helped her mother blow out the candles on the vanilla iced cake.

Her biggest fear throughout her 38th year: “Mama, I just can’t leave my baby! I have to be there to help her grow!”

As her mother, I tried to comfort and hold her.  Her bravery and resolve were astounding. Whatever strength I had was just God’s grace upon me.

It was October 1961 when the fear of breast cancer made a young woman shake as she shouted, “I can’t leave my babies!”

It was October 2011 when surviving breast cancer became a resolve because a young mother exclaimed, “I can’t leave my baby!”

October is filled with football, raking leaves and pink. It is the pink that reminds us that there are mothers who need to live to take care of babies, so they may grow and run with joy into a pile of fallen leaves.

The pamphlet turned into a life saver. It was a self-exam that saved a daughter’s life.

Oh, how God prepares us.

October is breast cancer awareness month. Every October I will write a column as a reminder to do self-exams, and pray for cures. In doing so, the life you save could be yours or someone you love.

Lynn Walker Gendusa is a former resident and writer who currently resides in Roswell. She can be reached at