Monday, July 20, 2015

Star of the Desert

July 13, 2015 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Sharon enjoying the desert along the Honeymoon Trail near the Grand Falls of the Little Colorado River. We have wandered the deserts for more than 50 years.
There are times in our lives we all face very compelling challenges. My wife and I are no exception to the diseases that plague this planet we call Earth. Until recently our world was a retirement wonder and we had a great time for five years. In late September of 2014 Sharon was diagnosed with Bilateral Carcinoma. This was a real shock. I always thought cancer was something somebody else had. I knew a little about the disease, but not a lot. She started Chemotherapy in October. 

The doctors had caught the cancer at a very early stage before it spread. Annual mammograms saved her life as far as we are concerned.

She continues to battle cancer with a smile always on her face. Her attitude is so positive she is an inspiration to many of the nurses and personal at the MD Anderson Cancer Clinic where she has received Chemo since October. Sharon always has a smile on her face and greets everyone positively at the center. She also greets everyone else the same way, “I am fine,” even though sometimes she is in pain and very tired from the therapy. The last thing on Sharon’s agenda is the desire for sympathy from anyone. Sharon is an inspiration to everyone that knows her. She survived a severe case of pneumonia in early April that most people would have succumbed to. She was in ICU for ten days.

Sharon’s goal is to live to be 100 and run the rapids of the Colorado River through the mighty Grand Canyon for the fourth time when she is cured. She positively plans on being cured and returning to a normal life. For this reason I call her my “Star of the Desert.”

I recently had a custom piece of jewelry made for her. It is a Saguaro cactus of Turquoise on a 14K gold background with a diamond on top of the cactus that represents the “Star of the Desert.” This “star” has been my guiding light for sixty years.
 A Saguaro cactus of Turquoise on a
14K gold background with a diamond
on top of the cactus
that represents the “Star of the Desert.”

Sharon has lived her entire life except for her childhood here in Apache Junction and East Mesa. She has hiked and rode her horse through the mountains for more than fifty years. She has been my companion on many trips into the mountains on foot and on horseback. For those of you who know how much I love the mountains you certainly understand how important this is to me. This June 23rd we were married for fifty-five years. On our 50th wedding anniversary, June 23, 2011, at Lost Dutchman State Park the temperature hit 114 degrees. We had more than a hundred guests attend our anniversary party and some of them were well over ninety years old. I am certain most came because of Sharon. I offered my refrigerated trailer to the elderly 85 and over for comfort. All of them refused my hospitality and remained outside to chat with Sharon.

This story wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Jerry Sanstead, owner of The Jewelry Menders in Apache Junction. I’ve known Jerry for many, many years. About three years ago he showed me a Saguaro cactus made out of turquoise on a 14K gold backing. I really liked it, but I wasn’t sure Sharon would. I told Jerry I would let him know. Well three years later I went into his store to order something else and he said he still had that cactus I wanted, but he had added a large diamond to the top of it.

Then he said he didn’t know where it was but when he found it he would let me know. I stopped by a few weeks later and picked up my order and Jerry said, “Tom, I found the Turquoise Saguaro cactus with the diamond on it.” I looked at it and told him I would take it. Yes, it was the “Star of the Desert.” It would be something Sharon would cherish, and certainly represent her determination and tenacity to defeat Cancer.

I am not sure Jerry absorbed the total importance this piece of jewelry had on our lives at the time. However, we certainly consider him a gentleman and a man of his word. 

Apache Junction has many fine citizens and we are proud to have lived in Apache Junction and continue to be nearby neighbors. Apache Junction has been home for me since 1948 and continues to mean the same.

I found my “Star in the Desert” in Apache Junction in November of 1959 while I was recovering from a severe injury I received while working on the Barkley Cattle Ranch at the Quarter Circle U Ranch. Sharon became my friend and helped me in some very desperate hours of my life. Her philosophy was “never, never give up and always smile.” She had far more to offer than I when we met. She encouraged me to continue my education and she sacrificed so much so I could graduate from Arizona State University.

The Cancer Ward at MD Anderson is not a cheerful place but Sharon’s smile has brought new life to the ward. Everyone knows her for her smile and cheerful attitude. They know the “Star of the Desert” has arrived and hopefully will improve the setting in someway.

Some know her as the “lady from Apache Junction”. My friends I ask you to support the pink banner to beat breast cancer. It is a worthwhile project all over this great nation of ours.

There are so many dedicated and devoted nurses, nurse’s aides, doctors, and other personal at the MD Anderson Clinic to Cure Cancer who tend to everyone’s needs. I am proud to have met many them and witnessed their dedication and devotion first hand. 

Sharon always has said “win or lose I have given this fight my best with a smile and a kind word for those who helped and cared for me. I ask for no sympathy nor do I want any. Sympathy is for others, not me.”

We sincerely believe cancer will be cured in our lifetimes. These are the words from my  “Star of the Desert.”