Sunday, March 13, 2011

What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger

March 13 - Moment of Strength: share a story where a female ancestor showed courage or strength in a difficult situation

Mary Alice (Coleman) Johnstone
Our story begins in July of 1930 when Great Grandpa William H. Johnstone finally went to see a doctor about what had been ailing him for some months. The diagnosis; Rectal Cancer. His wife,  Mary Alice (Coleman) Johnstone, was likely the primary caregiver.  Their daughter, Nell (Nurse Nellie of yesterday's post) was only 17 years old at the time, and still in school.  The other 7 siblings were also either working to help out or in school. William would eventually become so ill that he could no longer work and on Oct. 16 1933, he passed away at home. He was 48 years old 

But there is more to this story. Mary Alice's mother, Mary Coleman, was living with them all these years. And while William was ill, she herself was suffering with something unknown, but she didn't see a doctor until May 27, 1932 and by June 14th 1932 she was gone, at the age of 71. Her diagnosis? Cancer of the bladder with extensive metastasis. Did she tell anyone that she was ill, or did she suffer in silence for as long as she could bear it? 

As I read the supporting documents, I have to wonder what Mary Alice and her children went through during these years. Times were tough anyway and then we have two deaths right at the beginning of the Great Depression. How on earth did they carry on? One thing is made clear through this research, though. Grandma Nell was always so terrified of cancer. Now I know why. Now I understand.

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