Thank you Cesar Flores!

I suspect this will be a long story as opposed to a short one, and not surprisingly it starts with dogs.

For most of the thirty years Bill and I have been married, we’ve made do with a queen-sized bed.  Then, suddenly we had dogs that thought our bed was their bed.  We finally succumbed to the lure of a king-size bed in Bellevue last year but still had the Tucson queen.  Then we arrived here with Mary in tow. She’s still a miniature dachshund, all right, but she’s definitely bigger than either Jojo or Bella.  Where everyone else sleeps on a vertical plane, Mary prefers the horizontal style which causes Jojo to do the same.  Two “horticals” versus two verticals in a queen-sized bed?  I’m sure you see the problem here.

So last week we went out and bought a king-sized bed, but since it’s much lower than our old bed, we also had to replace the bedside tables—which meant, in turn, that the contents of the old, taller bedside tables had to sorted before they were moved. It was during the sorting process that I came across my St. Michael’s medal.

In case you’re not aware of this, St. Michael is the patron saint of the Airborne. And no, I’ve never been a paratrooper, but here’s how I came to have a St. Michael’s medal of my own.

By contract, authors receive author copies of their books—so many copies for a hardback publication; so many for paperback; so many for audio versions.  We’re talking forty or fifty books per edition per title.  If you’re talking thirty plus years and fifty plus books, that amounts to a lot of books. And what do you do with all those books?  You store them, of course.  In the Nineties we stored them in the attic of our home in Bellevue.  Boxes came and immediately disappeared into the attic.

I may have mentioned before that Bill is an engineer.  He’s also a very smart man.  One day and not all that long before the Nisqually quake hit the Seattle area, he said to me, “You know, all those books means that we have a lot more weight up in the attic than we should have.  If there happens to be an earthquake ….”

Shortly thereafter we heard of an NGO that was partnering with FedEx to send books to our troops in the middle east. All we had to do was box them up and take them to the nearest FedEx office.  So 30 plus boxes of books came down from the attic.  (Just in time, too.  Whew!!)  Every book was autographed before being packed off to Fed Ex, and away they went.

Sometime later, I heard from a soldier named Cesar Flores. He was in the Air Force and assigned to the 18th Airborne at Camp Bucca as a Security Forces Team Leader when the Humvee in which he was riding hit an IED. He and his gunner were severely injured but both survived. The fire was so hot that it melted his dog tags and his St. Michael’s medal. While he was recovering in the hospital—and before he reenlisted (while still in Iraq)—someone gave him one of those autographed books to read. It was a Joanna Brady book, set in Arizona.  Cesar, who hailed from Texas, felt right at home.  He wrote to tell me how much he liked the book, and we commenced an e-mail correspondence, writing back and forth. He was still overseas when his daughter, Kendyl was born, and I was happy to send her the softest pink blanket I could find. (If you think that’s sexist, tough!) By the way, Cesar tells me they still have the blanket.

And then the day when the Beaumont book Justice Denied was scheduled to go on sale.  At 8:30 in the morning on the first day of the tour, I received a call from the doctor’s office, telling me that my test results had come back “positive for uterine cancer.” Anyone who has ever been given a cancer diagnosis knows how that felt.  On our way to the first signing of the tour, we stopped by our GP’s office.  He said, “Do you want a warm fuzzy surgeon or the best?” We allowed as how that since our GP was doing warm and fuzzy, we would opt for the best.  “Okay,” he said.  “It’ll take a while to set it up.  You go on your book tour.  Don’t worry about this. We’ll take care of it when you get back.”

Don’t worry. Right. Famous last words.  I went on tour and TRIED not to worry.  I didn’t talk about the diagnosis on the book tour, but the next time I heard from Cesar I mentioned it to him.  In one of his next e-mails he said, “Please send me your snail mail address,” which I did.  Two weeks later, when I came home from the book tour, what should be waiting for me?  A snail mail package from Cesar containing a St. Michael’s medal “to keep me safe.”

And it did.  I had my hysterectomy done by the DaVinci robot and my not-warm-and-fuzzy surgeon. My cancer was stage one and totally contained, so no chemo or radiation were needed. (Early detection wins the day!)  And I have to say, Cesar’s medal really did keep me safe, so safe, in fact, that I don’t think of myself as cancer survivor. Eventually my St. Michael’s medal got put away—in the drawer in the too tall bedside table in Tucson.  Which is where I found it this week.

And that’s when I realized that the medal that kept me safe might very well work the same magic for someone else.  At the moment I have a dear friend in Oregon who is battling breast cancer. She’s had a double mastectomy and is now recovered from surgery enough to undergo radiation. She’s tough, and it’s a good thing, too, because fighting the Big C is not for sissies. But it occurred to me that I should pass my St. Michael’s medal along to her. To help keep her safe.

I’m not sure if it will arrive prior to her reading this week’s blog, but it’s on its way. And when she’s done with it? I’m sure she’ll pass it along to someone else who will need to be kept safe as well.

And let’s all remember, what goes around comes around.

So endeth today’s reading.

16 thoughts on “Thank you Cesar Flores!

  1. Wonderful story. I too have battled the big C. It’s been eleven years now. Still cancer free. I was given a breast cancer bracelet shortly after my diagnosis I have loaned it to others to give them hope during difficult times.

  2. What a wonderful story. You have such interesting things happen to you. Am glad the cancer was caught early. When I saw the title of this blog I thought it was going to be about someone in Tucson—a master gardener maybe.

    I bought a St. Christopher’s medal before my first airplane ride some 50 years ago. It is about the size of a quarter and has been kept in with the loose coins in my billfold. It shows a lot of wear, but has done its job as I’ve never been in an accident. St. Raphael is on the reverse side.

  3. I love that Cesar sent you a St. Michael medal and I love all the more your sharing it. St. Michael is also the patron saint of law enforcement.

  4. My daughter and I are big “play it forward” people, so I will definitely share this story with her. Cesar sounds like a wonderfully strong person, whose heart knew what you would need at the time. Your story is a reminder that no matter what we are struggling with, someone is in the wings going through or about to go through a tough time and every bit of encouragement, regardless if it is a blanket, a metal, or a hand to hold means the world to them. Thank you for sharing.

  5. I just plain love reading your blog. It’s real, heartwarming, heartbreaking, and inspiring. I talked with you a bit in the Tucson airport one time a few years. You are a genuine and talented human being. Thanks for what you do!

  6. Bless you, Thank you for being such a thoughtful person. In this day and age it’s a rare trait.
    I love your books and leave me with a good full feeling goodness (except when you killed off Sheriff Brady’s parents…) and good well…
    Have a grand week… Jan

  7. So Enders today’s reading! I thought “oh, a fellow Episcopalian” then I remembered your educational background. Prayers for your friend, and I am sure the St. Michael’s metal will help greatly.

  8. Your musings about Cesar really touched me. 2 1/2 years ago I had a double mastectomy and reconstruction. Who would have thought that at age 69 I would have perky boobies. I am doing well but I imagine I am like most women when I ask how will I know if I am okay, really okay. My mom died of metastatic breast cancer 14 years after she was first diagnosed. When I was first diagnosed a friend gave me a a bracelet with a pink ribbon charm. I wore it through my journey and last year I passed it on to a friend who was newly diagnosed. She too is doing well. Intellectually I get that medical science is responsible but I’d like to believe that bracelet had a big role for at least three women.

    • Yes, medical science is amazing, but so is having people on the sidelines cheering you on. I’m sure that bracelet made a difference to you and will make a difference for the person to whom you gave it.

  9. I too am a cancer survivor…and I’ve also served with Cesar in the USAF. He is truly a model American and a outstanding individual. Glad he was able to touch your life as he has touched mine.

  10. You went on a book tour right after your diagnosis. I received my breast cancer diagnosis on a Friday afternoon. That night I had to go on stage and sing a solo in a local show. You moved on and so did I.
    A good friend sent me a hand made glass heart pendant with a pink ribbon on it that I wore for a long time. Since I am almost 12 years post-op I have passed that heart onto a local lady going through the “adventure.”
    We do what we do because . . . we just do.

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