In life, it’s not about the hand you’re dealt – it’s how you play the hand.

Today I want to tell you about two women who I’d put up against any poker player on earth.

Jody Jennings calls her cancer “A miracle.” She won her battle with ovarian cancer two years ago and gives credit to three things: a healthy body, a healthy spirit, and her ability to allow people to support her.

Her story is simple. She experienced abnormal bleeding and went to see her family doctor. He thought it was nothing but ordered an ultrasound “Just to be safe.”

He also sent her to a specialist who also didn’t think anything was terribly wrong but ordered a follow-up ultrasound, “Just to make sure.”

Luckily, they caught a malignant growth in its very early stages. After a hysterectomy followed by six rounds of chemotherapy, Jody Jennings is as healthy as she has ever been. She tells her story as breezily as though it had been a walk in the park – which isn’t quite what it was. “Initially I felt shocked,” Jody says. “On the other hand, he reassured me… he had caught it so early and right away I felt extremely grateful. Yes, I had some tears about it, but I never really felt overwhelmed.”

Looking back, Jody says it was a speed bump in her life. She says she is boundlessly grateful for her attitude, which she began whipping into shape when she took the Pursuit of Excellence in 1991. “Yes, I was tested,” she says. “But to have that foundation and to have that core belief in myself supported me through all that. To me everything is about learning and that was a learning experience for me in many ways. I learned to take even better care of myself and my family – the rest of it is really just small stuff.”

Jody says she believes very strongly that she is accountable for everything that occurs in her life. But how did she attract this? She asked herself. Her husband, Bill Jennings, pointed out that what she had attracted was early detection and a complete cure. “And I thought, ‘I love you,’” Jody says. “Because that was really the end result.”

Lorraine Jensen’s story has not yet ended. She discovered the Pursuit of Excellence in 2001 and went on to train as a leader of the second and third programs in the Excellence Series. Not too long ago she began experience devastating headaches. She was leading a program in the Yukon this summer when her vision started to go.

Back home in Victoria an MRI and CAT scan revealed a benign, slow growing brain tumour – rare and inoperable. At the beginning of December when I talked to her, her hair was falling out, she was taking steroids and she was near the end of a six-week series of radiation treatments. She experienced everything you might expect physically from that kind of assault on her body – nausea, tears, bone chilling weariness – all of it.

She also experienced real grief and surprisingly, great joy. “It was so wonderful – I wish we could have documented the night I told my daughter,” Lorraine says. “We lay on the couch, and we cried and we laughed and she said, ‘You know, mom, we are so clean in our relationship that if you chose to go, it would be okay.”

Lorraine says that all her relationships are like that – clean, clear, honest, and filled with love. Love – if you had to use one word to describe Lorraine, that word would probably be love. Today, she says she is receiving it in quantities that are almost overwhelming but as a result she has learned that she has to let it all in, in order to give it back.

Lorraine won’t know until February if the tumour has shrunk. She has faith that it will be gone when she has her next MRI. In the meantime, she’ll be back in the Yukon, leading programs and pouring her love into the work she does. “I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t done the Excellence Series,” she says. “First, my life is so clean. Second – my life is so full of people. I don’t consider myself sick – this is a hiccup. But the opportunity to be with these people has changed my life.”

When Lorraine asked her friend and mentor how and why she had attracted this, her friend said, “It’s not which pony you choose to ride, it’s how you ride the pony.” Lorraine is riding it for all she’s worth.

~ Goody Niosi, Graduate of the Excellence Series and Graduate Series