COVID-19 has really turned us all on our head. It seemingly came out of nowhere and has changed our lives forever. None of us has been immune.
This must be a small glimpse of what it looks like when you receive news that stops you in your tracks and changes life as you knew it.
Leslie Liddell George, is a friend of mine. Although I don’t know Leslie well, our children have gone to school together for years. These are a few things I do know about her.
She has been a teacher at Edmondson Elementary School for years. She is spunky and fun and smart and loves her friends and family well. She is an extremely busy mom to Noah, Kate, Aaron and Will George and is married to songwriter Derek George.
I mostly know Leslie because her daughter Kate is friends with my son, Derby. After handling lead roles in the fifth-grade play, which included a scene between Derby and Kate, a short-lived crush between the two ensued.
They would laugh at that now, but these are the memories that make up your interaction between people. It creates your history with them.
In early January, Leslie learned that her 85-year-old mom had been diagnosed with cancer.
“It was a total shock to us since she has lived all those years without so much as a headache,” George said.
This kind of news is crippling enough. But nothing could prepare her for the news that would come next.
“Less than a week after her diagnosis … I learned that I had breast cancer. I mean, seriously, what are the odds,” George said.
Shortly after Leslie’s diagnosis, many teachers at Edmondson Elementary School rallied behind her. They ordered shirts inscribed with #fightlikeagirl to support Leslie on this journey. Grateful for their support, Leslie came up with a name for all the friends who are supporting her: #mytribe.
Darlene Shelton, a third-grade teacher at Edmondson, had this to say.
“Leslie is strong, determined and a courageous friend. All of Edmondson dressed in pink on the day of her first treatment. The third-grade team was eating lunch together when she got the much-dreaded phone call informing her that she had breast cancer.”
Jennifer Walton is a longtime friend of Leslie’s.
“We’ve been best friends since the minute we met 11 years ago,” Walton said. “Leslie is just that kind of person you can’t help but love immediately because she is so real and genuine and kind … oh, and a ton of fun to be around, too.
“She’s more of a sister than just a friend. Family. She is always there for everyone.”
Leslie was scheduled for a chemo treatment on March 13 at Tennessee Oncology off Carothers Parkway in Franklin. She had learned that due to the risk of COVID-19, friends could not be with her as they had in the past. The risk was just too great.
Again, the tribe stepped up, determined that their friend would not be alone in this. Holding large signs, pom poms and balloons, they all met in the parking lot of Tennessee Oncology.
They called and asked Leslie’s nurse to allow her to look out the window of the third-floor room where she was receiving treatment.
When Leslie appeared in the window, they cheered, released the balloons, blew kisses and let their friend know that she was not and will never be alone.
“She is always there for everyone. We all wanted to be there for her today,” Walton said. “Her last treatment last week had some scary moments, as Leslie had an allergic reaction to one of the medications, so finding out that she couldn’t have a friend by her side during chemo today was not really what we wanted, but it was what is best for her and other patients at Tennessee Oncology.
“This was one of those beautiful moments where you cry happy tears together. We got to smile and blow kisses to her. We even got to give love to other patients who were also without family and friends. We were told ... it brought happy tears to them all, including the nurses.”