Apparently, nothing rattles Nancy Carnes Dotson.

That's the way it is with much of my family. I once had a long phone conversation with my father that was full of enlightening information about life in Gainesville, Florida. His demeanor was typically formal and genuine. There was absolutely nothing unusual about our chat until his sign off.

"Here, talk to your mother. I'm in the hospital."

He'd suffered a mild stroke, yet not a mention of it for what had to be close to half-an-hour.


Perhaps I'm different, but my legs got a bit weak when I got a text recently from my sister. I was on vacation on a ship off the coast of Canada. I could have sworn my family had taken a vacation from cancer. Wrong.

"Cancer back in sternum and now in liver," Nancy wrote. "Dr. appointment tomorrow to find out details and treatment."

Panic set in. That was my reaction. Not Nancy's.

"I got this," she told me.

Nancy's dual with breast cancer has taken on a Ali-Frazier quality; just when you think the rivalry is over, there's a rematch. For Nancy, this is fight number four. She was not yet 40-years-old when she first discovered a lump. Chemo took care of that. It returned in her sternum. Then again. And again. The addition of the liver makes this visit particularly concerning.

Talk to Nancy, and you won't detect a smidgen of concern. None. When you stare a monster in the eye three times until it cowers away, I guess you're just not scared of it anymore. Now, I'm sure she has her moments. She's human. The poor kid has been cancer's pincushion for the better part of a decade. It has not weakened her. Believe me. If anything, she's much stronger.

In fact, last week my little sister joined her family for a trip to the amusements parks of central Florida. For the first time in her life, she went parasailing. Parasailing.

Breast cancer, why bother? You're just going to lose again.

When I talk to my sister, I can't help but think of my favorite Bible passage:

That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10.
Nancy's husband played football for a guy named Vince Dooley. Andy uses the ceiling to scratch his head. He's a big guy. They've produced two daughters who have to duck around low flying planes. This couple put the tall in maritally.

In my family, Nancy Carnes Dotson stands the tallest of all.

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