The Georges have one of those households that is a sensory overload of joyous living: the squeals of small children, the conversations of residents and visitors, toys everywhere, the exuberance of dogs — both their own and neighbors’.
There’s much to be joyful about: Several members of the family have survived cancer and other serious illnesses.
Cynthia George, in particular, exemplifies the family’s understanding of its true source of strength. Her reliance on family relationships, as well as Scriptural examples of people who triumphed over pain and adversity, has seen her through a life-changing bout with Hodgkin’s’s lymphoma.
She’d had a career as a driver — first of a bus and then of an R.W. Perry dump truck — when back pain became impossible to ignore in September 2000. When she investigated the cause, it was the first step in her journey.
“I saw a nurse practitioner at Sandcrest (Family Medicine),” she said. “At first, they thought I had a cyst on my ovary. During surgery, they found blood vessels intertwined. It took a month-and-a-half to determine what kind of cancer I had.”
Her subsequent treatment program involved chemotherapy and radiation. The chemotherapy sessions were every two weeks for six months, and the radiation treatments were every day, Monday through Friday, for a total of 39 sessions.
“I’d have to sleep one full day after a chemotherapy treatment,” George said.
However, she noted that she never lost her hair.
George met her husband, Mike, through a friend while she was going through chemotherapy.
“My church, New Hope Christian Church, was paying my bills,” she said. “Mike took that over.”
Obviously, her role as a mother was affected.
“My girls (Rachel and Courtney Rager, whom she brought to the marriage) were 10 and 15 at the time. Columbus Regional Hospital had a program that helped them understand what I was going through,” George said.
A pain-centered Bible study group at a community church was a great source of comfort and inspiration, too.
“We went through the book of Ruth, who had a lot of problems in her life,” she said.
George experiences residual chronic back pain, which has necessitated her being on Social Security disability. It’s a result of the chemotherapy treatment hitting her spine, colon and bladder.
She learned she was cancer-free when she underwent a full-body scan at the end of her treatment regimen.
The family went out to eat to celebrate.
While she’s enjoyed that status ever since, she goes for an examination annually due to the fact that she was 33 when she was diagnosed.
Family is essential to George’s sense of well-being. Her mother and father both had cancer. She also cites a brother and sister as “a great base of support.”
“She handled it really well. She was quite sick but didn’t show it. She was one brave girl,” said Janice Renner, George’s mother.
Renner added, “Prayers played an important role.”
Animals, such as the aforementioned dogs, are an important source of joy and element of family life. George has helped her children raise show animals for the Bartholomew County 4-H Fair, and she served on the fair board prior to her cancer experience.
She recommends that anyone who gets a cancer diagnosis do thorough research.
“The Internet has become a great resource for that,” she said.
George also said she is available as an in-person source of knowledge and support.
“I’m definitely willing to talk to people who find out they have Hodgkin’s’s lymphoma,” she said.
When one winds one’s way up the wooded hillside west of the city to the George home and steps into the yard to be greeted by ebullient family members, human and otherwise, of all ages, the sense of fully lived life is palpable. It takes a little conversation to discern the challenges that have honed that cheer to such a bright degree.
Cynthia George and her clan are a testament to happy endings.
Name: Cynthia George
Type of cancer: Hodgkin’s lymphoma
When diagnosed: September 2000
Immediate family: Husband, Mike; daughters, Rachel and Courtney Rager; stepchildren, Jordan, Jared and Rachel George.
Advice: “Learn everything you can about your particular situation.”