Jilda and I met Mary Grace McCord in Mobile in 1980 during one of the hottest summers I can remember. The thing that struck me about her was her laugh.
It’s infectious. You can be feeling lower than the belly of a slug, but when you hear that laugh, your spirit soars. Her sense of humor is as twisted as mine, and whenever we get together, we laugh a lot.
Then on New Year’s Eve 2002 an emergency room visit changed her life forever when she first heard the words, “You have lymphoma.”
Her journey since that day has been a long strange ride with unexpected twists and turns. She’s seen so many doctors through the years and told her medical story so many times that a Powerpoint slideshow with bullet points and footnotes would have been helpful.
Knowing her, she would have added soothing music in the background for ambience.
Even through it all, Mary has managed to maintain a positive attitude about her condition. She says that anyone who is fighting cancer should make sure their doctors “dwell in a mindset of hope, prayer and miracles. A pessimistic educated guess can deprive the human spirit of hope.”
One such doctor suggested that Mary read Lance Armstrong’s first book. She took the advice and discovered that his words hit home. And Armstrong’s LiveStrong Foundation provided access to empowering information about cancer.
It was only natural that meeting Armstrong found its way to Mary’s Bucket List.
Fast forward to this past week. We got a call from Mary who said she had learned from one of her contacts at Hibbett Sports, which was a sponsor for Bo Bikes Alabama, that Armstrong would join the tour, which came through Jasper, Cordova, Bessemer and Tuscaloosa.
The Hibbett’s representative had asked Armstrong’s team if it would be possible for Mary to meet Armstrong. They said they’d try.
She’d have to be there early and everything was hush-hush because Armstrong’s visit had not been announced to the press.
She arrived at our house the evening before the race and had dinner with Jilda and me. The next morning we were up before the rooster crowed and headed to Jasper. Mary tentatively approached one of Armstrong’s handlers who was putting out fires. She told Mary that Armstrong would join the tour in Cordova.
So off to Cordova we went on a mission. As the cyclists rode into the ravaged downtown area of Cordova, droves of handlers and fans surrounded the celebrities. Those with a lesser faith would have thought her chances of actually getting close enough to meet Armstrong would be slim, but Mary believed in her heart that she would.
All of a sudden a quick hand signal from one of the handlers and the crowd of cyclists and fans parted to let Mary and me through. Then, almost as if it had been scripted, Mary not only got to meet Armstrong, but he autographed several items for her.
While he signed the items, Mary told him how important his words were to her.
In less than five minutes, I must have shot over 100 pictures of Armstrong and Mary.
She was so happy she glowed. On the way home I heard that infectious laugh as she said, “I can check that off my Bucket List.”