ELMHURST – A writer and motivational speaker, Connie Weatherford always seems to know just what to say, but when her doctor’s office offered to host a blood drive for the Elmhurst woman who is facing Stage 4 cancer, Weatherford was speechless.
“I just was without words which does not happen often,” Weatherford laughed.
Inspired by the 53-year-old woman’s constant positive energy, Integrative Family Health Associates in La Grange decided to host the blood drive Sept. 28 because Weatherford had received nearly 70 pints of blood since April.
“Without other people’s blood, I die,” said Weatherford who receives three to five pints of blood through transfusion each week.
She discovered in April 2012 what was diagnosed at Stage 1 breast cancer more than 13 years ago had spread to Stage 4 cancer affecting her dura – the membrane surrounding her brain – a lung and both sides of her spine.
Then in April of this year, Weatherford was hospitalized due to extremely low hemoglobin levels because of her damaged bone marrow. Ever since, she depends on weekly blood tests and transfusions.
“Every time I’m in the hospital I look up at the bag and I truly think I am so blessed by this complete stranger that donated this,” said Weatherford. “I call it liquid gold.”
The blood Weatherford receives is donated to Adventist Lab Partners, but if Adventist is out of Weatherford’s blood type, it needs to be purchased from a blood bank. Weatherford hopes to replenish Adventist’s blood supply through donations so money can be spent on other resources.
“We’re taking any kind of blood,” Weatherford said. “If it’s not helping me, it’s going to help someone else.”
When Elmhurst Toyota General Manager Kurt Schiele and parts and service director Dan Briggs heard about the blood drive, they offered to hold a second drive Oct. 19.
“It’s just a way for us to give back,” said Briggs about the 45-year-old dealership that routinely participates in Toys for Tots and other charity events.
Even though Weatherford bought her car from the local dealership and her husband, an Elmhurst police sergeant, sometimes works with the business, she never expected this kind of support.
“I was teary eyed,” said Weatherford. “Nobody’s ever done anything like this for me.”
Since April, her hemoglobin levels have risen from 4.5 – a level doctors told her they’d never seen in a responsive person – to 9.3. When Weatherford’s hemoglobin reaches a normal level of 12, she will no longer need transfusions.
The small bruises covering her arms have begun to fade as her hemoglobin and blood platelets counts rise, and she graduated this week from physical therapy, which she began in July after a week-long hospitalization with type-B flu.
“I was like a human question mark,” Weatherford said of her posture following her flu recovery.
A side effect of the antibiotics she was given made Weatherford lose muscle control. Until that week, Weatherford hadn’t taken an antibiotic for more than two decades.
“I’m not on board with taking medications and pills and things,” Weatherford said.
Weatherford uses a micro-current soundwave machine to treat her pain through energy medicine. She also employs acupuncture, Chinese herbs along with mind-and-body practices like meditation and medical hypnosis to fight the cancer she refers to as “the little ‘c.’”
“It’s not a judgment,” said Weatherford.
“I want to be really clear about this because I understand that the majority of people out there go the traditional route with breast cancer or any kind of cancer diagnosis, but that just doesn’t fit for me.”
Even though she smiles and makes jokes while talking about the disease she’s battling, Weatherford admits she’s had bad days. Since the day she was first diagnosed over a decade ago, she’s maintained the simple motto, “It’s all good.”
One of the reoccurring characters in the gratitude journal Weatherford keeps is her husband of 14 years, Sgt. Steve Weatherford.
“He’s my hero,” said his wife.
She remembers times when she depended on her husband for everything from helping her dress to washing her hair, but now the couple are looking forward to a Florida vacation in a few weeks.
“I have no pain, and I started exercising again,” said Connie Weatherford. “So I’m regaining my life.”