Waiting can be the hardest part for the 64-year-old grandmother of two. And so when diagnosed with breast cancer 13 years ago, that’s exactly what Glenda Colebrook decided she wouldn’t do.
By Alex Podlogar
GLENDA COLEBROOK CAN MOVE. Really move. At 64 years old and with two grandsons ages 6 and 2, you’d think she might have a hard time keeping up.
Actually, it’s the other way around. Cecil and William have learned they must always be on their toes.
She is a whirlwind of boundless energy, and as quick with a southern smile and a “thank you, ma’am” as she is with her first step. A retired nurse, you don’t have to wonder how quickly she navigated long hallways.
Thirteen years ago, though, Colebrook went in for what she thought was a routine mammogram. But what begins as routine while leafing through months-old magazines in the waiting room quickly becomes anything but the moment a mass is spotted.
More tests were needed to determine what the spot really was. Glenda was prepped for a biopsy, which would determine the next course of action. The needle was horrible. The procedure hurt. The results, though, wouldn’t be available for two weeks.
Glenda Colebrook couldn’t hurry. She would have to wait.
“…And wait and wait and wait,” she says. “Now that was terrible.”
COLEBROOK IS NOT TALL, closer to 48 inches than 5 feet. She doesn’t walk so much as she glides, as if she were perpetually attached to one of those electronic walkways in the airport terminal. She always seems to be moving forward, and with purpose.
Every day, there are things that need to be done. And Glenda Colebrook is capable of getting them all crossed off of her list, thank you very much. Morning coffee. Afternoon sweet tea. Go.
But at 51, in 2002, there were those results. They were out there, somewhere. On a piece of paper far from her reach, was her fate.
The call came.
And this time, Glenda Colebrook was finally stopped in her tracks.
HER DAUGHTERS EMILY AND ELIZABETH WERE STILL YOUNG, maybe not in their eyes and minds, but certainly in their momma’s. Cecil and William weren’t possible yet, but Glenda still wanted to see them. To meet them. To love on them like grandmothers do.
And Bill. Her doting, sturdy, do-it-all husband, Bill. Lord, what would he think?
“When that phone call comes, your whole world crashes down.”
“When that phone call comes, your whole world crashes down,” Glenda says.
Options were discussed. We could do this, or that, or perhaps this. It could take some time.
Time. Glenda Colebrook thought a lot about time.
“I remember once spending half the day in the doctor’s office, just waiting,” she recalls. “And I’m thinking, ‘I don’t want to just sit here. This is half a day. Half a day! If I’m going to survive this, I don’t want to wait on a doctor.’ When you have cancer, you want to spend that half day with someone you care about, doing something you love. You don’t want to wait.”
They could do a mastectomy. “When?” Glenda asked. “In three days.” That’s what Glenda wanted to hear.
“I came to that decision really quickly,” she says. “I wanted (the cancer) gone.”
Look ahead. Move forward. Go.
BILL NEVER LEFT HER SIDE. He was there for every waking moment, and for every other moment as well. Before surgery. After surgery. At home. He was there.
“Bill said he didn’t care about reconstruction,” Colebrook says. “And he doesn’t care about the scar or anything.”
Glenda’s twang-soaked voice cracks, and the tears don’t look far behind the warm, blue eyes. She doesn’t run from the emotion, which crests like a wave that never quite breaks when she speaks of Bill and the grandchildren. But it doesn’t overwhelm her either. She quickly shakes her head from side to side – another quick burst of movement stored in that little frame – regains her sweet-soaked composure, and carries on.
“I’m a lucky one,” she says. “My cancer wasn’t that bad. I had it quite easy.
“But you worry. Will it come back? It can always come back. Any day. But I’m blessed. Oh, I’m so blessed.”
GLENDA COLEBROOK BOUNDS OUT of The Spa at Pinehurst. Living about 30 miles away, she arrived at 9:30 a.m. She would’ve been there earlier, but she was responsible first for dropping off William, the 2-year-old.
Her massage was scheduled for 10, one of 100 complimentary treatments The Spa at Pinehurst gave breast cancer survivors. The Spa does this every year in October, and the spots filled up within minutes when they were initially opened months ago.
Glenda didn’t leave until nearly 5 p.m. She enjoyed her massage, had lunch, relaxed and read by the soothing indoor pool at the 31,000-square-foot sanctuary. She allowed time to silently pass and caught up with friends she hadn’t seen since The Spa’s last survivors’ day a year ago.
At the same time, it was a day to forget, to allow the mind to wander, the body to refresh and the soul to quietly rejoice.
“It’s wonderful to see so many familiar faces,” she says. “That’s one thing I quickly learned when I was diagnosed – how many other women have been affected. So many would come up to me and tell me they had been through breast cancer and beaten it. Seeing and meeting so many made me realize I could beat it, too.”
Some of the ladies spoke of family and friends. Others reminisced about their journeys. There were wide smiles, warm hugs and quiet interactions. It was a day to remember. At the same time, it was a day to forget, to allow the mind to wander, the body to refresh and the soul to quietly rejoice.
“This day is special,” Glenda says. “I feel special. This is not something I allow for myself very often. I don’t get to go to spas and get massages. But this day is for me, and for all these wonderful women.
“It means I’m still here.”