By Shelly Becker
It was March of 2017 when my dear friend, Gary, lost his son… an Air Force Major… a skilled pilot, in a US Air Force training mission. Major Andrew Becker—Andy—lost his life that day. Andy’s Dad has been my dear friend for over 30 years; in fact, I once worked for him. The news of Andy’s plane crash and the pain that ensued for my friend and his wife and family, struck a common chord in my heart. Both of us had now lost a son in a tragic accident. I felt his pain.
The story you are about to read is a poignant one; Shelly Becker, Andy’s precious wife, was fighting her own serious health battles before Andy died. Andy was her husband, her best friend, and the one who brought safety to her world riddled with a serious and rare life-threatening illness. It is Shelly’s story that brought me to tears, and a realization that we should never tell God we have a big problem. We should always tell our problem we have a big God. She uses her faith to encourage her dear friends who are also going through pain.
I’ve come to love Shelly… and I’ve never met her. But I want to introduce you to a strong woman, one full of faith and determination… and one who has made me take inventory of my own faith legs. Here is Shelly’s story….
June 25, 2018:
Greetings from my hospital bed at Miami Valley. For perspective, read on.
On Thursday I was admitted through the ER for complications from the stupid cancer. Earlier today I was in between visitors and feeling a multitude of emotions. I was alone having a hard cry. Mad my body has this disease, and I feel betrayed by it, deeply sad Andy isn’t physically here to be with me and the little reminders that cut like knives when they ask my marital status and I have to respond widowed, upset by the pain and confusion, and most of all angry I have to deal with this on a beautiful Friday in summer.
With my cheeks still wet, one of the kind nurses came in to ask me a list of questions for discharge. They varied; who do you live with, do you feel you need a visit from an at home nurse, do you use a cane or assisted device to get around, are you independent etc…
It was the last question out of left field that got me.
“In the last year have you or anyone in your family had worries about how you would eat or where your next meal would come from?”
I paused in shock. This was my reality check.
I responded “No, thank God”. I inquired how often people answer yes and she said, “All the time.” All the time? My tears began once more, this time for a different reason. Like an anchor being swiftly cast off a boat, I was grounded again.
I GET to be in this hospital bed seeking care from these intelligent, gentle and supportive doctors and nurses.
I have not had the dire hardship of true hunger or the inability to feed my family.
I thank God that I still have health insurance.
I have had four blood transfusions so far and know there is more if I need it. I am so grateful for all of you blood donors.
I get to hear the Care Flight helicopter from my room and give thanks I’m not on it as I pray for the pilots, nurses and patients.
Perspective is everything and sometimes it comes right when we are willing to open our eyes to the bigger picture and realize it’s not about me.
If you or someone you know is struggling with putting food on the table, message me or check out http://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank/
P.S. Being in this hospital bed (which I call my dorm room) reminded me of something very important. To my friends, Ashley and Keith, as you go through these rough waters with your sweet baby boy being born at a little over one pound, I’m here to encourage you to know you CAN and you WILL handle this. From, albeit a different experience, I know the trauma of bad news, of struggle, of sleepless nights and of the worst worry ever. I offer this advice with the most loving intention. Look each other right in the eye, hand in hand and say, “We’ve got this”… “We can do this”… “By the Grace of God we will be stronger for this”… “One day we will be able to help someone else with their journey”… ”We are the best team and there is and NOTHING that can break us.”
You tell each other those things and you stand as firm as you can knowing you’re not alone, there are Angels among you my dear friends. I asked a special one to comfort you and he will, without a doubt. Keep going.
All my love,
Shelly Becker is a 29 year old woman living in the Dayton, Ohio area.
Seven years ago Shelly married USAF Lieutenant Andrew (Andy) Becker, a pilot in the Air Force Special Ops Command. In those seven years, Andy was deployed in combat 9 times, flying 459 combat air missions, awarded 22 Air Force service medals.
Early in 2016 Shelly was diagnosed with multiple carcinoid tumors, a relatively infrequent form of tumors. The biggest complication is that these tumors secrete enormous amounts of serotonin, which can damage parts of the body. In Shelly’s case, they had already seriously damaged two of her heart valves. In June, 2016, she was admitted to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and underwent open heart surgery to replace those valves. At that time there was no treatment for the carcinoid tumors, and they were considered inoperable. Together, Andy and Shelly began to try to manage the symptoms, as well as her recovery, and looked for any possible therapy to attack the tumors.
On March 14, 2017, Andy, the lead flight instructor of his squadron, was finishing a combat mission training flight near his base in Clovis, NM. Something happened that has yet to be determined, and the plane crashed, taking the lives of all three airman onboard. Andy had already been selected and approved to be promoted to Major later in 2017, and this promotion was awarded posthumously, as was an Air Force Meritorious Service medal for his accomplishments within his squadron.
In the fall of 2017 Shelly was selected to be one of 10 participants at Mayo Clinic in a new clinical trial for carcinoid tumors, one that was hoped would target just these tumors and destroy them. The initial trial period ended in the spring of 2018, and she will undergo more testing at Mayo Clinic later this year to determine the results.
Earlier in 2018 she relocated to the Dayton, OH area, where Shelly grew up, and where many of her family still live.