Jacquie’s Story

In the mid-1990s, I was part of my company’s management team in Colorado Springs, Colorado, US,  charged with building a team of support engineers for one of our key technologies.  It was a crazy and exciting time.  Work was nuts-busy and my wife and I had just welcomed our 3rd and last child into the post-womb world.  For a glance of how that came down, you should check this story out,  but back at work, something more profound was happening.

I planned my hiring to a few newbies, many mid-level experienced engineers and just a few gurus.  I had just seated the last hire of the 15 person team and we were up and rolling.  The team was settling in fine.  They were bonding in record time – which was fortunate because a big test was coming our way.

One day, one of my newbies, Jacquie, came into my office, closed the door and settled  into my guest chair.  By this time, she was both an employee and good friend, but she did not look happy today.

“Hi Gary, I need to talk .”

I smiled back, welcoming her visit regardless of what she had in mind, but noting that this looked serious, and it was.  I pushed my keyboard away and turned to give her my full attention.  “I’m ready.  What’s up?” I expected something like she needed to adjust her schedule or something.

Then I noticed that her eyes were too large and as she began, those eyes gave me a heads-up to something being terribly wrong.  She looked frightened.

Jacquie was about 26 years old and a single mom with a 5 year-old boy at home.  When she joined the team, she was quiet, but very friendly and hard working.  As one of my newbies, she had little (technically) to bring to the team other than a great attitude, great spirit, hard and consistent work, but her work volume was much lower than almost everyone else – as expected – because I hired her to learn quickly and become productive over time – with the hope that she would love the work and be with us for 7 years or more.  She found several ways to contribute and she did her best to begin and progress along a healthy learning curve.  All was going very well and I was pleased with her progress.

She began to lay out her issue.  “A few years ago, I had a nasty cancer,” she said.  “My doctors and I thought it was fully in remission.  But, I had some tests last week and yesterday, my doctor told me that it was back and – and, I don’t know how this is going to turn out this time.”

You most likely know me well enough by now that I’m rarely at a loss for words, but this nailed me.  I struggled to find something encouraging or hopeful to say, but, as part of a team paid to fix things, this was not something I could fix. I finally found a discussion path that I could work with and she gave me all the facts that I needed to know about as her manager.

We settled on a plan that I would work out with HR that included lots of flexible time for her to do chemo and rest from same.

At this point – I’m going to spare you most of the details of her situation. It did not get much better.  She did begin working from home – back when my company rarely allowed this, but I’m bigger than most HR types, so I won several of those discussions.  But I was beginning to see that she and I  were going to hit a wall.  Her productivity was dropping fast and lacking that, I was supposed to put her on disability, which would start a chain of events that would push her out of employment and make it more difficult for her to carve out a life for her and her son.

There was no way to avoid this path – unless I could – humm,

I called a special meeting with the team.

“Thanks all for coming.  I’ll be quick.  Some of you know that Jacquie is in trouble.  She has cancer and her working from home helped, but she is falling well below what I need for her productivity.  If I can’t – if she can’t get her work up to a certain level, I’ll need to put her on disability,” and I explained what that would mean for her.  “We have an option that I wanted to offer.  “I need [an amount of work] to make a case that I don’t need to put her on disability.  There are 14 of you and almost all of you are more productive than she is.  I can’t pay anyone overtime, but would you be willing to give her 30 minutes a day?  If yes, you will more than cover her daily expectations and my management won’t want me to press the disability button.”

My team, all looked at one another for a few minutes, said very few actual words, but everyone was in and we went for it.”

Jacquie did not have an extended family who could step in nor, at the time, did she have a boy friend or anyone who could care for her boy if she lost this battle.  We had all heard that things were not going well with her treatments and she was very worried about starting the whole disability thing because that path would only care for her for a certain amount of time.

jacquie 1

Later, when this team was done, they had more than exceeded our productivity goals, Jacquie was able to relax about the whole disability thing because these folks, many who had only known her for a couple of months, managed to push back her disability start date for about 4 months, giving her time to focus on her therapy and – yes – find a wonderful young man to promote from friend to finance who both knew her situation, her son and shared their Christian faith.

The coolest thing for her, was that her focus on the therapy worked and she managed to once again push that cancer back into remission.  Her marriage was more of a celebration than than just a wedding.  She was able to run the disability course at a time when she was much better prepared.  Her new husband was standing firmly with her regardless of how her condition turned out – her boy would have a good father if she lost this battle.  Physically, she bounced back some, but was never able to work again because chemo left her so frail.

I was humbled by what this team had done for her, but work is work and things changed.  About 5 years later, I was living with my family back in California, working for a different company and now dealing with my mom’s cancer.  This one had no happy ending in sight.  She was stage 4 mesothelioma and was working with hospice when I got a call at work from; of all people – Jacquie. . .

She was more than still alive, loving most of life and very happily married.  Her boy was now almost 11 and they had a rock solid family up and running.  Oh – and she was calling me – to encourage me about the situation with my mom. . .  “How did you even hear about us?” I asked.

“You still have lots of friends back in Colorado Springs Gary and we heard.  You are in our prayers and I told them I wanted to reach out to you to let you know.”

I almost dropped to my knees.  This woman had twice fought a worse battle than I had ever faced and she was calling to encourage me. . .  And she was very encouraging BTW and I found myself on the receiving side of some amazing grace from this wonderful woman.

It was  something like 7 years later that I got a call from one of those friends I’d stayed in touch with to let me know that Jacquie had finally lost her battle with cancer. I quickly did the math and her son had to almost be a legal adult.  His dad and he were as ready as you ever could be for losing mom and wife.  Even so, after such a long battle, my heart broke for all of them.

I did take time to reflect on what a priceless gift of time, that team of engineers gave Jacquie.

Guys, don’t let the media bury you with magnified horror stories and leave you hopeless.  There are plenty of folks out there who don’t need much of a reason to dig a bit deeper to help one of the Jacquie’s in their lives.  To this day, I am so proud to have been part of that amazing team.

GW bio card 4

43 thoughts on “Jacquie’s Story

  1. Wow! Her story brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing. There are good people out there who cares. even for almost strangers. Hearing stories like this makes me want to work harder to become a better person. Thank you! Best of luck with your own recovery. BTW this is the first time in a while that I’ve been able to leave a comment here. For some reason it wouldn’t let me for the past 2-3 weeks. now the post opened right up to the comment field. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Ms Z.
      It was not the kind of thing I asked my management to authorize but it was amazing when the calendar & numbers all lined up to say this team did something really special.

      In this retelling I was going for heart-warming. Assuming yours were tears of joy – I’ll take them with thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, tears of joy. My own mother passed away in cancer when I was 12, so naturally I was routing for her son in the story.


  2. It is a very nice story. Most people can be kind if given the chance. I have a niece who survived cancer twice while in her 20s. It was amazing how much the people at her work supported her.
    have a good rest of the weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Trent. Great note on your niece! I wanted to share this story mostly because there’s been so much garbage in our press and social media of late, that I (at lease) needed to refocus on the good in people around me. You point about your niece really validates it. I know of very few people who agree with me on much of anything, except that being civil, graceful, and friendly are not particularly rare attributes. They just don’t make news and they don’t make anyone money. Have a great week and thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am not as down on media as you, but I will agree that they focus too much on the negative, mostly because that is what sells. But there are heart warming stories out there when you look for them. Have a great week.


  3. This is a great story, Gary, from all perspectives. You were able to work a little miracle, that in turn avalanched into a series of more little miracles. God knows how many you don’t know about. It all adds up to an amazing witness of goodness’ viral effect, generosity of spirit and gratitude. Every day is a gift.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Gary, what an amazing story! It warmed my heart to see so many people coming together to help someone in need. Compassion is a remarkable gift. And to watch it come full circle in your hour of need was love at its finest.
    Last year at this time, my brother was dying from stomach cancer, so your story touched me beyond words. I would be honored to share this week. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow – Ann Marie, of course I did not know about your brother but am sorry for your family. Before moving to Colorado, my sister fought off a milder cancer that lodged in her back near her shoulder blade. She won her battle, but in the following years I lost both parents (not just my mom) to cancer. Cancer has few friends I think and none in my family.

      Thanks for sharing Jacquie’s story with your readers. I don’t think we can ever have too much inspiration of hope and grace.

      I may be adding some of the names of the team who pulled this off but want to go there carefully and only with their permission. These were amazing people.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Gary, I did get to know Jacquie or her story, so thank you for sharing such a wonderful piece of encouraging humanity!…I suspected you had in you and I know this is likely just one example. What a great way to honor her spirit and her fight, which is not all a lost, as she did so much to take care of everything that she had control and until the end. In doing so, she also strengthen our spirits!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Alex.
      Thanks for your kind words but don’t miss the part that team played. Lacking their contributions, this never would have happened. I have waved their flag ever since and finally decided to just write it up to encourage others & honor all involved. I’m so pleased that you read & enjoyed the account.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi, Gary. This story is both a tremendous encouragement and a challenge to others to expend themselves for other people. When you visited my site recently and mentioned your stories, I thought you seemed familiar, but I didn’t know why. Now that I’ve had a chance to hop over here, I realize why. I have visited your site and read a few of your stories previously — and I made some comments. But, for some reason, they don’t seem to have come up on your page. I’m sorry about that. You’re a good writer, and, hopefully, this comment will go through.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sandra. This comment made it thorough and I’m very pleased that it did.. Long ago I gave up understanding some of the strange things that WordPress does, but once connected, we seem to build a decent community. Your kind words are very much appreciated.


    1. They were an amazing team. Many of them had barely had the chance to get to know her before this all started, but they pitched in anyway and together made a small miracle happen. Thanks for help me honor Jacquie’s memory and those who stepped up to change what her story otherwise could have been.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. agreed – even with all the good that happened, the story did not end well for Jacquie and we lost her. I feel like I should chuck a funny story your way to leave you smiling. Have you seen my Prom Date Adventure? This is one of my oldest and most popular stories, and the gal who sorta played the other side even reviewed and authorized this retelling of a most unusual event. If you’d like a better, but weird reason to smile, Give this one a try and I won’t feel like I left you depressed.



    1. Hello Vee Bee.
      Ugh — I’m sorry for having missed your comment so long ago. I’m not sure how this happened but it must have been my user error somehow. Anyway, thanks for the kind feedback. I am delighted to receive it but embarrassed to have missed it way back when you first responded. Thank you and please forgive my long delay in saying so.


  7. Thank you for the reminder that when allowed to, people can choose to be selfless and giving beyond expectation. At so many levels, this story touches me and gives me renewed hope amidst global news that sends us to our knees in despair.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow! What an amazing story of grace, bravery, and generosity. Kudos to you and your team for buying this young mother the time she needed to get her feet on the ground. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Having done 2 battle rounds with cancer myself, I found this story incredibly touching! Thank you for sharing an encouraging story in this discouraging world!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Merrilee I heard that you too had fought and won this battle. I was very young when my mom fought hers so this is a personal story for many. I was so proud to be part of a team that won part of the battle for this one gal. These were amazing people. Thanks for spending some time with my story.


  10. Thanks so much for commenting on my blog post and then leaving this link. What a story of kindness, connection and good old fashioned help in the face of cancer…love that you and your colleagues could work together in this way. I am so very fortunate that when I was diagnosed I was already retired and am married (for 50 years now) to someone who is my best friend so my care and comfort were always around. Warm wishes from Australia. Denyse

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Denyse.
      Thanks for spending some time with my story. It sounds like your version of the story was one of reducing cancer to a speed bump with the help of a great husband. Excellent! I love any account of cancer failing. Thanks for sharing your own great news.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. That’s a lovely story, Gary. I truly believe that there are many more generous, good people in the world than selfish people who want to do others harm. Jacquie had a good friend in you and the rest of the team. The greatest kudos go to her husband, who stepped up knowing exactly what he was signing up for. I was part of a workgroup that donated vacation/time off credits to an employee who needed to spend time with her sick son but I’ve never heard of donating productivity. Bravo!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Thomas,
      That’s very kind of you to say.
      I’ve been trying to figure out how to do this blog thing for about 7 years, but only for the past 5 in earnest and still feel like a amateur. It looks organized finally but really doesn’t help a reader find anything other than items from a large collection. It also doesn’t play nice with SEO algorithms, so I have lots to learn about attracting an audience.
      Anyway, if you see something you like on my site but don’t know how to do something similar, such as I do know about setup, I’d be pleased to share; just ask.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s