Unconditionally Her editor Cindy Chafin interviews  Vicki Spencer, bladder cancer survivor.

Editor’s note:  2017 SURVIVORville marked the 4th event and the 5th anniversary of the Women Survivors Alliance whose “signature product” has been SURVIVORville. With any SURVIVORville event, the level of required planning is extraordinary.   Every last detail is carefully orchestrated from what time each speaker arrives and what he or she needs to execute a session that requires anything from a projector screen to a clothes line you might see in grandma’s back yard, to what kinds of food will be served that won’t cause unpleasant aromas for attendees going through chemo, to what kinds of snacks the volunteers doing hair and make-up will like and counting how many outlets we will have for curling irons, flat irons, and other beauty devices.

Even with the thorough and detailed planning, there are some decisions that have to be made on the fly.  Like how to maximize a space you forgot you had.   This is where Marion and Vickie Spencer come in.     As I was in charge of the NOU Life Expo, I already had set up the vendor area designated for Unconditionally Her and was to be at the table most of the conference.   Right across from me was an area designated for storage.    In walks Marion and Vickie and we realize we need a place for them to display their custom-made candles, lotions, and soaps (more on that below!).    I station them in what WAS the storage area so that they get great visibility as people enter the conference area and see them first thing. They are also stationed directly across from me.  I’m not sure if they realized that they were NOT going to have peace and quiet when attendees were in sessions, because- they were stationed directly across from ME.   Which means they got a LOT of conversation.  They become my neighbors throughout the convention and we had some great conversation.

I sat down with this dynamic duo and asked them to repeat some of what our conversations held so that our Unconditionally Her could hear their amazing story.  We’ll hear from Vicki today, and Marion will get his own feature article, so stay tuned! They both have so much to share.

CC/Unconditionally Her:  Let’s start by going backwards!  Tell me how the two of you first met, Vicki. You have been to every SURVIVORville since the very first one.  Tell our readers the same story you both shared with me about how you met.

VS: In 2012 I chose to have a prophylactic double mastectomy due to a very high percentage of breast cancer in my family. Through that process I picked up an information pamphlet on an upcoming Woman’s Survivor Alliance with an opportunity to join and volunteer.  As the convention time was getting closer and I was healing from surgeries, I started to pray  for someone to share life with. It’s OK to be alone but not to be lonely. It was April 2013 when I started looking at options of on-line dating services. I ended up on Christian Mingle just looking, but not able to correspond.  That was until they taunted me with a great special to join and the ability to chat with others. It was within a short period of time that it matched me with Mr. Marion Spencer as a possible interest and he caught my eyes! I was looking for a true man of God and as we met for the first time June 2014, I soon realized he was that and much more. A father of two, a loving son, a preacher man and financial advisor with a kind a caring big ol’ heart. We knew it was a special relationship from the start, so I had to  share my Previvor journey from the last year. His response was, “that would not make me love you any less.”  Maybe were on to something here! I, being employed by an airline, work many different days and hours, even some I really don’t want to and at the last minute.  So I suggested to Marion if you want to hang with me you need to be flexible! He said he could do that, and I thought “yea we’ll see about that.”  Then I proceeded to tell him about about this Women Survivor Alliance convention coming up in the next month and asked him if he wanted to see me that week, would he consider signing up as a volunteer.  Also, “Oh and my mama was coming from FL to assist,” I told him.  He said yes and neither of us really had any idea what we were getting into with it being the first year. Let’s just say for time’s sake that we all put many hours and miles on our bodies that week and I learned my way around the Opryland hotel really quickly. It was during that short period of time we learned so much about each other and was able to really see inside each other’s hearts. With that being said, looking back, that is when we really started to fall in love. It was May 2014 that we were blessed to became husband and wife. The journey continued as we volunteered our time, resources, and love with the three SURVIVORville conventions since our wedding day and look forward to the future with the group.

CC/Unconditionally Her:  What were some of the challenges you had along the way with your cancer diagnosis, Vicki?

  VS: My journey began with being proactive in removing the breasts before the cancer set in and it was just a matter of time before that was going to happen. Was I making the right decisions for me and praying myself through the unknown of the future?  I was active in running 5K and 1/2 marathons as an opportunity to raise funds for Gilda’s Club, and other cancer organizations. But yet when it came my time in July 2015 to hear that “C” word it stops ya in your tracks, speechless and afraid. My first response was to stop, and to pray.  Ephesians 6:10-20 “Be strong in the Lord and the power of His mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so you can stand firm.” It takes time to process the what’s and where’s of the future. In my case a woman having bladder cancer is statistically low, so I had to dig for info and references while continuing to trust God and believe He will lead the way. Be humble and share your innermost feelings with those whom love you and no one said that would be easy, it’s OK to cry with and need them to help you through this. Surround yourself with those that can hold you up when you are hitting bottom, you have nowhere else to look but up. Philippines 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

 CC/NFD:  What has been one of your best memories or experiences you have had being part of Women Survivors Alliance and SURVIVORville?

 As I was single and on my Previvor journey, it allowed me time to get it right with my Jesus to penetrate my time, heart and soul. Then came the SURVIVORville experience where my heart was softened with other fellow sister stories. The experience has brought so many special friendships and understanding of how others cope, feel and to understand the needs of so many within our sisterhood. This was not just at the convention, but for a lifetime. We now have each other and so many other resources to lean on and learn from as we share our testimonies and 2nd Acts with others. SO, stop, look around and in their eyes, listen to the unspoken needs within the spirit. Opportunities are always there even in the little things to reach out and touch another heart with love by our actions and prayer.

CC/Unconditionally Her:    Tell me about the lotions and soaps.  How did they come to be? And where can people get them?

 VS: When I met Marion June 2013, he had been making candles for many years and sent me home with one as a gift. As time went by from a woman’s perspective, I inspired him to think about lotions, soaps, and other products that we have tried. It’s a hobby and ministry for us to brighten someone’s day with a product that makes them happy and smile. So, selling the products at the conventions was a win, win as we give back the proceeds to the organization and people left with a sweet smell in their spirit.  They can contact us directly.  Marion will be sharing more in his interview which will be published next!  If anyone is interested before then, they can contact Unconditionally Her and you can put them in touch with us.

 CC/Unconditionally Her:   What words of wisdom or words of encouragement would you have for someone going through a cancer diagnosis or maybe through other life hardships?

 VS: Stop, drop, and pray and then trust that you be led in the right direction to get information about your circumstances. The more you know the better prepared you will be to ask pertinent questions or get a better understanding about the situation. On a side note here: when you start to feel nauseous, and have information overload, just STOP- go for a walk- do something you enjoy- take a few deep breaths- stretch you tightened muscles- take a bubble bath and pray some more.  Don’t be shy or afraid to ask questions and be sure you understand the answers. Be humble and absorb what others share with you. Take from it what is pertinent to your situation. Don’t be afraid to put your heart and the hard facts on the table with those you love and ask their opinion. For those that are co-survivors it’s not always what you do or don’t say, but it’s important to just be there and hold us sometimes. It’s the look of love, the little things daily that mean so much to us. A thought to leave you with:

 1 Corinthians 13:13: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”