JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Elsienor Java is like many busy working moms, she is a nurse by day and mother to three young children every other moment.
Her husband, Loreto, is in the Navy, so when he is deployed, the chaos intensifies at home.
It was during her husband's most recent deployment that she received devastating news from her doctor.
“He called me and told me, ‘Remember when we talked about that biopsy result. They sent it off to Washington, D.C., for further evaluation and it came back cancer,’” she told me.
It was breast cancer.
“And I’m like, 'Oh my God.' I cried so hard. I have three small children. My husband was deployed. It was terrible news for me,” Elsienor said.
Elsienor’s battle started that day.
For perspective, her daughter was 5 months old at the time. Her sons, Sean and Lance, were 7 and 4 years old.
Friends and co-workers accompanied her to her doctor’s appointments until her husband could get home from deployment.
He was able to get the Navy to assign him to home base at Naval Station Mayport. But Elsienor had to have chemotherapy. She developed several infections after having a double mastectomy.
She exhausted all of her short-term disability leave and had to return to work soon after therapy ended.
“All of our family is in the Philippines,” Loreto said when talking about their struggle the last two years.
When I called the USO, asking if personnel there could identify a family for us to help during our "Pay It 4ward" campaign, they immediately identified the Java family.
Our community partner, Publix, graciously offered to help and provided us with a $250 gift card for the family.
"We have a lot of military families that work within Publix Super Markets and are part of our family and we are pleased to have an opportunity to help this family that's going through a rough time," said Dwaine Stevens, director of community affairs for Publix Super Markets. "So groceries from Publix could probably brighten their day.”
That’s not all. BEAM -- Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry -- was kind enough to offer fresh produce from its garden, as well as toiletries and other household items that it donated for the Java family.
“We grew 7,000 pounds of fresh produce last year for our food pantries,” said Mary Ellen Waugh, who explained how BEAM helps local families. “We offer utility subsidies and access to our food pantries and our thrift stores to anyone who lives or works at the beach.”
If Mary Ellen's last name caught your eye, yes, there's a relation.
I called BEAM because my mother, Mary Ellen Waugh (pictured with me below), is one of the garden and food pantry coordinators there, and I knew she could help the Javas.
She and I harvested fresh vegetables, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and yellow squash from BEAM’s Jacksonville Beach garden. We also collected household items, like laundry detergent, tin foil, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner from BEAM's pantry and then went together to deliver the donations to the Javas' Southside home.
They had no idea we were coming. The look on their faces was priceless, especially their kids. They loved seeing our camera.
“Thank you, thank you,” said Elsienor and Loreto.
We hope our stories this week will inspire you to "Pay It 4ward" too! If you find it in your heart to perform a random act of kindness for someone you know, or even a complete stranger, tell me about it.