Wednesday, November 14, 2012


I hope all of you are well and enjoying each and every day!  The girls and I are beginning a new chapter in our lives.  We’ve been blessed with so much lately it’s difficult to know where to begin.
Life has a way of throwing many challenges your way and the initial outlook isn’t always the greatest, but over time it almost always seems to be for the best. 

Recently, we had to decide whether or not I could continue to work at Cullasaja.  Following long and careful consideration, the girls and I felt it best that I find steady employment close to Cumming.  We will dearly miss being a consistent part of the Cullasaja Family, but I know we will stay in touch and have future opportunities to reconnect and visit.  Knowing that “Daddy” will be home consistently and a daily routine can be more easily established has already brought some comfort and relief to each of us.  As for what is next on the job front?  We will see!  I am approaching the next phase in my career with an open mind and emphasis on finding something that allows me to have enough time for Church and Family.

Speaking of Church & Family, the girls and I recently experienced one of our greatest moments together.  We have been visiting a local church, First Baptist Cumming, over the last several years.  Knowing now we would be part of the community for years to come, we decided to join.  So on November 4th we not only became church members, but we were all baptized together!  What an amazing experience!  The pastor did something he had never done before; he led us down into the water together as a family and then baptized each of us while we stood together in the water.  I am including the video of the baptism so you can see the delight in the girl’s eyes. I was so proud, honored, and overcome to experience this moment with them.
Finally, I would like to share something that Melinda, I, and the girls will be promoting and supporting going forward.  “MILES WITH MELINDA”!  As most of you know, it is important to us that we have an opportunity to pay our blessings forward.  Recently, I have been stumbling across little things that Melinda has left behind for me to find.  Many are just quiet reminders that she is still with us, while others have a more powerful message.  Well, the other day as I was sifting through some files on the computer, I ran across an amazing story that also included some of her personal thoughts.  The following is what I came across …….

Faith & My Witness

I remember the moment I became a “never looking back again” Christian. I was 29, almost 30 years old.  Now I had always accepted Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for my sins.  I had always tried to do “WWJD” (What would Jesus do).  And I had always prayed for wisdom and guidance from Him in my life.  But it was in 1999, when we were trying to have our first baby and were unsuccessful for more than a year, that the real message hit home.  I was struggling with lots of issues, my desperation to become a mom, my jealousy at other moms, my anger at the unfairness of it all, and my utter devastation at the thought of never having a baby, ever.  Then one night, a friend shared an inspirational story through email with me, it was called “The Silversmith”.  It spoke to me in an enormous way.  The message I got out of it was that God will put you through suffering and pain more than you think you can handle, like a silversmith refining silver.  He has to hold it in the center of the flames where the heat is the most intense in order to get the purest burn.  But he will sit with you the entire time, never leaving you, just as God does, careful not to let you be destroyed.  He will finally remove the silver from the fire when only one thing has happened, when the silversmith is able to see his reflection in the silver.  And God removes your suffering when you have ultimately surrendered yourself and become like Him. Your suffering has a purpose.  It is so intense and so blinding that it forces you to let go of all your earthly wishes and desires to get some relief.  You come to the realization that the only solution, the only way to end the pain is to accept Jesus and His love, that He is all you ever really needed.  He is the only One who has the answer, who can heal, and who can guide you out of the fire.  For me personally, this message helped me to discover that although having a baby would be a wonderful gift, an extra special addition to my life, it would be nothing compared to my relationship with God.  He was the only thing that could truly fulfill me.  There is nothing in this world better than Him, nothing.  So it was at that moment that I let it all go.  I let go of my personal desires, my narrow ideas, my need for immediate gratifications, and I gave it all over to God.  I threw all my trust and faith in Him and let His Love be my fulfillment.  After that night, I no longer felt the maddening desire to be pregnant, the envy at other families, or the debilitating sadness at each negative pregnancy test.  I turned my focus toward Jesus and his path for me.  I trusted Him and I followed Him. 
Since that epiphany, however, I have endured much more suffering despite my faith.  It is an imperfect world we live in and trauma, illness, fear are inevitable.  But I know that through it all, God is there with me.  He is always close by, sending encouragement through a special card in the mail, brightening my day with a quick hummingbird visit, patting my hand with a curious butterfly, or just sitting with me on the couch keeping the blanket tucked in.  I know I’m okay.  He will not let me be destroyed.   So I always keep my head in the right place, looking up to Him, and letting go of my own fears and apprehensions of the future.  There is nothing in this world better than God’s love, not a new baby, not a million dollars, not even a cure for cancer.  He is the only way to happiness and peace. Amen

While sitting in the chemo suite today chatting and sharing stories with other patients, I had a realization . . . maybe one of the greater purposes of my cancer is my witness to other patients. Maybe my attitude and perspective can be of some help to others. Makes me remember the phrase, "Don't waste your cancer" Let it be an opportunity to do good.

As much as I would like to forget that I have cancer and keep it to myself, it might be more purposeful if I share my thoughts and experiences.   I might never know the one person who needs to hear what I have to say. 

Melinda Renee Conley Young  -MRCY


Obviously I was quite moved after reading this and knew there was no time like the present to begin following through on her wishes.  Her cancer will not be wasted and there are opportunities to do good.  We therefore have decided to run, with Melinda by our side, in an effort to raise awareness and support for ovarian cancer fighters, survivors, caregivers, and others touched by this silent killer.  I have contacted the Georgia Ovarian Cancer Alliance and am excited about the possibilities for fundraising. 

Additionally, I will be running for the Cullasaja Cares Fund to help those touched by cancer in the Highlands & Cashiers area.  A community that has also meant so much to our family!
On Thanksgiving Day I will run the Atlanta Half Marathon.  I began training just a couple of weeks ago, but have already completed a 10-mile run in under an hour and a half.  I am confident in completing the race in a respectable time. The girls and “Aunt Jan” will participate in the “Mash Potato Mile” as Mimi cheers from the crowd.  We will all be wearing “MILES WITH MELINDA” T-shirts, and are looking forward to a fun and rewarding race!

Going forward, I plan on running the Georgia Marathon in March and seeking out any additional opportunities to support these causes moving forward ……who knows maybe a triathlon or an ironman will be in the future.  The girls, Aunt Jan, & Mimi are also on board and will continue to participate in any way to help the cause.   Most importantly, if we can make a difference in just one person’s life along the way, it will all be worthwhile!

Details of how you can help spread awareness or give are as follows:
1. You may order your own “MILES WITH MELINDA” T-Shirt (details coming soon!)
2. Share Melinda’s story by sharing this blog.
3. Learn more about Ovarian Cancer – you may visit the Georgia Ovarian Cancer Alliance website @
4. Contact the Highlands/Cashiers hospital to learn more abut the Cullasaja Cares Fund.

1. Donations supporting the Georgia Ovarian Cancer Alliance may be made through their website.  Please just indicate that your donation was made in support of “Miles with Melinda”.
2. Details on how you may support the Cullasaja Cares Fund will be provided soon. 

So there you have it!  We are excited to help others moving forward and look forward to the opportunities to “do good”!  I will use the blog to keep everyone updated on the ongoing efforts.  I am including the T-Shirt design below as well.  The Cullasaja Cares Fun will hopefully be added before race day.
Thank you and God Bless!

1 comment:

DJ said...

This is so beautiful. I'm so grateful that you shared it. It is soooooo Melinda! She is so proud of you, I am sure. You have a wonderful way with your words. You should consider writing books about your experiences. You could include excerpts from Melinda's blogs, other people's comments, and yours and the girls' thoughts. What an inspiration for others fighting ovarian cancer. We sent all of Melinda's blogs to our friend in Reidsville, NC, and she has been inspired by Melinda's words as she has battled ovarian cancer. Sharing the journey to her death, the aftermath, the beginnings of healing, the relationship with the girls, the first year of firsts, and so on. It could literally become a series. Between you and Melinda it would be an amazing story for anyone battling ovarian or any other cancer. Melinda's outlook was so fresh and faith-filled, and the way you have developed your girls in the aftermath is amazing. Think about it.
You are a wonderful man, John Young.
Love, Debra Johnson