It is 1985 and I have just transferred to Rohr Elementary, the second school of my career and where I will remain for 26 years before retiring. I have been assigned a 3rd/4th combo class in Room B-9. It is here where a perfect story of serendipity will be born, thirty-one years later.

Her name is Jody. She is eight. And she is one of my third graders. She is the same age as my son, Eli. And she is now my guardian angel.

Because I taught for so long at the same school site, it was easy for my students to stay in touch with me over the years. Jody was one of those. A wonderful student, she grew into a lovely young woman who even became a teacher at Rohr for a couple of years before she had to leave because of staffing cuts.

She taught in the room next to mine, but she could never bring herself to call me Terri. I was still Mrs. Hamlin from her third grader point of view.

Following her short stint in education, Jody pursued a different career. And then at 34, Jody was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was 34, when I was Jody’s teacher.

Deeply concerned by Jody’s diagnosis, her bosses queried medical connections they had with Eli Lilly and Company to determine the finest breast cancer treatment center and doctors in San Diego. The singular response: Moores Cancer Center in La Jolla.

Jody had a lumpectomy, radiation, and aggressive chemotherapy because she was so young. She is a five-year cancer survivor today.

But because of her life-changing diagnosis, Jody decided to make a career change. She attended UCSD, did her internship at Moores Cancer Center, and she is now a radiation oncology therapist at Sharp Grossmont Hospital.

And here is the magic of serendipity. Because of a second Facebook account that I created in order to remain in contact with my former students, she learned of my cancer diagnosis and contacted me while I was in Cambria. And then on Sunday she read my first post that detailed my terror, and she knew she could help. She picked up her phone and texted me on Sunday: “Good morning, Mrs. Hamlin! Would you by chance have time to meet today? I also got treated at Moores. I also interned there so I wanted to give you info on the doctors, if you think that would help.”

I opened my front door and together we hugged and cried. I felt like a third grader in the presence of my teacher. We had come full circle, thirty-one years later, from B-9. The irony was, neither one of us was benign.

For the next several hours she calmly and lovingly helped Tom and me process our fears and our questions. Her doctors were the same. I felt the madness pause and I was able to breathe. The blizzard in my brain lightened. I allowed flashes of hope and peace.

I can do this, thanks to the heart of a third grader, who will be with me on this journey. We share an academic history, and now a story. It is a perfect story of serendipity.

15 thoughts on “Serendipity

  1. Yes! I call this the Jody Miracle. Think of all the variables that had to be in place for this particular serendipity to be here at this point and time. Thank you, Jody, from the deepest part of my heart and soul. We, her frriens who love Terri deeply, struggle with our own emotions and fears of not knowing enough. We want so much to remove the fear and shock. What you offer comes from your experience and compassion which I know you have spread to all those wonderful women who’ve met yoy. You, Terri, are a gift. you, too, positively affect all who know you. You will become someone else’s miracle. My love to you and Tom and my gratitude to Jody.

  2. A beautiful tale of serendipity. May you both be healthy and continue to brighten the lives of those around you 💗🎀

  3. As teachers, we love our students unconditionally. It is so beautiful that love, support and guidance is being returned to you Terri by your dear student, Jody. I wish that I had met her.
    We say at Rohr, once a Lion…always a Lion. Remember that a lion is strong, fierce, wise, majestic, relentless guide to others. May the lioness come forth Terri!

  4. That is absolutely amazing 🙂 I believe that everyone we meet in our lives serves a purpose. Obviously you know what purpose she served in your life now.

  5. Isn’t it wonderful when God has a hand in our lives? He is worthy to be praised and I’m grateful for this story. I’m glad Mrs. Hamlin now feels the comfort and love she needs through this process! Cancer is a horrbile and scary journey – by the grace of God my mom is a NonHodgkins 4th stage cancer survivor since 2004. They gave her weeks to live, but the oncologist had an itch to aggressively fight! The oncologist warned us that she didn’t think my mother would survive the first quimotherapy treatment because the cancer was so aggressive and her body too weak. However, She said she wanted to fight- and so did my mom. After 18 months in and out of the hospital being told that she wouldn’t make it time and time again – God had different plans for her. My mother always told God, “If you want to take me – go ahead. If you want to leave me on this Earth – go ahead. Just allow your glory to shine through me.” Yes at times it was discouraging, others gave high hopes. I didn’t think she’d make it. But there was God and an oncologist who gave that same sense of security Jody is now giving you Mrs. Hamlin and I know how life changing that is. So, as I have incessant tears reading this story of serendipity- my heart has that much more joy and peace that there is someone who knows about this battle first hand walking through this journey with you. Be blessed Mrs. Hamlin and thank you Jody for doing something all of us 3rd and 4th graders would want to do for Mrs. Hamlin.

  6. How amazing is that!? I am so happy you have someone you feel so close with to help you hand and hand through this journey. 😊

  7. This serendipity started years ago with you as the teacher and now the circle has come around. I am so happy that Jody saw your post and responded with love and compassion, but also with information and experience. I agree that Moore’s Cancer Center is the best. I confess that I sort of stumbled into them when it was my turn but I have experienced their skill and care and it brought me reassurance when I felt totally lost.

  8. Reading this gave me chills. So pleased your path has a guide in sweet Jody. It’s often the unknowing that feeds our fears. Knowledge truly is power. Be well my friend.

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