Sherry Bird, middle, shown with her husband, Joe, and children, from left, Kaitlen, Christa and Rebekah, at their home in Craig, was diagnosed with cancer in April. There will be a fundraiser for Sherry and the Bird family from 1 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday at the Boys & Girls Club of Craig, 1324 E. U.S. Highway 40.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Sherry Bird, middle, shown with her husband, Joe, and children, from left, Kaitlen, Christa and Rebekah, at their home in Craig, was diagnosed with cancer in April. There will be a fundraiser for Sherry and the Bird family from 1 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday at the Boys & Girls Club of Craig, 1324 E. U.S. Highway 40.

Family leans on faith, each other while dealing with illness

Sunday fundraiser to benefit local family

By Nicole Inglis

Craig resident Tobi Chacon spent part of her Friday afternoon at Wal-Mart buying last minute supplies for this weekend's fundraiser for her close friend, Sherry Bird.

Chacon then witnessed the generosity of community support.

One of her friends saw what she was doing and paid for all the items in Chacon's basket.

"It's a blessing," Chacon said about the outpouring of support for Bird. "A crisis like this can really pull a community together."

Chacon is the lead organizer for Sunday's fundraiser, scheduled for 1 to 5:30 p.m. at the Boys & Girls Club of Craig, 1324 E. U.S. Highway 40. The fundraiser is a homemade spaghetti and salad dinner, with all proceeds going to the Bird family.

Sherry is battling breast cancer, and the family is in a difficult financial situation.

"The main reason I wanted to do this was because no family plans for a crisis like this," Chacon said. "The cancer came on suddenly, and they had no time to prepare. It was just in my heart to help them out."

But, the effort to put on the fundraiser didn't come from Chacon alone.

"It was really the community coming together, seeing a need," she said.

The Craig Chamber of Commerce offered up space at Grand Olde West Days to help sell tickets and Cook Chevrolet donated money for the food.

Brothers Custom Processing donated meat and several community members will volunteer their time to cook.

Both Chacon's and Bird's churches - Heart of Worship Ministries and New Creation Church, respectively - came together to help fund and support the event.

Guests are encouraged to bring a desert to the fundraiser to be auctioned off.

The auction will feature all of the deserts, as well as a few items, such as a bike from Wal-Mart.

Proceeds from the tickets and auction will benefit Bird and her family.

Chacon knows that Bird and family will appreciate the support of the community during the fundraiser and beyond.

"It will be a huge blessing to her, seeing people come along side them and help them through this hard time," Chacon said.

If you go

What: Spaghetti dinner fundraiser for Sherry Bird and family

When: 1 to 5:30 p.m., Sunday

Where: Boys & Girls Club of Craig, 1324 E. U.S. Highway 40

Cost: $10 adults/$5 children

Tickets: Available at the Craig Daily Press, 466 Yampa Ave., Cook Chevrolet, 1776 W. Victory Way, or at the door

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Sherry Bird has received more than 35 cards wishing her well and keeps them on a table in her house.

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Sherry Bird underwent a bilateral mastectomy and auxiliary lymph node dissection May 11. She remains stoic talking about her surgery, but it was talk of community support that brought tears to her face.

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From left, Kaitlen, Rebekah and Christa Bird talk Friday about their experience finding out about their mother's cancer.

Sherry Bird's voice doesn't tremble; her emotions don't rattle.

Not when she's talking about the day in March when she found the lump. It was the size of a bar of soap.

Not when she's talking about the phone call she received with the news. You have cancer.

Not when she's talking about relaying that news to her husband, Joe, and her three daughters. It happened one-by-one.

Not when she's talking about the uncertainty of going through surgery or months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. She's staying positive.

Not when she's talking about keeping breast cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the U.S., at bay.

She's leaning on her God, the "Great Physician."

Sherry, 43, a Craig resident, stays stoic throughout those topics.

It's not until she comes to community, to the warmness of others, that her collected exterior chips away a bit.

She's asked about the fundraiser, scheduled for 1 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday at the Boys & Girls Club of Craig, 1324 E. U.S. Highway 40 (see related story, page 36), that's being hosted on behalf of her and her family.

"I'm overwhelmed," she says as her words break and a slow tear streams down her face. "Having been here five years, you desire to touch people's lives. Joe and I desire to be part of our community and serve our community. We volunteer. We're appreciative, so we want to give back to (a place) that has so blessed our family.

"To have so many different entities - churches and individuals and even people we don't even know yet - bless us to this magnitude is just overwhelming. We are so grateful and appreciative, but it's like words can't seem to convey the fullness of our appreciation."

The Bird family, originally from Kansas City, Mo., has gone through an uncertain time in their lives in recent months.

It started when, on a Saturday, Sherry felt pressure and a sharp pain in her right breast, while playing with her children on the living room floor at their home on West Ninth Street.

She saw a doctor that Monday. The doctor ordered tests - an ultra sound and a mammogram. The tests came back normal.

The doctor wasn't convinced. She ordered more tests.

Sherry was concerned.

Her mother died of cancer and at one point, had breast cancer. Sherry had taken precautions. She started getting regular exams at 36. She didn't smoke. She breast-fed her children as infants.

She stayed healthy.

Concerned but never overwhelmed.

"I didn't go from zero to I'm going to die of cancer," she said.

"All I can explain is just a supernatural peace that comes only from God. Things that would be the normal response of the natural, just wasn't mine."

A while later, Sherry got a biopsy. It was a Tuesday. A few days later, on a Friday, she got the call.

It already had been a rough day. A neighborhood dog had gotten loose and killed the family rabbit. The girls were upset.

The doctor gave Sherry more bad news.

"My initial reaction was, really? : I was so confident that it wasn't (cancer), you know, and I'm not just thinking positive thoughts," she said. "I mean, in my mind, I was fully convinced it just wasn't."

Joe, who was days removed from a Craig City Council election in which he was a candidate, and hours removed from hosting a church men's group meeting at his home that night, heard the news.

His thoughts immediately shifted to his wife.

"At the time, it was a rather difficult blow," said Joe, 46, the service manager at the Craig and Steamboat Springs branches of Cook Chevrolet. "But, her and I, because of the vows we made to each other, stick with each other through good and bad. It was something we're going to work through together and keep a positive attitude about, and my kids have chosen to do the same thing.

"We're just looking at it as another bump in the road, and we'll get through it and then we'll just continue doing what the Bird family is in Craig to do, and that's to help in any way we can."

Helping others is a priority for the Birds.

Joe is a Craig Chamber of Commerce board member, a Boys & Girls Club board member, vice president of the Dove's Nest Foundation and also active in his church, the nondenominational New Creation Church.

Sherry is treasurer for the Craig Sea Sharks swim team, and an administrator at the church. She also is active in the church's ongoing construction project.

On a Saturday morning, one-by-one, in the order they woke up, Sherry and Joe told their three daughters what was happening to their mother.

The parents were calm. They were positive. They told them Sherry would be healed. That said God would help her, either miraculously or through doctors and medicine.

"It was kind of like I was shocked, but I wasn't scared," said Kaitlen, a 15-year-old sophomore-to-be at Moffat County High School. "It was kind of a peaceful shock, I guess, in a way."

"It felt like God just put it up, like it was probably there for a long time, and God just made it show up to get it over with," the middle daughter, 11-year-old Rebekah said. "And it is going away, really, really quickly."

Ten-year-old Christa is more direct.

"We're going to get through this," she said. "I have God on my side."

On May 11, Sherry had surgery - a bilateral mastectomy and auxiliary lymph node dissection.

In layman's terms, surgeons removed both breasts and all tissue to the chest wall until they had cancer free margins. The surgeons also laid the beginning blocks for breast reconstruction.

Doctors believe they got all the cancer from Sherry's body. She is to begin chemotherapy treatments - six sessions with three weeks in between each session, or 4 1/2 months of treatments - in a few weeks.

Joe said his role has been to be supportive to his wife.

"I look at this way," he said. "There's a lot of stuff I'm involved with in town, and Sherry has made just as equal a sacrifice for me to be able to do that. : Now is the time I need to do that for her, so she can do what she needs to, to get better."

Faith, the family said, is the foundation on which they live their lives, and what they're relying on to see them through. Their home has been full of peace and joy through this trying time, they said, and they point to faith as the reason.

Joe recalled what Christa said to her mother not long after learning of her cancer. The story, he said, illustrates the depth of their belief.

"She just looked right into Sherry's eyes and said : I've already prayed, and as far as I'm concerned, this is done, and you're healed," Joe said.

"Our family," he added, "we know that all of us have a reason for not just being here on Earth but also being here in Craig. We look at it as another stumbling block from keeping us on track, from keeping us on where it is we're supposed to be going. : There's always a reason for going through stuff like this, and most of the time, the way I view it, it's because we have the opportunity to help someone else."

Sherry shares Christa's same certainty about her illness. The composed exterior that cracked a bit when talking about the community returns to Sherry when she talks of her fight with the disease.

"I'm victorious already," she said. "I serve a God who is the Great Physician. I believe my body is healed. I may go through a process for that to be visible, but I consider myself victorious already."

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