Life shattering diagnosis leaves woman of faith with positive attitude


JACKSONVILLE — Cynthia Kline stood about 10 feet from a metal barrier, swirling an empty blue wine bottle in a circular motion with her right hand.

With encouragement from her friends and family, the chairwoman for the Cherokee County Relay For Life hurled the bottle with all her might and watched it shatter into tiny pieces on a tarp in her driveway — a loud crash echoing through the fall air.

One by one, more than 30 of Mrs. Kline's friends picked up dishware and bottles and shattered them into pieces to symbolically help her "shatter" her recent diagnosis with cervical cancer in late October.

The attendees then used the jagged and broken pieces to make meaningful mosaics, which will soon form a pathway from Mrs. Kline's driveway to her greenhouse.

"Cancer makes me feel shattered," she said. "The glass represented that, but the stepping stones represented creating something strong and sturdy, something to stand on and taking all those fragmented pieces and picking them up. You have growth with it. You can't just have a diagnosis. You have to pick up the pieces and build something with it. … Even in our worst times, we can still create meaningful moments and have fun."

After spending 10 years helping others have more birthdays and advocating legislatively for more research funding, the Relay For Life chairwoman and the District 5 American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network ACT Lead was diagnosed with the disease herself.

Mrs. Kline has helped raise millions of dollars locally to help cancer survivors.

Lori Spurgin, 46, of Tyler, said she tried to channel her long-time friend while purchasing dishes to break. She said if the situation were reversed, Mrs. Kline would have made something beautiful and thoughtful for her.

Mrs. Spurgin made a mosaic out of a blue wine glass because "we will not be blue and we will not whine," and from plate pieces resembling the rings of a tree for her friend's longevity.

"We love her and she has to be OK," Mrs. Spurgin said. "She has the faith, she has the focus and she has the fight."

Mrs. Kline first got involved with the American Cancer Society when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Mrs. Tucker lost her battle seven years ago, but trials supported by the society extended her life. Her father also lost a battle with lung cancer last year. She shattered more glass in honor of her parents.

Mrs. Kline has often said cancer is nondiscriminatory. It doesn't care about gender, race, financial status or age — and it surely doesn't care about spending 10 years trying to fight it.

"I knew I would be diagnosed with cancer after both my parents died of cancer, but I never dreamed it would be so soon," she said. "The doctor said, ‘you are too young to be premenopausal, but you're never too young to have cancer.'"

Mrs. Kline said she first noticed a variance in her normal cycle but initially dismissed it to a possible early onset of menopause or a side effect of getting older, but when it happened again she opted to get an in-depth pelvic exam to check it out.

"A normal Pap smear doesn't find the type of cancer I have," she said. "I had to let my doctor know I need an in-depth exam, and that's what they did and they found it."

Soon after the diagnosis, Mrs. Kline was bringing her husband a cup of coffee when she had the overwhelming urge to throw the cup against the wall.

She told her husband, Howard, that she needed to go to the dollar store because she wanted to shatter all the dishes in the kitchen, and he told her to go ahead.

"He said, ‘you have a lot to choose from, but don't choose the good stuff," she said.

Instead of making a mess, she told a friend about the experience, and her friend said she was so angry Mrs. Kline had cancer that she wanted to smash all her dishes, too.

Turns out a lot of friends wanted to break things over her diagnosis.

"I told her from the get-go she's got this," Mrs. Kline's longtime friend, Penny Ridgeway, 49, of Lufkin, said. "You try to be positive, but she's got so much positivity that she doesn't need too much (encouragement)."

Mrs. Kline said the outpouring of love and support has been encouraging, but it's her faith in God that has been her biggest support.

She is currently recovering from surgery and, after a few more tests, doctors will put together an action plan for her treatment. Even though her journey isn't over, her trust is in the Almighty.

"My faith has prepared me more than anything," She said. "I don't think you can truly be prepared to find out you have cancer, but you can be prepared to deal with it. I think it's my faith that prepared me the most for that."



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Faith Harper is an East Texas native working for her hometown newspaper. She specializes in digital content for the Tyler Morning Telegraph. In her spare time, she loves tacos, road trips and is currently learning to sail.