As West Michigan local Charity East, 39, faced her battle with triple-negative breast cancer, she grew determined to use her diagnosis to connect more with others.
“Breast cancer has opened more doors for me to talk to people. Everyone tells me it’s not fair, but I can’t relate to that.” Charity said.
Being a mother of four, wife, personal trainer, substitute teacher, and bus driver keeps Charity on the go, but she always finds a way to focus on connections along the way. “I even feel my cancer has helped the children I drive to school better understand. Their bus driver went from having hair to not having hair. It makes it a reality for them that they understand cancer is a sickness, but not necessarily what it looks like. For those kids, they got to see it a bit more.”, she said.
One of the most influential connections Charity is proud of is her relationship with her husband, Chuck East. The couple met in 1997 in high school choir class, but they never imagined it would take 17 years for their friendship to blossom into a love story. Like many long-term friendships, they lost touch over the years. Almost two decades later, fate found a way to bring them back to one another.
Chuck smiled, saying, “She was my biggest crush in high school. I even wrote it in my yearbook! But in high school, she friend-zoned me, so I didn’t know what my chances were when we reconnected.”
Charity replied, “He was just my friend when we first met. Years later, we were both going through a difficult time.” She claimed their revitalized relationship happened during a lot of healing and that they found a joy that bonded them during their mutual pain of loss.
They both laughed, exchanging stories of their reconnection, friendzone days, and meaningful memories made. Reminiscing on moments with their family, friends, church, and faith they both carry, Charity warmly says, “My faith is the core of my human being. I married my best friend. It shows every day. He treats me like an equal.”
Chuck replied about supporting a spouse through treatment, “It’s challenging when I have to go to work every week, and I know she is coming here, but I know she is in good hands. I can’t protect her from her cancer, so knowing that she comes here to CHCWM, where people know her by name and care about how she is doing, makes it ok for me to go to work.”
She lights up, talking about her care team among the many connections Charity has created on her journey. “My first time here, I showed up and felt like I met a new part of my family and got some chemo on the side. There is an element of going beyond what is expected of a job, and it is evident here that my care team makes a choice to connect. They take the time to know our stories. A testament to CHCWM, I could be just another bag of chemo, but I’m not.”
Her oncologist, Dr. Britni Souther, talked about her inspiring patient, “People like Charity impact me more than they realize. I love hearing the stories of her family and support system standing alongside her, and it is an honor for her family at CHCWM to be a part of that!”
Charity lives in Hudsonville with her four children (Gideon, Isabel, twins Ezekiel, and Malachi), husband Chuck, and their two-family dogs. She enjoys nothing more than spending time with her family and, of course, connecting with everyone that crosses her path.
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Contact Information: Becky Byers, CHCWM Marketing Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org, 616-389-1712)