HENDERSON — Practically everyone in Henderson knows Pat and/or Heather McCormick.
Heather is known for her work at Henderson Community College, with the Henderson Community Chorus, in Henderson County Schools and on numerous music projects around town.
Pat's known for his many music performances, his profession as a piano tuner and even his turn last fall on stage as one of humorist Bob Park's Taffy characters.
Both are known for their church music ministries.
So when they were recently diagnosed with cancer within two months of each other, the earth tilted for everyone within their orbit.
How could two otherwise healthy, active people in the prime of life and career be diagnosed with cancer at the same time?
On March 9, in the first entry on the family's CarePages Web site set up as a vehicle for keeping friends and family informed, Heather described how life can change abruptly.
After several months of not feeling well, Pat had just received a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.
"We walked through a door that shut firmly behind us, and we are making new plans," she wrote.
"Our one decision, at a time when it is difficult to think straight, is that we will spend our time together, seeing friends and family, and doing things that make us happy."
At the time she wrote those words, Heather thought her big challenge was facing her husband's care and his immediate retirement from all work, including training for a half-Ironman event.
She took a leave of absence from the community college, (and she expresses gratitude to those at the college who made it possible), and they both immediately retired from their music positions at First United Methodist Church to spend every possible moment together.
But on April 29, Heather suffered a seizure that sent her to the hospital and led to a diagnosis of a cancerous brain tumor, leaving their family, including son Seth and daughter Kate, and friends reeling again.
They spent some rough moments and shed many tears processing this new development, but Pat — whom Heather calls "our optimist" — spoke out.
"He said we're not going to live like this," Heather said. "There's no point in asking why. There's no answer."
"Time is precious," Pat said. "These days are precious."
And Heather said her husband's positive frame of mind while facing his diagnosis "strangely laid the groundwork for me facing mine."
So they are spending lots of family time together and appreciating the small moments of life more than ever while working out and through their individual cancer treatment programs.
They were able to travel to New York City for musician Kate's final recital for her master's degree, and the entire family made a stress-relieving trip to south Florida between medical appointments. Their friends have generously helped them with the travel.
"Our days together are good," Heather said. If anything, she said, the hazard is of them being overprotective of each other. "We don't know what we're facing, but we're fighting against this and fighting together."
Because they know so many people between them, the CarePages Web site has been an excellent vehicle for staying connected and reconnecting with people and receiving messages of support and encouragement while maintaining a little of the isolation that's necessary for emotional and physical well-being. As of June 3, 1,068 registered users had left them 1,867 messages since March 9.
Conversely, their Web page has been a source of comfort to those following it.
"If there's anything good in this, I hope people are encouraged to have hope or find a belief or maybe rekindle something they've lost," Heather said.
In one of her latest posts, she mentioned having attended church the previous Sunday, and that the sermon emphasized the word live repeatedly.
"That's what we should all do every day in every circumstance," Heather wrote. "So, give thanks for this day and enjoy it."