Remembering Susan Veley for us is to remember an unforgettable friend who was effervescent, genuine, eternally youthful and could light up a room with her wit and personality. The girl would do anything for a laugh! She was a loving wife to Chris, a devoted mom to Elise and Tommy, a long time employee of the Portland Police Bureau, a faithful servant to God and a true blue friend who always brought the best out in everyone. Unfortunately for all of us, her precious life was cut short at the age of 55 from ovarian cancer.
Just after New Years in 2005, Susan went into the hospital with ongoing stomach pain that quickly intensified. After preliminary tests that led to exploratory surgery, Susan was diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer, which was quite a shock as she had a total hysterectomy five years prior. We learned that Susan’s ovarian cancer started from leftover ovarian cells found in the omentum, a rare and unconventional way of developing the disease.
Susan rallied the troops (God, family, health care professionals, friends) and along with her strong will, determination, otherwise great health, faith and a whole lot of humor, fought the battle of her life.
Here is a snapshot of how we think Susan fought the fight by living out one of her favorite bible verses, Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good in those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” The GOOD seemed to revolve around strengthening her relationships and certainly her faith and service for the Lord. This was all done with her famous trademark humor of course!
Her relationship with Chris was strengthened and endearing. Her relationship with her kids was even more strong and loving. She never took for granted the precious time she had to spend with them—a lesson we all should learn.
Her relationship with God grew immensely through this journey. In fact, during one of our many talks, we asked her, “For what do you want to be remembered?” She said, “My humor of course, and that I never lost my faith through this cancer journey (in fact, it grew.) And, changing just even ONE person’s life for the better and bringing them to Jesus.Now that would be a great legacy.” What is so amazing is that she changed more lives than she’ll ever know. One example is the mission trip she went on to Rwanda. Even amidst her chemo regime, she mustered up the strength to not only go herself, but inspire her husband (a dentist), daughter, and several others from our church to go and lend their gifts as well. She sponsored several children herself and led the way for our church to sponsor this mission that has since grown into our biggest mission outreach.
Her gift for bringing people together was magnified throughout her illness. She had friendships that grew and multiplied among themselves and we all got the gift of meeting each other. One of those gifts for us was meeting Sherie Hildreth. Talk about the GOOD that can come from a tough situation! Susan was so proud that all of her friends rallied to support the SHOC Foundation, a cause very dear to her heart. She loved having lots of friends and “Girl Talk” right to the very end. Everyone loved gathering around Susan and reminiscing. We were often in need of a bigger bed because frankly, we couldn’t all fit around it!
Susan lost her battle with cancer and went home to be with Jesus on September 26, 2008. She fought the good fight, she finished the race and she kept her faith. We love you, dear Susan and our lives HAVE been changed for the better! It seems fitting to close with an excerpt from Susan’s journal. “I pray they will remember my silly, goofy personality and know my love for them lives inside their hearts.”
— Written by friends Kellie Riesen and Niki Johnston
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