Nancy Perry Graham EDITOR
Do you know people who appear to lead impossibly
A DARLING FAMILY Ginny credits husband Jeff, daughter Izzy and
charmed lives? Friends or acquaintances whom you
watch from a distance and think, “How lucky they
are! I wish that could be me!”
The Darling family, to me, were those people. They
seemed perfect. I first noticed Jeff Darling at church
one Father’s Day when he gave a moving talk about being a
dad. His wife, Ginny, a striking redhead, is a church elder.
Their son, Max, 11, and daughter, Izzy, 7, are adorable. They
all have big, Colgate smiles. Some people have all the luck.
But appearances—as our cover girl Sharon Stone would
attest—rarely reflect the whole truth. Listening to Ginny
speak at a worship service, I was stunned to learn her real
story. Years of migraines, severe insomnia, and fatigue, on
top of three miscarriages, had turned her into a chronic
worrier. Then, early in 2009, Ginny received a devastating
double diagnosis: late-stage Lyme disease and cervical
cancer. A hysterectomy showed that a 2-millimeter tumor
had spread to her pelvic lymph nodes. She was just 37.
son Max with lifting her spirits throughout her health crisis.
After 12 years at AARP, media-group
editor in chief Hugh Delehanty is depart-
ing “to do all the things we’ve been writing
about for years.” His lasting lesson? “That
everything we’ve been taught about aging
is bunk. But getting older is not a fairy-tale
experience, either, despite what Madison
Avenue would have us believe.” He’ll now
have more time for his roles as writer, husband, grandfather—
and budding artist. “The best thing I’ve done is to start studying
oil painting rather than put it off until some mystical time in the
future,” says Delehanty, whose self-portrait appears at left.
“I opened a world of possibilities by taking that first scary leap.”
FOLLOWING HIS ART
“My husband and I cried a little,” says Ginny. “We did a
little praying. But once the initial shock wore off, there was
relief to finally have an answer.”
An aggressive treatment of radiation and chemo, plus
antibiotics for the Lyme disease, left Ginny unable to keep
down food or water. “There were days I felt like I was
dying,” she says. Jeff’s steadfast response: “Tomorrow is
going to be a better day.” Recalls Ginny, who still struggles
with Lyme disease but is now cancer-free: “He wouldn’t
ever think of an alternative to getting better.”
Ginny’s mother moved in with the family for six weeks,
neighbors delivered meals, and Brambleton Presbyterian
Church in Ashburn, Virginia, held prayer circles. At tea one
day, Pastor Elizabeth Brookens-Sturman, 53, asked Ginny,
“Do you feel frightened?” Ginny’s response: “I do not.” What
she learned from her medical ordeal was this: “I have no
control. I had to turn it all over to God. It was my moments
of prayer that made me feel ‘I really am going to survive.’ ”
The Darlings are indeed a special family. But it’s in spite
of their luck, not because of it.
CLOCKWISE, FROM TOP LEFT: ART STREIBER; COURTESY OF THE DARLING FAMILY; COURTESY OF HUGH DELEHANTY
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