Beverly McKee MSW, LCSW

Navigating Life's Challenges with Strategic Solutions


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It was dark when I stepped onto Lighthouse beach on Sanibel Island. I was excited to spend the morning with the wildlife on the beach, watching the sun peek over the horizon. I was photographing my favorite piece of driftwood in front of the lighthouse when something jumped into my shot, startling me. It was a young brown pelican. He jumped onto the driftwood and sat there, posing perfectly.

I didn’t think much of it at first, but when he continued to hang out near me on the beach, I knew something was wrong. I discovered that the little pelican had fishing line wrapped around his legs. He couldn’t swim well and couldn’t fly. He was vulnerable and asking me for help in the only way he knew how.

My heart melted for this poor little guy. I knew what it was like to be hurt and vulnerable, depending on the kindness of strangers to survive. Nine long months of breast cancer treatment had taken away my ability to care for myself at times. I had to depend on the kindness of the surgical nurses, the chemo nurses, my doctors, my husband, my mom and a whole crew of family and friends.

I discovered that most people will step up to the plate if given the chance to help. My mom retired early and left my dad at home alone to come to my house after every chemo treatment. My husband became my 24 hour drug dealer after my bilateral mastectomy. Friends and family delivered meals and helped keep things as normal as possible for my boys. For the first time in my 42 years of life, I gave up control and let others care for not only me, but my boys, my home, my pets. Being vulnerable was a new experience for me but in the end, it helped me realize that it’s okay to let others step in to help. Life goes on...dinner get made, laundry gets done, the boys play with their friends, the house gets cleaned. The many positives have outweighed the negatives for me during this journey through breast cancer and my new found vulnerability.

I had finished radiation about a month before my encounter with the brown pelican that morning. My body and spirit had healed immensely during our time on Sanibel Island. I was ready to be the caretaker...instead of the cared for. I made several phone calls, trying to find someone to help at such an early hour. The pelican gazed right into my eyes, pleading for help. I promised that I wouldn’t leave him until he was safe. I stay with my friend for over an hour, waiting in the hot sun. He stayed close to me the entire time. Somehow, he knew that I would take care of him.

A policeman showed up with an assistant, a towel and a pet crate. He made it clear that he did not have experience capturing a pelican. Then miracle of all miracles, a jogger stopped and said he would help. We formed a big circle around my little friend and he protested, trying to defend himself. We were determined to save him and eventually, the jogger scooped him up in his arms, wrapping the towel around that razor sharp beak. I snapped pictures as he helped the police assistant deposit him safely into the crate, but not before I pet his head and reassured him that he was in good hands. I told him goodbye as he looked as me through the door of the crate.

It was an exhilarating feeling to be a part of saving his life. For the first time in a really long time, I got to be the hero and the caretaker. I’m still facing two surgeries next month: a prophylactic hysterectomy and an exchange surgery, as the final step in my reconstruction. I know that I will be vulnerable at the hands of the surgical nurses, my doctors and my family to take care of me during surgery and recovery. Being able to give back to that little brown pelican made me feel like the universe is a bit more balanced. It also taught me that a random act of kindness can be very healing.

Thanks for reading!

Beverly McKee, MSW, LCSW


Copyright 2012-2013 Beverly McKee. All Rights Reserved

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