Breast Cancer: My Friend Becky’s Battle

My friend Becky Pedroza's battle with breast cancerWho have you lost to breast cancer? This week, my funny, gifted, and beautiful friend Becky would have turned forty-one. In honor of her birthday—and Breast Cancer Awareness Month—allow me to share part of her story.  If you so desire, you can read the rest in my second book, When Losses Become Legacies: Memoirs on Grief, God, and Glory.

Pepper’s Very Bad Day: Rebecca Pedroza’s Story

Have you ever had a bad day? A really bad day? Have you looked back later and decided it was ultimately a good day?

Pepper’s Good & Bad Day by Marci McGill is a classic children’s book that my mom read to my brothers and me many times. The normally cheerful Pepper possum wakes up grumpy because he lost his favorite hat. Now, everything seems to go wrong. By bedtime, he recovers his hat and realizes it was a good day, after all.

Years later, I encountered a real-life Pepper: my friend Becky. In May 2006, we served in China for three weeks, teaching English at Jiangxi Normal University. While we were there, Becky faced her own bad day. Though the details are hazy now, her experience illustrated Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

Rebecca Pedroza in China in May 2006“I’m going to call you Pepper,” I said with a grin. I shared the story from The Six Little Possums series but misremembered the title as Pepper’s Very Bad Day.

Laughing in her endearing way, Becky tried out the name a few times: “Pepper.” After that, the day took on a different tone.

And the name stuck.

Servant Year and Starting a Family

That year, Pepper served as an intern at our church in Chicagoland. The program was called Servant Year.

Becky was uncommonly beautiful. Everything she touched was transformed as if by stardust, glittering in her wake. She dreamed up dazzling bulletin inserts and flyers for church events. She converted the dingy basement into a warm-and-inviting lounge for Saturday night services. Coffee brewed. Soft sofas beckoned. Autumn-colored fabric hung from the ceiling. Cream-shaded lamps cast a comfortable glow.

For Christmas, she decked the halls with wreaths and tastefully trimmed trees. She launched a poinsettia project, with fresh plants gracing our Advent stage. On Christmas Eve, people who paid for them in advance would carry them home. Unfortunately, Pepper forgot to water the plants, and they withered and died. With a diffident grin, she sprang into action, determined to right her wrong. And she did. She replaced the lifeless plants with new poinsettias, no one the wiser.

While she lived with the interns, I stayed with her mom and enjoyed Becky’s bedroom, elegantly decorated in stunning shades of purple.

Two years later, on my wedding day, she styled my hair, applied my makeup, and served as our wedding coordinator. Pepper was even armed with my lip gloss whenever I needed it. Thanks to her, her mom—Mariann—and another friend, I knew no worries that day.

By the time Becky was thirty, she had her own charming family. She had married her high-school sweetheart, Tony, and given birth to two children. But when Mia was five and Mateo just three, Pepper lost something much dearer than a hat.

The Pedroza Family: Tony, Rebecca, Mia, and Mateo

Photo by Natalie Hantosh.

You can read the rest of Becky’s battle with breast cancer in my second book, When Losses Become Legacies. Click here to buy or borrow it.


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