Steve Otto's Tampa Tribune column about Dottie Berger MacKinnon
Looking for a miracle?
This time of year I think more than ever a lot of us would like to find one.
So let's go back about three years. That's when Dottie Berger MacKinnon got the devastating news she had terminal cancer. It was back in 2010 when "they told me they were going to do surgery and said I would likely die on the operating table."
"They said if I chose not to have the surgery, I would probably have eight months — and only four of them would be worth living."
I don't know how many of you know Dottie, although I suspect the number would be astonishing. She once was a county commissioner. For more than a decade she was on the Tampa Gen-eral Hospital board of directors.
She is one of the founders of Joshua House in Lutz for abandoned or abused kids. She is the founder of A Kid's Place in Brandon. She is all of those things and a dozen more. Dottie never stops.
She made the decision to get on with what time she had and make the most of it. I know she has a deep religious faith. I can remember being with Dottie in the middle of what appeared to be a swamp near Lutz and everyone holding hands and prayingthat this would be the site of a children's home — and it is.
There was a big banquet honoring Dottie in 2010, and ever since she has been receiving awards and accolades. The thing is, although most of them have required that you bring a box of tissues, she has more than deserved every honor. Her work with the children of our community who have no other homes, have been abused or just ignored is unsurpassed, and she continues to this day.
She looks great. I ran into her and her husband, Sandy MacKinnon, recently, and you would never guess her life is so fragile. "I suppose it's because my problems are internal, and on the outside I look OK," she said with a laugh, knowing that the "outside" is a shell game of what her constant trips to doctors and medical technicians don't show.
The other day she posted a message to her friends on Facebook. She wanted to thank them for "being so kind to me on my journey."
In it she added, "I'm doing remarkably well, have many challenges, go into TGH about once a month for a 'tune up' where the doctors and nurses are kind and loving and understanding of my fears. I believe I am the miracle for which we are all praying. God had been present during this journey and had allowed me to live pain-free and have a quality of life.
" 'Miracles' don't always mean 'cure' and hopefully the doctors can learn from my case to help others. … I have a lot more to do in this life so I'm hanging around for a lot longer."
None of us knows what tomorrow will bring, but I do know that whatever is in Dottie Berger MacKinnon's future, she is going to face it head-on, and you'd better get out of her way.
Tampa Tribune 11/28/12, Page B01
Photo credit: Constance Avellino