Sometimes sharing a lemon sparks a new life for another. Gayle’s life has been full, filled with plenty lemons of her own. “Young and dumb” might be how she would describe her first marriage and lemon, if it weren’t for her two remarkable boys that were products of that marriage. Faced with an abusive and self-destructive husband, Gayle summoned her courage to leave (although it took five years to complete the divorce and numerous life-threatening moments). She decided that raising her two boys, then three and four years old, on her own would result in a better life, though she had no idea how that life would look.
For ten years, Gayle worked as a nurse for an OBGYN office in Kentucky. She enjoyed her colleagues, made a good living earning $50,000/year in the late 1980s, had a home and took pride in caring for her sons as a single mom. Yet something was missing. One day a co-worker encouraged her to contact a woman named Rita. The co-worker didn’t explain, but said only that Gayle and Rita would probably get along. About one year later, Gayle phoned Rita. “I’ve been waiting for your call,” she said. Gayle met Rita at her shop called “The Lemonade Stand,” which transformed breast cancer patients into women who acquired hair, makeup and a better self-image. Before knowing anything about Gayle, Rita revealed that she was dying of cancer and that she wanted Gayle to take over The Lemonade Stand. Gayle knew nothing about cancer, running a business or Rita, but there was something magical, spiritual, in her eyes. Gayle followed her gut and agreed. Within weeks, she sold her house and moved into an apartment. Her income plummeted to $15,000/year. A few months later, Rita died and Gayle continued Rita’s mission of The Lemonade Stand.
Her family scorned her for being irresponsible. Why would she quit a fantastic job with great benefits and sell her house, especially as a single mom of one boy who had a brain tumor removed and needed follow-up care and another who suffered from asthma? Gayle tuned them out. Rita inspired her and told her that God would provide the necessities. She was right. When her boys needed health care, a kind physician provided it for free. A friend sold bags of clothes for her boys dirt cheap. People who believed in The Lemonade Stand’s mission donated their time and talent to make it run. The business was not a money maker, but it helped heal those who hurt and it gave Gayle and her boys deep satisfaction. Rita’s lemon of cancer created a new way of life for Gayle. And the rewards never cease.
After successfully serving 10,000 cancer patients in the tri-state area of Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana, Gayle moved on from The Lemonade Stand. She and her new husband moved to Madison, Wisconsin. Her work with cancer patients and the generous, amazing people she met on her journey compelled her to write a book, Pink Lemonade, which she published herself. The book has won three national awards and she is starting to work on another. She began a speaking and writing business, Pink Lemonade Presentations, LLC, in which her aim is to raise awareness about all types of cancer and inspire people to turn their lemons into lemonade. Gayle recently faced one more lemon. She was diagnosed with lung cancer and now has a special interest in eliminating the stigma of lung cancer, which kills more people each year than the other top five cancers combined. Gayle sums up her philosophy in her book: “Not only the good moments, but the bad ones, too – and even the tragic ones – they are all moments for us to choose.”