Beating the odds and making strides is what keeps Bertram L. Lawson motivated.
Lawson has spent the last 14 years of his professional career working for the YMCA of Philadelphia and Vicinity. He was recently appointed to Group Vice President.
“I am a lot busier moving around to my different branches and attending more meetings, but it is fun,” said Lawson after spending the last month getting acclimated to his new role, while still performing as executive director of the West Philadelphia branch.
However, life for Lawson has not been an easy ride.
Last summer, Lawson began a journey of health issues that led to an emergency room visit, several medical tests and ultimately the blow of being diagnosed with cancer.
“My cancer news was scary,” he said.
In the early stages of the diagnosis, Lawson asked himself “Why me?” Husband and father of four, Lawson did not want his life to end because he had a family to support and cherish.
“I did not want to die young,” he said. “Today I am confident that the cancer will not return. I am doing my part to ensure that. I still have some fear of it returning but I work through it.”
In the midst of his professional climb, Lawson had no idea an upset stomach from an out-of-town meal would lead to a path he and his wife never imagined for their family.
“When I first learned that he had cancer, I was moved to pray,” said longtime friend Malcolm Wilson. “I prayed with and for him immediately. Lawson is a giver and this is what Wilson and countless others admire in him.”
Lawson’s wife Melissa recalled the day she was notified of her husband’s diagnosis.
“I got the call while I was in the grocery store with our daughter Amari, who was just nine-months-old at the time,” she said. “I just started crying uncontrollably.”
Instead of comforting her husband, Melissa Lawson found herself being reassured and calmed by the person who needed it the most.
She remembered her husband assuring her, “I am going to beat this because I have too much to live for.”
The journey – or fight – gave the Lawson family a new appreciation for their extended family.
“Our lifestyle changed a lot,” Melissa Lawson said. “We had to adapt to tons of doctor visits, appointments with specialists and adjusted our schedules to fit all of this into our routine.”
As Melissa Lawson reflects on her life since the couple met in 1999, she is more appreciative for the time and family she has been given.
“God gave me a wonderful man and is allowing him to grow old with me,” she said. “I watched him be diagnosed with cancer and never wasted a minute of his life with negative energy.
“I admire his strength because he did all of this without complaining,” she said.