Ever thought about leaving it all behind and moving to a tropical island? Well, so did Lani Weir’s mom and dad. Except they actually did it.
After honeymooning in Hawaii, her parents moved from their home in Alabama to Honolulu. Jacqueline Noelani Colvin was born soon thereafter. Back then, non-native babies born on the island had to be christened with a native name, so her parents called her Noelani, which means “heavenly sent” in Hawaiian.
“Noelani” was later shorted to Lani, as we all know her now.
Lani is 48% American Indian, as her mother is of the Echota Cherokee Indian Tribe of Alabama. Common-day Echota people are decedents of those who escaped the forced, often brutal migrations of American Indians from their native land during the 1800’s.
When asked of a time in which she was most proud of her Echota heritage, Lani discusses the college scholarships her two boys received from the Tribe. “That was a very proud moment for me, because I have heard a lot about my heritage, but I never really felt it”, she says. “The Tribe proved how important my lineage is with those gifts.”
But the thing that Lani is so proud of – her family, her genes – has a dark side. Not long ago, a gene test Lani had performed revealed a higher-than-average risk of developing breast cancer.
“I began speaking with distant family members about my results. It was revealed to me that many women in our family had breast cancer. That made my risk increase even more.”
Lani does not shy away from the tough subject, or her Christian faith. “After lots of prayer, and many conversations with my doctor and my family, I made the decision to undergo a bilateral double mastectomy.” There’s still so much life for her to live, she said. Why should she stop now?
Lani credits her faith, her church, her family, her friends, and her co-workers with providing the support structure she needed to get through the difficult surgery. Unfortunately, the reconstruction phase of her surgery must be re-done.
“When I look in the mirror, I don’t see myself anymore. I see a different body. I want to feel feminine again. I want to be myself again.” Lani takes a deep breath. “You know, you look at yourself in the mirror more often than you think.”
Those feelings of loss and sadness occur regularly, she says. But when they do, her family and her faith are always there ready to pick her back up again.
Good news has come, though. Her second reconstructive surgery will soon proceed. “I’m excited about reconstruction. I think a lot about the body that God has in store for me. He has an image for me to fulfill. I can’t wait to see what it is!”
Whatever the future holds, the many people who love Lani all know she deserves every bit of it.