Andrew Dys

“You gotta fight on” – Cancer survivor whose husband and dog died says faith can overcome all

Myra Montgomery Ansell holds a photo of her husband, Charlie, and the ashes of her dog, Bella, on the front porch of her home where her husband was killed in an accident last year.
Myra Montgomery Ansell holds a photo of her husband, Charlie, and the ashes of her dog, Bella, on the front porch of her home where her husband was killed in an accident last year. tkimball@heraldonline.com

If anybody anywhere had reason to cry or wonder, “Why me?” it would be Myra Montgomery Ansell.

This 64-year-old drove a school bus for handicapped children for 10 years – a beloved helper to dozens of special needs kids – before being disabled herself in a bus crash.

She fell and broke her hip. She fell again and broke her arm.

She felt sick and found out it was lung cancer.

She fell and broke her wrist.

Then, a year ago, her husband, Charlie Ansell was working on his pickup when it somehow slipped into gear and crushed him against the porch of their home, killing him.

“Faith has carried me through all of this,” Myra said. “A year ago I lost my Charlie, who was such a great man and took care of me through everything.”

Today, she has been cancer free for eight months. Her hair has grown back.

Myra said her children, her siblings, and so many family members and church friends have helped her.

“Families stick together,” said Steve Phillips, one of Myra’s brothers.

“My father raised us to know that death was a natural part of life, and not to fall apart,” said Shane Ansell, one of Myra and Charlie’s children.

And with it all, faith, said Myra.

Ansell's husband died a year ago in an accident where he was pinned by a truck, her dog died, and she battled cancer. But faith guided her through, she said.

The journey has not been easy.

The cancer was in the lungs, but treatable. She needed 33 radiation treatments and chemotherapy. Her husband of 22 years, a carpenter by trade, was by her side through it all. Charlie was her driver and her support and so much more. The treatments took her hair, and hurt her esophagus, so she could eat only soft foods one year ago.

The day before Charlie was killed, Myra had rung the bell at the treatment center, signifying that she had finished her radiation treatments. Hope abounded.

“Charlie had just asked me where we would go out to eat, saying the Olive Garden because they have soft noodles,” Myra said. “He kissed me on the head and went outside to work on the truck.”

Then the truck slipped, pinning him against the porch. Myra thought maybe a tree fell, the sound was so loud, but when she rushed outside she saw the heavy truck and the sturdy porch Charlie built with his own hands were too strong. Charlie died of asphyxiation before he could be saved, York County coroner officials said.

Afterward, as family helped take care of Myra through her cancer rehabilitation and grief, her other strength was Bella, her dog. Charlie used to joke that Bella, a pug, was so ugly that only a blind mother could love it.

Bella would ride with Myra to the cemetery. Bella would sleep next to Myra. Bella would climb into Myra’s lap when Myra thought all was lost. But last week, Bella was sick and had to be rushed to the animal hospital. She could not be saved from a heart and lung condition.

Myra, a survivor herself who knew the value of unconditional love from her Charlie, held Bella in her arms as the shots were administered to end Bella’s suffering.

“I could feel her heart beating, and then I could feel it when it stopped,” she said.

On Saturday, it will have been a year since Charlie died right in front of Myra’s eyes. The family repaired the porch that was battered in the accident. Myra now can go out there and talk about what happened and surviving. About faith.

“You gotta fight on,” Myra said. “You can’t give up.”

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