Inspiring Women at home and around the world
Note: This is the second installment in a feature series about Inspiring Women. It is dedicated to all women who are trying to make a difference and better other people’s lives, as well as their own. In putting together this feature series, I was inspired by several moments in life that in particular stand out.
No.1 A dedication of a Relax, mind, body & soul book by Barbara Heller from my son Jake: “I dedicate this to my inspiring and motivational mother.” Kuba
No. 2 While on a story prior to Mother’s Day, I dropped in at Ace Bernard Hardware to talk about the prizes with owner Charlie Bernard. We talked also about the Lowell Area Chamber and its director Liz Baker.
“You know what I like about Liz, she keeps re-inventing herself,” Bernard said.
No. 3 Again on a story prior to the International Women’s Day I talked to Sow Hope president Mary Dailey Brown.
“If you want to make a difference in this world, seriously consider helping impoverished women. Helping women is the key to unlocking poverty.”
No. 4 At a parents teacher conference at Cherry Creek Elementary in Lowell in mid 1990s: “Mrs. Pala, we do not give up,” teacher Karen Latva said.
Lowell city clerk battled cancer with positive attitude
Name: Betty Renfro Morlock
Position: city clerk
Residence: Lowell Township
Family: husband Sam, daughter Jamie and four grandsons
Hobbies and interests: wrestling, soccer, football and camping
By Emma Palova
Lowell, MI- “I’ve had a few bumps in my life.”
Now, that’s Betty Morlock’s way of looking at life’s blocks, setbacks or just pure tragedies.
As the Lowell city clerk since 1988, Morlock has been through highs and lows, mostly in her personal life. She is also a highly visible and accessible person, and that’s not just during the elections.
Two major tragedies early on have pulled the family together. Adopted grandson Tyler Morlock, 4, was diagnosed with cancer in January of 2000. That same year on April 28th, son Steven was killed in an accident on a quad.
“I have that silver lining,” she said. “I am a people person. I love my residents and my community.”
Always vibrant, equipped with enormous energy, Morlock has navigated the city politics well. Twice, she was the president of the Rotary, and she traveled to the Dominican Republic, as part of a program to ship ambulances to the country.
Morlock has enjoyed a successful career, by the side of only two city managers, current Mark Howe and past Dave Pasquale, until the biggest challenge of her life hit hard.
While visiting her sick mother-in-law in Reed City on Dec. 29, 2013, Morlock started feeling increasingly sick herself. After throwing up due to an internal bleeding, Morlock was transported to the Reed City Hospital, and then transferred to Blodgett in Grand Rapids. She was diagnosed with cancer in her ulcer.
Morlock lost weight the hard way. To date, Morlock lost 68 pounds. She had to undergo a surgery that took away one third of her stomach much like in the bariatric bypass surgery.
“I had to have both chemo and radiation because I had cancer in the lymph nodes,” she said.
At the time, Morlock posted enthusiastically on facebook:
“Okay here’s the game plan: Twice a week chemo and then radiation.”
It was really more than that, but her optimistic outlook carried her through the serious illness.
“I’ve never been sick,” she said. “I’ve only been to the hospital to have babies.”
She underwent the treatments at the Lemmen Holton Cancer Center under Spectrum Hospital.
But, Morlock was no stranger to cancer.
“Cancer has been prevalent in our family,” she said.
Morlock lost both her parents to cancer, as well as her sister and brother, aunts and uncles.
She bought a wig, and never had to use it.
“My hair just got thinner,” she said. “I don’t think I was as sick as most people are. I got very emotional.”
The whole time during the treatments, Morlock stayed at her daughter Jamie’s house. She had a feeding tube in the stomach and it took 12 hours to feed six cans of Ensure. Morlock started dropping weight rapidly.
“Thanks God, I had a lot of weight to drop,” she joked.
Morlock received enormous support from the family and the community.
“If you’re going to get sick, Lowell is the place to be,” she said.
Morlock had to go a few times to ER because of anxiety attacks. She started feeling better once the feeding tube was out.
Now, all done with the treatments and back at the city hall, Morlock admits that the chemo and the radiation took a lot of strength out of her.
“It slowed me down a bit,” she said in a recent interview. “I continue to focus on being healthy and starting the next phase of my life, which is retirement.”
Currently, she is working on the cemetery program and the upcoming special election on May 5 for the sales tax increase.
What really gets to Morlock is the actual aftermath of the chemotherapy.
“I have something they call a chemo mind,” she said. “I forget things, I can’t focus or concentrate.
“How long can I claim this chemo mind?”
“As long as you want to, you deserve it,” said the doctor.
For Morlock, always surrounded by stacks of documents at the city hall, the inability to focus is really frustrating
And her biggest fear is that the cancer may come back. Morlock didn’t drive at all during the chemo and the radiation due to lack of concentration.
But, there were many positive outcomes from whole treatment process.
“Cancer made me a stronger person, more understanding and it taught me to value my community and family more.”
Cured, driving and working, Morlock says she was very fortunate.
“I had good doctors and support,” she said. “We’re lucky that we have the Medical Mile.”
She did have her pity parties when the feeding tube started acting up.
“I would feel sorry for Betty,” she said.
Throughout her career, Morlock had her role models like election specialist for Kent County, Sue de Steiguer.
“She is phenomenal,” she said. “All our elections run smooth, we’re lucky to have her.”
Morlock is looking to retire mid-year in June/July.
“I will miss the people, the staff and the community,” she said, “but I am looking forward to volunteering with Lizzie at the chamber.”
Morlock can’t wait to get to Tyler Creek Golf Course area to stay at the summer trailer.
And of course her no.1 love after the family is wrestling.
“I am their number one fan,” she said. “We’ve created bond ship through wrestling. The wrestling families are so tight, they made food for us when I was sick. We help each other.”
Betty Renfro Morlock- the woman behind the superwoman
Emma: What makes you feel good about yourself?
Betty: The fact that I kicked it and made the best of it. It may come back but I am ready for it.
Emma: What do you do for yourself?
Betty: I pray daily. I know God has a plan for me, and if it is to survive, I will survive. Don’t ever lose your faith.”
Emma: How do you balance all this out?
Betty: I continue to focus on my health and I want to start journalling.
Emma: Your plans?
Betty: Get well is my number one plan. Before I got sick, I overworked that might have brought it on.
Emma: Your tips and advice to other women?
Betty: It’s very important to talk to someone to get support. I love facebook. Between the family, community and facebook I kept connected.It’s good to be back. Call me if you need to talk to someone at 897-8457.
About the cover photo: Kathleen Mooney’s abstract inspired by Gee’s Bend quilting.
About the orchid logo: Photograph from the group “I love Czech Republic” on facebook.
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