Michelle at a Moxley Carmichael bowling party in August 2016.
We at Moxley Carmichael said goodbye to a special friend and colleague this past weekend. Michelle Henry, who worked with us as a writer for more than 12 years, finally succumbed to the beast that is cancer after a valiant eight-year battle against it.
The disease began as colorectal cancer, but for more than a year, she was misdiagnosed by a doctor who told her she had irritable bowel syndrome. By the time she was accurately diagnosed, Michelle had stage 4 cancer. Michelle fought it with everything in her. She had radiation, chemotherapy and numerous surgeries. Every time she would beat it down for a while, it would seem to come roaring back in an even stronger state. In the end, she had a tumor the size of a softball on her liver, a tumor on her lymph node so large that it broke her rib, and cancer up and down her spine that paralyzed her legs and lower body.
Through it all, she was cheerful and hopeful. She was an inspiration to everyone she met. Even the nurses at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, where she spent three weeks near the end of her life, found her presence to be uplifting. All of us who visited her there came away amazed that she could laugh and joke and send us away from her hospital room with smiles on our faces.
She was able to do this because of her faith in God. She even wrote a book about her journey. Called, “My Anchor Holds,” it was the impetus for many speaking engagements where Michelle would bring her positivity to others.
“Our job is to keep spreading her message,” her brother, Phillip Ironside, said at her memorial service Saturday. “Her journey has changed my life.”
Her other brother, Kevin Ironside, said Michelle early on made a conscious decision not to be bitter or angry about having cancer. He quoted 2 Timothy 4:7 at her service: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.”
“She knew she was facing the end and she wanted to live victoriously,” Kevin said. “The more her body was attacked by cancer, the stronger her spirit became. Her faith outpaced her cancer all the way through. She finished well.”
We miss Michelle so much here at Moxley Carmichael. We especially miss her mischievousness and sense of humor. To the end, even when she was at work in a wheelchair, she was pulling stunts and cracking jokes.
I wanted to share some photos of her through the years she worked here. At the end of this post is a video we produced that was shown at her memorial service. We hope it shows you how inspirational she was to us — and to everyone she met.
A group shot of our staff at our bowling party in August 2016. Michelle is in the back row in the center.
Dinner at Five in August 2016 following our bowling party. With Michelle is her husband, David, and Maria Cornelius from our staff.
Michelle speaking at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Gala at Cherokee Country Club in November 2015. She was the honoree.
Michelle with her surgeon, Dr. Greg Midis, at the Hope Gala. She was so grateful to him for the wonderful care he gave her.
Michelle with her son, Evan, and husband, David, that night.
The whole Moxley Carmichael gang (and a few spouses) at the Hope Gala.
Click here for a Blue Streak post about the Hope Gala.
Here’s Michelle, center, at the Hats in Bloom luncheon at the Knoxville Botanical Garden in April 2017. Moxley Carmichael had a table at the fundraising event. Michelle is posing with Carolyn Cowan, left, and Doris Carter. (Photo by Shaun Fulco.)
From left, Scott Bird, Michael Higdon, Amanda Jennings and Michelle at Holston Hills Country Club in summer 2015 for the wedding reception of our colleague Natalie Bailey.
David and Michelle at that same event.
From left, Erica and Karl Beck with David and Michelle at the Southern Depot for the wedding reception of our colleague Lauren Miller in fall of 2014.
In addition to working at Moxley Carmichael, Michelle also was executive director of the Executive Women’s Association (EWA). Here she is at Blackberry Farm when the group celebrated its 35th anniversary in the summer of 2015. From left, Michelle, Pat Medley, Renda Burkhart and Katharine Pearson Criss.
Here she is in 2012 running her hands through gemstones when EWA visited Jewelry TV. On the left is Phyllis Nichols. At right is Pam Reeves.
Also, in January 2012, EWA had an outing to visit the filming site of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” At left is Terry Morgan, an EWA member, and, at right, Christi Branscom, an EWA member and the CEO of Grace Construction, the lead contractor for the “Extreme Makeover” project.
Michelle and David at The Foundry for the wedding reception in March 2014 of our colleague Amanda Jennings.
From left, Charley Sexton, Gavin Baker and Michelle at the Moxley Carmichael table at the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Commission Celebration Lunch in January 2011.
For several years, Michelle worked part time for Moxley Carmichael and four days a week for the Knoxville Area Urban League. This photo was taken at the Knoxville Convention Center at the Urban League Equal Opportunity Awards Gala in 2012. From left, Michelle, Nichole Tillman, Phyllis Nichols, Brenda Roper and Ola Blackmon-McBride.
Here is Michelle with Rosalyn Tillman, an Urban League board member, at the Urban League Gala in 2011.
Michelle, left, with fellow Urban League staff members, from left, Wokie Massaquoi-Wicks, Brenda Roper, Bill Myers and LeSean Stewart in October 2013 after a breakfast for National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial.
Michelle, right, with Andrea White, left, and Kay Clayton in January 2011 at Gift & Gourmet during a meeting of a women’s group called “Purses with a Purpose.”
From left, Crystal and John McCulley with Michelle and David in October 2016 at Sweet P’s Downtown Dive at a party celebrating the launch of “The Final Season,” a book by Moxley Carmichael’s Maria Cornelius.
Want to see what Michelle looks like as a cookie? A couple of years ago, as a Christmas gift, our friend and client, Sara Hedstrom Pinnell, had cookies made in the likeness of each of our staff members! This is Michelle as a cookie!
Here’s that video. It was made with love for a friend we will never forget.