Indiana woman Leora Martin had a lot to celebrate on her 100th birthday. As if outlasting a century wasn’t enough, this tough survivor has managed to outlive cancer and covid, and lived to spend her birthday with her twin sister via Zoom.
“I’ve had a good life,” the proud centenarian told WNDU. “Had a lot of problems, but every one of them I could overcome.”
Getting to see to her twin sister, Delora, all the way from California on her special day was the reward. “This time they had it all set up so I could see her move. She looks the same to me—beautiful,” she said.
Born in 1920, Leora and Delora Martin grew in the small town of Elkhart, Indiana, as close as could be. “We had a lot of fun at school,” Leora explained. “Friends were the only ones that could tell us apart.”
Surviving the difficult days of the depression and World War II, the Martin girls thrived. But Leora had to battle cancer later in life and barely survived, which meant that the pandemic wasn’t the first obstacle on her way to her 100th birthday.
“You have to remember, I’ve been through cancer,” she told local newspaper The Elkhart Truth. “I had to go to the hospital for five days with rods in my body—that was not comfortable, but I survived.”
Leora added that since she had been living in her assisted-living residence, the Greenleaf Health Campus, she has faced other life-threatening health conditions. The staff didn’t think she would survive pneumonia last year either, but she did.
More recently, her care facility had 42 of its residents test positively for the virus, including Leora.
“When you first hear it, you’re devastated and you have so many questions that you want answered right away, which can’t be answered because you don’t know how it’s going to affect your loved one,” Leora’s daughter Marilou Snell said. Despite her advanced age and compromised immune system, Leora exhibited relatively few symptoms, other than a loss of appetite.
Her daughter said that the response of staff at Greenleaf helped the family manage their anxiety about their grandmother’s fate. “They updated us with phone calls, text messages with what was going on,” Snell said. “It was just very comforting to know that she had health care people around her 24/7.”
In this situation where no one knew what course the virus would take, Leora and her family also leaned heavily on their faith. “Also, just giving it over to God helped a lot too. He calmed us and said it was in his hands and he took care of it,” she added.
When her long-awaited birthday rolled around, Leora felt well enough to have a visit from her daughter and other family members, plus the extra-special Zoom chat with her twin sister. The sign she held for their joint birthday celebration read: “COVID-19 can’t stop me from turning 100.”
The day was also special for her home, Greenleaf Health Campus, as they were able to declare themselves COVID-free that same week. As for Leora’s advice to anyone who wants to live a long, healthy life? “Keep moving,” the positive centenarian emphasized. “Also, keep loving other people.”
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