Juanita Page -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1
Juanita Page had breast cancer surgery in February and is now going through all the follow-up treatments, which leave her emotionally and physically drained. “But I know God isn’t going to put more on me than I can bear,” she said.
Having survived a hurricane and long-term displacement, Juanita Page was forced to deal with her greatest fear of all: cancer. “It’s something I had always been afraid of,” said the 70-year-old retired housekeeper. “When it happened to me, I thought I was just going to collapse. But I just prayed about it and said, ‘Well, it happened. I’ve been going to church all my life, and I know God isn’t going to put more on me than I can bear.’ That’s the attitude I took.”
Page lost everything to the winds and water of Hurricane Katrina but hopes to be back in her house for good after this year’s Carter Work Project. Till then, she’s living in a government-issued trailer parked in the driveway of her home, which had been repaired once since 2005 but is now getting new wiring and a new roof—one that doesn’t leak.
Page had breast cancer surgery in February and is now going through all the follow-up treatments, which leave her emotionally and physically drained. What she looks forward to most is sleeping in her own bed. “I want to relax and try to take it easy,” she said, “after all this trouble.
One of Page’s grandsons has his FEMA trailer parked in the front yard, and a large storage pod takes up nearly every other inch of lawn. The sounds of construction—hammers and circular saws, mostly—punctuate all the daily activities in the neighborhood, from early in the morning to well past dark.
It all represents progress, Page acknowledged, but it’s been painfully slow. For her, the lowest point in the recovery was in the weeks immediately after Katrina, when all of her waterlogged worldly possessions had been cleared from the house and piled unceremoniously on the curb.
“When you lose everything and you see it out there on the sidewalk for somebody to pick up, it’s like everything in you is gone,” Page said. “Everything you ever worked for is sitting outside. After they come and remove it, so you don’t walk out there and see it every day, it’s a little better.”
Page was born in Mississippi but lived for years in Ohio and New York. Since 1976, Gulfport has been her home.
Now, for the first time in a long time, she has renewed hope for her longtime neighborhood.
“I think it’s going to come back better than ever,” she said. “Once everything’s done, it’s going to be better. A lot better.”