Flora Moore and Francis Long almost met at a block party in their hometown of New Brunswick, N.J., back in the 1970s.
Moore was 15 at the time, and Long was a tall, slim 17-year-old with a trendy Afro.
The two teens locked eyes, but Moore’s father wouldn’t let them speak, instead sending her inside.
It would be more than 30 years before their paths would cross again. In those decades, they went on to live separate lives: both marrying and divorcing; both having children; and both praying that God would send them a special person to spend the rest of their lives loving.
Then, eight years ago, Long poked Moore on Facebook when she appeared in his friend suggestions. She’d just moved to Richmond, where Long was already living, and they immediately started dating. Moore and Long believe God brought them together again so they could support each other through their latest challenges.
In December 2017, not long after they both retired — he was a forklift operator for DuPont, and she was a buyer for General Electric — Moore was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that accumulates in bone marrow. Four months later, Long was diagnosed with lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system.
The couple, both in their 60s, would need chemotherapy and stem cell transplants to replace the cells that cancer destroys.
At first, their doctor told them that they wouldn’t be able to be caretakers for each other because they would be too sick. When Moore heard that, she started crying.
Long was her greatest support system. They finished each other’s sentences and wore matching outfits. They wanted to be able to take care of each other when they were at their weakest.
Long comforted her and reassured her that God was looking out for them.
Over the next year, Moore received chemotherapy shots and steroids and took a prescription to fight the cancer while she waited for her Medicaid application to be approved so that she could get her stem cell transplant at VCU Medical Center.
Long went through several rounds of chemotherapy himself and was planning to receive his stem cell transplant at the same time as Moore.
But through what Moore calls “God’s hiccup,” a test found that Long might still have traces of cancer in his body, forcing his care team to delay his transplant. The delay allowed him to keep up his strength while Moore went through treatment at VCU’s Cellular Immunotherapies and Transplant unit in May.
Even with his own cancer to deal with, Long was there supporting her and reminding her to have faith. With Long by her side, Moore stayed positive and earned a reputation with the hospital staff and other patients on the unit for her upbeat spirit.
When the other patients in the infusion room with her were feeling down, Moore would bust out a rap she wrote to lift the mood.
“You’ve got to go with the flow if you want to know what’s up, what’s down, what’s all around. You’ve got to go with the flow if you want to know what’s in, what’s out, what’s all about. You’ve got to go with the flow.”
This week, she celebrated 70 days since her transplant.
But their journey isn’t over.
Moore won’t know until day 100 whether she’s cancer-free.
And earlier this month, Long received his transplant, this time with Moore as his support system.
“We are each other’s caretaker,” Moore said. “He knows exactly how I feel, and I know exactly how he feels.”
It wasn’t always so easy for Moore to stay positive in the face of hardship. Her ex-husband was abusive, and she’s had to work hard to rid herself of the negativity that instilled in her, she said.
But being with Long has opened her up to embracing the good things in life.
“I’ve been able to see more of God’s blessings,” Moore said. “God knew what he was doing when he put us together.”
Long laments that fact that they couldn’t be together sooner, but he’s grateful for the time they have together now.
“She got away that day,” he said, recalling the block party in New Jersey with a laugh. “She could have been the mother of my 12 children.”
For them, battling cancer together is just another hurdle they can face with faith and hope.
Long was discharged from VCU earlier than expected this week. The couple are staying at The Doorways, a nonprofit that provides housing for people receiving medical treatment far from home, while Long continues the outpatient part of his treatment.
When they have both recovered, they look forward to buying a car and road-tripping across the country.
Moore can’t wait to sit out under the carport at their home in Roanoke, sipping her coffee and listening to the birds sing.
And Long looks forward to living life with Moore, whom he’ll love, he says, “until the rivers run dry.”