MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - A Mesa woman who battled cancer says she was brought to tears by the kindness of a stranger after a thief stole sentimental Christmas decorations from her front yard.

For the last two years, the unofficial centerpiece of Bobby Jo Appleton’s holiday display has been two light-up figures: a unicorn and a narwhal. A narwhal is a real-life whale that is nicknamed the “unicorn of the sea” because of its long protruding tooth.

To understand the meaning behind the unicorn and the narwhal, you have to go back to 2016.

“Two years ago, I was diagnosed with cervical esophageal cancer,” she said. “I went through 36 rounds of radiation and five weeks of chemo. The radiation was every day.”

The illness turned Appleton’s life upside down.

“I was so afraid I was going to die,” she said.

To fight back, she posted pictures of herself doing handstands every day along with the hashtag, “#FightingCancerWithHandstands.”

Days after her treatments ended, she remembers laughing with her daughter Kacey Jo Appleton as they picked out the unicorn and the narwhal.

“When I pull them out, I think of finishing treatment, having that time with her at Target. The fact that I'm still alive,” she said. “Those basic things. What Christmas is about.”

Bobby Jo posted about the theft Sunday on Facebook and the Mesa community responded. She says the store manager at the Home Depot on McKellips Road invited them to pick out a new decoration. They chose a 7.5-foot inflatable Christmas bear.

“I started crying up at Home Depot. I couldn't believe it!” she said.

“The lady at Home Depot almost had me in tears too,” said Kacey, a seventh-grader.

“Humanity is still amazing,” Bobby Jo added.

On top of that, a coworker is getting the family a new narwhal – proof that when life turns you upside down, friends can get you right-side up.

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