I don’t mind admitting I’ve been feeling sad, angry and more than a bit cheated this week. It’s the week that marked the fourth anniversary of my mom’s passing. It’s been a week full of memories from the past. Some of them good. Some of them horrendous. It was also a week for which I had special plans.
You see this was the weekend I was supposed to be meeting my friend Rachel. I was supposed to be traveling to New Jersey. I was supposed to be meeting Rachel face-to-face. I was supposed to be getting to know her better. I was supposed to be having a good time getting better acquainted with a group of my “cyber sisters.”
“Coming out from behind (or from in front of?) my keyboard” was a really big deal for me on so many levels. I was taking this cyber friendship thing up a notch. I was stepping out of my comfort zone and actually going to meet some friends from “out there.” I was thrilled to be invited to such a gathering and I know Rachel would have invited the whole darn breast cancer blogging community if she could have. She had an incredibly generous and welcoming heart. Not that many people can make you feel like you really matter to them. Not that many people have such a gift. I know I don’t. I don’t make friends that easily. But Rachel had a way of “pulling you out.” She was that special kind of person.
The first time Rachel commented on my blog she talked about her little dog Newman. We immediately had “the dog” connection. Like me, Rachel was BRCA positive. She was BRCA1. I am BRCA2. The first time Rachel commented she was using a pen name for personal reasons. The first comment she made was on one of my hair-loss posts. I’d like to share it with you:
Nancy – I think the hair loss is tough because in many respects it’s the only really visible sign (to others) that something is wrong, and that comes with a whole new set of uncomfortable dynamics and emotions. I think it’s also a moment when we really have to confront what we are going through with quite a raw honesty. I know it grows back and all of that, but still it is very tough and you don’t need to apologize for writing and thinking about it. All I can say is you’ll get through this.
In answer to your question, I like my height. Tall beanpole. I hate my calves. No shape whatsoever.
P.S. I’m writing this with my naughty little dog insisting on sitting on my lap and licking my fingers as I type.
After getting a few more comments, I visited her blog. I don’t know why it took me so long. I guess I was new to this blogging thing, but once I visited I was hooked. Rachel was an incredibly articulate, compassionate, opinionated, and feisty, not to mention incredibly funny truth-telling kind of writer. She always spoke her mind fearlessly. I admired her for that and she gave me more courage and confidence to try to do the same.
After that first comment came in, I looked forward to more of them because even her comments were full of wisdom, humor and passion. She kept commenting regularly and I’m thankful to have those words of hers to read and re-read.
Then last summer the comments came less frequently because Rachel’s cancer had worsened. She lost the use of her dominant left arm. Communicating became more difficult for her even in this cyber world of ours. In fact, she said one of the worst parts of living with metastatic breast cancer was having her world shrink.
Hearing her say and knowing she believed her world was shrinking broke my heart because I knew exactly what she meant. Well, not exactly, because no one who isn’t living with life-threatening mets can really say they “know.” They don’t.
A shrinking world was really tough for Rachel to deal with because Rachel thrived in the “big world.” She needed the “big world” and the “big world” needed her. Cancer cheated them both.
That makes me really angry.
Even though communicating became difficult, Rachel continued to comment whenever she could and I valued her words even more. She kept on writing thoughtful and provocative blog posts. I don’t know quite how she managed to do that. She never gave in, gave up or lost her attitude. She often said blogging kept her sane.
Rachel and I emailed a bit. We “chatted” on Facebook and on Twitter. Somewhere along the line, I’m not even sure when, we became friends.
One of my last emails from Rachel has become a treasure of mine. Even though she was growing desperately more ill by the hour, she asked about me and my family. She was focused on me even though she was the one suffering. She said she was really looking forward to meeting me in “3-D” and that we wouldn’t stop “yammering” for a minute when we did.
That’s pretty funny because I’ve never been known as a great “yammerer.” But with Rachel, I was pretty good at it. Rachel had a way of helping you just “be better,” even at “yammering.”
Now I’ll never have the chance to meet Rachel in person. I’ll never have that chance to “yammer” with her, but I’m at peace with that I guess. I have to be. Just knowing her at all enriched my life.
One thing I know for sure, Rachel, all of your “cyber sisters,” and there are many, will keep on “yammering away” on your behalf and also on behalf of all the dear ones lost to metastatic breast cancer.
You can count on that my friend.
How has cancer derailed your short or long-term plans?
Who have you lost to metastatic breast cancer?