Jody Schoger died on May 18, 2016 from metastatic breast cancer. She was 61. Though I never met her in person, she was my friend nonetheless. Jody’s breast cancer metastasized after a 15-year remission following her initial diagnosis. Yes, 15 years. Jody became one of the approximately 110 who die from metastatic breast cancer every single day in the US alone. But Jody was more than a number. Every person who dies from this wretched disease is more than a number, so much more.
Many people already know about Jody’s tremendous advocacy work in Cancer Land. Though a tiny person in stature, she truly was a force to be reckoned with. When Jody wrote a piece about cancer on her fabulous blog, Women with Cancer (or anywhere else), you could be darn sure she had her facts straight. Jody wanted to get things right. She insisted upon it.
Jody was so smart – way smarter than me. She could read a sciencey-type article about cancer, pick out and analyze the details and formulate an opinion about it faster than anyone I know in Cancer Land. If the information in the article was bullshit, Jody was not afraid to call it so, and she sometimes did. At times, this could be a bit intimidating, especially for someone like me who is not the sciencey sort of thinker.
I grew to respect and admire this quality (and many others) about Jody. She encouraged everyone around her to think better, advocate better, do better, just be better.
How many people can you say that about?
Many of us got to know and love Jody via the amazing online @BCSMChat she helped create and nurture along with her two co-horts, Dr. Deanna Attai (@DrAttai) and Alicia Staley (@stales). What a tireless trio. What a dynamic community they created together. What a legacy, Jody. I am so proud of you. We all are.
In addition to all the various roles Jody had in her personal and public life, Jody was my friend.
It’s hard to say those words in the past tense.
It’s hard, no it’s impossible, to adequately describe in a single blog post how much her friendship has meant to me for the past five+ years. It’s even harder than impossible to process the fact she is no longer here in the physical sense.
Jody and I became friends during a time in my life when I was feeling vulnerable and uncertain about how to navigate my life following my breast cancer diagnosis. I had just started blogging and had absolutely no clue where I was headed in more ways than one.
Then I met Jody and a few other bloggers who became part of an intimate circle of online friends, my original blogosphere foundation, upon which I continue to build. You all know who you are.
Jody was a light in that darkness of uncertainty. Jody understood. Jody cared. Jody wanted to help me and others, too, figure out this thing called survivorship. Jody offered validation, support, guidance and friendship. And she offered these things with big doses of kindness and compassion. She didn’t judge, as perhaps too many of us are prone to do.
Jody reached out to me with an email invitation to join a Monday night BCSM Tweetchat shortly after the new-at-the-time initiative was first launched back in 2011.
“Nancy, are you on Twitter?” she asked. She was so excited.
At that time, I wasn’t, nor did I care to be.
“Oh don’t worry,” she said. “You and I will email each other then. That works fine too.”
That was Jody. No pressure. Willing to meet you wherever you might be.
Eventually, I did join Twitter and yes, the only reason I did was so I could participate in the BCSM Chats. I still do when I can.
Jody and I became Twitter friends and then we became just friends.
After we became friends, I soon realized what an incredibly big heart Jody had. No matter what was going on with her, or how badly she was feeling from cancer treatment, she always asked how I was doing. We had a connection and not just a cancer one.
There was our mutual connection to the Midwest and, of course, our mutual love of writing.
When I wanted writing advice, I’d ask Jody. When I had a question about something cancer related, I’d ask Jody. If she didn’t know the answer, she’d direct me to someone who did. When I needed to vent, Jody listened. When I needed a laugh, let’s just say, Jody had a way with words!
And then there was our mutual love of English springer spaniels. Jody loved her sweet Katie. I love my sweet Sophie. Jody loved furry-four-legged critters of any breed or species.
I could go on and on talking about my friend…
I learned so much from Jody. She encouraged me to be true to myself, to honor my feelings and to give myself permission to mourn my losses (all kinds). And as we all know far too well, cancer brings many of those. As Jody said during one of the many #BCSM chats I have participated in:
Breast cancer is a string of losses.
Truer words could not be said.
I will close with a few of Jody’s own words. This seems only fitting for my friend, the writer. Jody’s Twitter (@jodyms) description about herself says this:
Writer, blogger. Optimist. Cancer Advocate. Working for a better world, one word at a time.
Thank you for being a friend to me and so many others, Jody.
Without a doubt, the world is a better place because you were in it.
Well done, Jody. Well done.
Did you know Jody and if so, do you have a memory about her to share?
Do you participate in BCSM chats?
Do you have special online friendships?