As I’ve mentioned before, February is a loaded month for me. It’s a month heavy-laden with dates and reminders.
February was when cancer, the uninvited guest, first came calling and never “left the table”. February 2008 was when my mother’s metastasized cancer took an ugly turn for the worse and we reluctantly admitted her into a nursing home. And last February was when my friend, Rachel Cheetham Moro, died from metastatic breast cancer. She was only 41 years old.
In recent weeks I’ve contemplated how I might best honor Rachel’s memory on this first anniversary of her death. After considerable thought, I decided what better way could there possibly be to remember and hopefully honor Rachel than to write a post about her newly published book fittingly called, The Cancer Culture Chronicles. It’s my small effort to help keep her words and memory alive.
When I started writing a blog, of course I started reading blogs as well. Reading and commenting on the blogs of others is one of the cardinal rules of blogging. One of the very first blogs I began following on a regular basis was The Cancer Culture Chronicles, which of course, was written by Rachel.
I was immediately drawn in by Rachel’s candor and witty insights, but mostly it was her warmth, compassion and genuine-ness that kept me coming back again and again.
Though all breast cancer bloggers are bound together with certain commonalities, each blogger’s story is as unique as she is. The history and ongoing experiences are as varied as each individual. This is why I love reading so many blogs. And there are many wonderful blogs out there, but the Cancer Culture Chronicles remains one of the best.
In fact, Rachel has been called the most influential writer in the metastatic breast cancer realm. Her posts are now part of her legacy.
What made her blog so special? In a word, Rachel. Among other things, she was a gifted writer. Sometimes Rachel’s posts made me laugh. Sometimes they made me sad and yes, sometimes they made me angry.
But one thing’s for certain, they always made me think.
You see Rachel never hesitated to honestly share her frustrations, observations and opinions about all or anything breast cancer related. She wrote with descriptive wit, uninhibited humor, and cutting-edge sarcasm for sure. But when she was working on a fact-driven article, watch out. She knew how to dig deep, obtain and then share facts backing up whatever points she wished to make.
One of Rachel’s most widely read, shared and quoted posts is “Komen by the Numbers: 2010 And Still No Answers,” in which she opened the eyes of many (mine included) with her investigative-style approach to fact-based blog post writing. This post was part of a series which successfully exposed the dismal dollar amounts Susan G. Komen for the Cure designates for research, despite the word cure in its name.
When Rachel was in a snarky mood, there was no stopping her and you never knew exactly where her words might end up taking you! Two absolute gems not to miss are, “Pink Boob Awards Gallery Relaunch” and “Favorite Things”.
Then there were her poignant posts about living and coping with metastatic breast cancer. Rachel wrote honestly and candidly, never coming across as lamenting her situation, but rather just wanting to give the world a dose of reality about what living with metastatic breast cancer was truly like, from her perspective anyway. My personal favorite is one she wrote and shared on Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer called the “Well-Trodden Path.” It was and is powerful.
It’s nearly impossible for me to pick just one favorite post, but if I had to choose, it would be “Chest Pains.” In this post Rachel finally sheds the security blanket (her words, not mine) of her blogging penname, which up until that time had been Anna Rachnel. During a particularly frightening and frustrating hospital experience when she was feeling more alone and scared than usual while experiencing severe chest pains and feeling fed up with being referred to as a mere number, she finally decided enough was enough. It was then she decided to shed the cloak of her secret penname and reveal her real name to her readers. She announced it simply, but boldly in these words:
“Today it’s time to shed the security blanket. I have found my virtual identity. I have found community. I have found friendship. I have found trust.
Anna Rachnel has served her purpose.
My name is Rachel. Rachel May. I am named for my great grandmother.”
I’m so glad Rachel finally found “virtual community, friendship and trust” that day and decided to reveal her true identity to her online community of fans.
In some small way it felt like we were helping her out, but of course, it was really the other way around.
So thank you, Rachel May, for letting us all in.
Thank you for sharing your voice, your truths, your passion.
Mostly, thank you for being my friend.
We will not forget.
Reading the archives of the Cancer Culture chronicles is now something we can all do a bit more conveniently thanks to the hard work and dedication of one of Rachel’s dearest friends, Sarah Horton, author of Being Sarah, and also Rachel’s mother, Mandy Cheetham. Sarah and Mandy worked tirelessly together this past summer compiling Rachel’s blog posts and preparing them for a book format we can now all enjoy and appreciate. Holding this book in hand while reading Rachel’s words will bring the reader’s experience to a whole different level and make their connection to Rachel feel even more personal. I know it did for me. Thank you, Sarah and Mandy.
Finally, if you knew Rachel in real life or through her blog, please leave a comment below sharing your favorite post of Rachel’s, favorite comment she made or a favorite memory of any kind. If you didn’t “know” her, why not head over to her blog, start reading and then get back to us.
I promise you won’t be sorry you did.