Check out the new book, "The Cancer Culture Chronicles," now available at blurb.com.

The Cancer Culture Chronicles – Remembering Rachel & A Book Review

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. 

If you would like to purchase a copy of The Cancer Culture Chronicles in book form, please visit blurb.com. Of course, Rachel’s posts are always just a click away on her blog site as well.

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.

 

 

 

30 thoughts on “The Cancer Culture Chronicles – Remembering Rachel & A Book Review

    1. Tami, I was always impressed by Rachel’s thoroughness and math know-how too. She knew how to present facts. Thank you for reading and commenting, Tami.

  1. Oh, so nicely written, Nancy. I loved the post when Rachel said her name so much. I was so happy she felt comfortable enough to drop the pen name. I cared that much about this woman I had never met. I also remember Komen by the Numbers. An eye opener to say the least. It’s that post I always think of when I challenge those that are all for pink marketing. Rachel’s facts shine through. Missing her wit more than anything. She was so funny and I always felt special when she commented on my posts. Hugs to you, my friend. xoxo

    1. Stacey, “Chest Pains” was one of my very favorites as well. It must have been so freeing to drop the pen name. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, Stacey. Hugs to you as well.

  2. Thank you for such a beautiful tribute to Rachel. My favorite posts were all of them, but if I had to choose, the one where she shed her pen name blew me away to the very core. I also loved her Komen By the Numbers post.

  3. I have no favorites. They are all my favorites. I sit here with tears in my eyes and I can still remember the way my chest constricted when I flipped open my laptop and saw something on twitter … I recall the tears. I recall the sadness and I recall a lost email that I didn’t see until after she was stolen from us. Thus, it was an email that went unanswered.

    I know you had a special get together planned and my heart breaks for you, Nancy.

    I send you love.

    xoxox
    AnneMarie

    1. AnnMarie, Yes, there is a lot to recall and remember isn’t there? You’re sweet to remember the planned get together. Thanks for your caring comment AM.

  4. A lovely post, Nancy, that expresses so much of how we all felt about Rach. I don’t think I can pick a favorite post of hers — there are so many. And I cherish, as we all no doubt do, the many comments she left on my own blog. It still hurts to know she will never write another post or another comment, but she will live on in the consciousness of every one of us. I am left with enormous gratitude for knowing her. xoxo, Kathi

    1. Kathi, So many people have mentioned how they appreciated Rachel’s comments on their blogs. It was always special to find one wasn’t it? She will definitely live on in our hearts and memories. I’m so glad her book is now available to hopefully enable her writing to be more accessible for others to read. Thanks for sharing, my friend.

  5. Nancy,

    I have no favorite post, all are favorites. All are compelling and all are Rachel. I still can’t believe she is gone. I still read through my own blog to find comments from her and to re-read them. It is a very strange and sad experience. She was truly a remarkable human, she has changed – I think forever – the discussion of cancer and has left us monuments that will continue to change (for the better) the cancer landscape. But, I know that she was more than her cancer and while it is what forged a special bond between her and her online sisters, she was an amazing woman outside of that. I wish I could have known her more. She has done so much for all of us. What a beautiful post, beautiful tribute. Love to you on this difficult day and prayers to all who loved her. XOXOXOXOX Lisa

    1. Lisa, It’s so good to hear from you. Thank you so much for stopping by and for taking time to share some thoughts about Rachel. I know you miss her too. I will check out your post soon. Hugs.

  6. This is lovely, Nancy. It’s so hard to imagine that it’s been an entire year without Rachel. Her words have echoed and echoed for the last 365 days, making it a sobering reality that these words (alive to us as we read and respond to them) happened in the past. I guess that proves the power of words. Let’s keep speaking them. For Rachel. For all of us. — Gayle

    1. Gayle, It is hard to imagine a whole year has gone by already isn’t it? And yes, words are powerful indeed. I am so glad Rachel’s words live on. We’ll keep sharing them whenever we can. Thanks for stopping by to share a few thoughts on this very painful day.

  7. Pingback: Remembrances «
  8. She had (has, always to me) a shiny brilliance – equal parts humor, love, and intelligence. To be as funny as she was considering the obstacles she faced is a feat in an of itself.

    She also had the gift of making everyone feel as though you were her longest, closest and best friend. She was that generous, all the way around.

    jms

  9. Nancy,
    “Chest Pains” was truly my favorite. I remember reading it like it was yesterday. I was thinking back on how I felt while I was reading it…honestly, I was on the edge of my seat as I read the words “my name is Rachel. Rachel May”. I think I too breathed a sigh of relief along with her. Many hugs to all of Rachels friends, family and to the rest of us in the cyber-community. xoxo

    1. Suzzann, “Chest Pains” is an incredible piece for so many reasons. I remember reading it and being blown away too. And you’re right, Rachel dropping her pen name somehow mattered to us, her readers too, so I can only imagine how freeing it must have felt for her. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  10. Nancy you have hit the nail on the head there! I felt exactly the same about Rachel’s writing from the first time I read her blog. Sometimes it made for uncomfortable reading, but her words could never be ignored. A beautiful tribute to a beloved friend – thank you x

  11. I am so thrilled to know that Sarah and Rachel’s mom were able to collaborate on the book! Her last tweets, “The other thing about living with mets is our worlds start to shrink. That’s where fearless friends are so important” and “Let’s keep being fearless for all of us. ” were profound, heart wrenching but also a sincere promise to others of her friendship. I think about what she said often and it is my sincere prayer to meet that challenge with everyone. Because being a fearless friend is so difficult yet so necessary. It is truly about recognizing the soul of every living being and our connection.

    1. Kathleen, It truly was a labor of love when Sarah and Rachel’s mom put together this book. I must say again that having and reading Rachel’s posts together in book form feels different somehow than just reading the original blog posts. There’s a feeling of permanence when holding her book in my hands. It’s a good feeling. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. And yes, being a fearless friend truly matters.

  12. I am also thrilled that Sara and Rachel’s mom were able to collaborate on her book. It’s so interesting to go back and read “Chest Pains” as I was just starting to get interested in blogging. I was afraid to start because I didn’t want my real name out there and when I met Rachel and many other bloggers while I had the good fortune to sit and talk with great bloggers at the “Blogger’s table” at the NBCC May 2011, I spoke with Susan and the rest of the group about how I was afraid to start and have my real name out there. Everyone had comments and said I could use another name. It’s ironic that I ended up just being me and due to things going on around me it took me so long to start entering the blogging world. It also was great to read “Well Trodden Path” as I really get everything that Rachel spoke about with her experience in the MBC world. I am so glad we found the language of “fearless friend” as a way to include all of us in the primary and mets stage of breast cancer. I was able to go back to the tweet from Rachel where it came from by falling upon something AnneMarie wrote in September 10, 2012 when she was searching for the tweet about being fearless and how we came to being #fearlessfriends.
    Those words below first appeared in a tweet by Rachel Cheetham Moro (1-24-12).

    The other thing abt living with mets, is our worlds start to shrink. That’s where fearless friends are so important. #bcsm
    — CCChronicles (@ccchronicles) January 24, 2012

    Thanks Nancy for this beautiful post letting us remember and have a look back at Rachel. She touched so many of us. As I keep remembering your comforting words to me …. we just have to keep on keeping on.

  13. I met Rachel at the NBCC convention in Washington D.C., the year before she died. She was a force, a delight, an inspiration, and meeting her was the highlight of the event for me. I started reading her blog after we met. She was extraordinary, and her writing was extraordinary.
    I survived a fierce breast cancer and emerged NED. Rachel instilled in me a fierce understanding of metastatic cancer. When I got mad about Pinkwashing during October, my son said, “mom, why are you so upset? It’s over for you.”
    Rachel’s words and being sank into my bones. As long as bright beings like Rachel fall to this disease it will never be over for me.
    Thank you Rachel, for rocking my world, and sharing one of the most enjoyable meals of my life in your company. I still miss you.
    Elizabeth

    1. Elizabeth, Rachel was such a wonderful person and friend. She is missed by many, including you and me. I feel much the same way that you do about why this is never over. Thank you for taking time to share some thoughts about Rachel. It was very nice of you to do that.

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