Feeling Sad, Angry and Cheated

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?


26 thoughts to “Feeling Sad, Angry and Cheated”

  1. Sometimes I feel shamed for continuing to grieve the loss of people I didn’t know well (or even know [knew??], really). I talk with my loved ones about how sad I get that cancer is NEVER OVER and my fears that it will, someday, come back for me, and I get those looks like, “why are you doing this to yourself;” “why aren’t you enjoying your good health;” “stop obsessing about people you don’t really know,” etc.

    I’m sorry that you weren’t able to meet Rachel and yammer as you had planned. I’m sorry we keep getting gut-punched by the cancer bully. And I wish for you a group of kind and knowing friends during this sh!tty time.

    Sending you hugs and nods of support as you continue to be present (and truthful) in your grief.

    1. Praelior,
      Thank you so much for your very kind and understanding comments. I know about “those looks” and comments too. Sometimes it’s hard for me to understand the impact these losses of people I don’t actually “know” have on me, so I guess it’s not surprising it’s often hard for those around us to empathize. It all becomes very personal doesn’t it? Thanks again for your supportive words, hugs and nods. They mean so much.

  2. Oh, Nancy…crying again. I’m trying very hard to get past the sheer heartache of losing Rachel, to focus on my gratitude for having known her at all. But the two feelings are still inextricably bound up with each other.

    Rachel, and her inimitable being and generosity, was a gift we were privileged to share. And through her, we have also come to know and value so many other sisters in our blogosphere.

    As Praelior said, it’s hard for people who have not experienced these amazing connections to understand our grief, but so many of us do understand, and appreciate your honesty.

    Hugs, my friend.

    1. Kathi,
      I’m sorry for your heartache. Honestly, I’m also a bit envious you actually got to meet Rachel last spring at the NBCC conference, but I am happy for you at the same time. I’m grateful for your understanding and for your friendship. So many others are grieving and sharing in this loss. That helps somewhat. It’s an almost inexplicable bond so many of us share isn’t it? Keep healing. Hugs back to you.

  3. Hi, Nancy.

    I found your blog via a tweet you posted, and I feel duty bound to leave a comment. I am so sorry to hear of your friend’s death. I can relate in a sense, because I also lost a friend to cancer (albeit five years ago now) – like you and Rachel, we never met. Losing Chris inspired me to start the blog, so that people who have experienced ‘cyberloss’ can find connections with others who’ve been there and done that. My deepest condolences to you.

    *hugs* and good thoughts to you on your journey through this,


    1. Casey, I’m happy you found my blog. Thank you. Also, many thanks for your kind words of sympathy and understanding. I’m sorry for your loss as well and I’m sorry you didn’t get a chance to meet Chris in person. I think it’s wonderful your loss inspired you to start a blog where you share about the amazing connections that are made online and their ongoing impact. I’ll try to visit soon. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Dear Nancy, I’m so sorry you’re not with Rachel and your sisters this weekend. Out from behind your keyboards, yammering away long into the evening, and spoiling and confusing Newman with such a host of new ‘aunties’. I can see it so clearly, it’s still hard to accept that it’s not happening, over in New Jersey right now.

    My thoughts and love are with you all. And what you’re missing xx

    1. Ronnie, I can “see” it all so clearly too. So many things missed out on for so many families dealing with cancer and losses from cancer. So many altered plans…thanks for caring so deeply, Ronnie.

  5. Hi Nancy, this stinks.

    You know, I’m with you on the friendship thing. I’m not an immediate friend to anyone, it’s easier for me to connect through writing than in person and I felt a bit strange going to Rachel’s service. How to explain going for someone I had never met, but like you said, Rachel had a way of making everyone feel like her friend. I knew I had to go and show up for my friend, regardless of never actually “meeting” her.

    I’m so sorry for you and the other cyber sisters for losing out on this weekend. Nothing is harder than thinking about what might have been and you’re so right about being cheated. That’s what cancer does best, doesn’t it?

    Hugs to you, my friend.

    1. Stacey, I find it easier to connect through writing too. I understand how you felt compelled to attend Rachel’s service and I’m so glad you were there representing all of us. I can’t tell you how comforting that was, to me anyway. At the same time, I understand how, as you said, it felt strange to be there too. Somehow you stepped over the line between the virtual and the real world. That had to be a bit daunting at such a time. I would have felt much the same way I’m sure. You’re so right about all of those “might have beens.” So many lives taken, so many plans and dreams altered… Anyway, thank you for all your understanding and for your friendship, Stacey. Hugs back to you my friend.

  6. Nancy,
    I am so sorry about your stolen plans. And I’m so damn angry at everything that has to do with the word cancer. EVERYTHING. I want to say “enough is enough” but we are so far from that place it is disheartening.
    I wish I could step into this screen and give you a 3D hug. For now…. I’m here, I’m listening…

  7. Oh Nancy, what a beautiful post. Tears, tears, tears. I have to share something with you that I envisioned some time ago. It was a map with dots on it of all of the people I wanted to meet in this amazing group of women – this breast cancer, all cancer, blogosphere (whom I had only met virtually). I pictured myself driving across country and visiting each person on that map. Rachel was one of those dots on my map. So too are you and so, so many others. The loss of Rachel – such a profound loss to so many – has made me want to make that trip a reality. It is something I have visualized so often and I am heart broken that no matter when or if I make this trip, that Rachel will not be there.

    I am so sorry that you were robbed of this weekend’s plans. Robbed of meeting Rachel. I don’t even know what to say. Rachel had such a way of making you feel special – and that is – in my opinion simply her specialness reflecting back at you. She was amazing and you are so, so right, we will all keep writing on her behalf and on behalf of the other women we have lost. I am so sorry for your losses. Losing your mother and losing this weekend’s plans. I am so very, very sorry.

    I am grateful for you, Nancy. I hope to make that trip a reality and I hope to meet you (and your dogs) some day.

    Thinking of you.

    1. Lisa, I love your vision, though it’s sad at the same time that there would be so many dots and people to visit…Thanks so much for your caring words. Meeting some day would be pretty awesome. Who knows? It could happen.

  8. Nancy, my heart breaks for you. Of course you feel cheated. You have been cheated. It’s not fair. As I’ve been trying to deal with or accept my new “chronic” illness, I’ve been trying to find good in it. “At least…” this, that, or the other thing…
    But you know what? It’s crappy. It sucks. It’s shitty. There, I said it. Just shitty.

    I’m sending much love to you, Nancy. I wouldn’t deign to make a date with you, not now – but I sure would love to meet you someday. It would be my honor and pleasure.

    Always hope,

    1. Lori, I’m sorry about all you’ve been forced to deal with of late. Cancer as a chronic illness, cancer at all, is just plain shitty for sure. We need to acknowledge it for what it really is and not pretend to be positive when we aren’t. That doesn’t mean being negative, it means being honest. We can’t gloss over it or dress it up with ribbons of any color. Thanks for your caring words, Lori. And yes, meeting some day would be lovely.

  9. Hi Nancy,
    It’s a hard place to be in and I do feel for you. You have these great plans, you anticipate the meeting and the rug gets pulled out from under your feet. It used to be I could barely count on one hand how many women I have known either through blogging or personally that are no longer here due to this awful dreadful disease.Now I am running out of fingers.. A dear sweet friend of mine that I knew from school died a few years ago after giving birth, it was either carry on with the pregnancy or abortion, She gave up her life for her daughter. Karen, my Shero!!

    It’s hard to miss someone so much that we became so used to engaging with through blogging ..It doesn’t hurt any less. These are the times now that through our own personal grief remember these brave beautiful women..lets get the word out about Mets. I am tired angry having to say good bye for the final time when you expected to say an emotional Hello the day you met face to face for the very first time !!

    Love Alli XX

    1. Alli, Thank you for caring so deeply. I know you’ve lost too many friends to this disease too, one being our mutual friend, Cheryl. I’m sorry about your high school friend too. We’ll keep trying to get the word out about mets as we remember those lost to it. Thanks for commenting, Alli.

  10. Oh Nancy,

    I’m so sorry that cancer stole the opportunity for you and Rachel to meet this weekend. It’s so painful, isn’t it. That’s what cancer does. It sneaks in and takes, takes, takes.

    But there’s one thing that cancer cannot take: it cannot take away the friendship you and Rachel developed. It was real, albeit virtual.

    I also treasure the comments she left on my blog.

    Hugs to you,


    1. Beth, Thank you for your very kind words. It was real indeed. I’m glad we both have those precious comments to read and re-read. Hugs back.

  11. Nancy, it’s so true that cancer can derail so many plans, on so many levels. Long-term, my cancer derailed my marriage, a devastating consequence. So now I have devised a new plan, one where I am stronger and more independent. Besides Rachel, I lost two friends from my support group to metastatic breast cancer. We gave them group hugs, but nothing brought them back. I’d give anything to see their smiling faces again. Thanks for the beautiful tribute to Rachel, who has touched so many of our lives. We will not let her death be in vain. XOXO

    1. Jan, I’m so sorry for all your derailed plans. I can’t begin to imagine the anguish and heartache you must have felt when your marriage crumbled. That must have been such a blow. I’m glad you have a “plan.” I’d say you’re doing a pretty good job so far. I’m sorry about the friends you’ve lost to mets. We continue to lose too many to this wretched disease. I know you miss Rachel too. Thanks for commenting.

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