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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?

 

Why METAvivor? | Facing The Page

Wednesday 8th of October 2014

[…] Then, I read about the death of Rachel Cheetham Moro, by way of blogger and breast cancer activist Nancy Stordahl. […]

Jan Baird Hasak

Monday 19th of March 2012

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

Nancy

Tuesday 20th of March 2012

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.

Beth L. Gainer

Wednesday 14th of March 2012

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,

Beth

Nancy

Thursday 15th of March 2012

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.

Alli

Tuesday 13th of March 2012

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

Nancy

Tuesday 13th of March 2012

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.

Lori Hope

Monday 12th of March 2012

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, Lori www.lorihope.com

Nancy

Tuesday 13th of March 2012

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.

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