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Remembering Rachel

Remembering Rachel

Rachel Cheetam Moro died on February 6, 2012 from metastatic breast cancer. She was my friend. She was supposed to turn 42 years old on her birthday last week. She was supposed to still be a wife, sister, aunt, daughter and friend. Of course she is still these things, but not in the way she should be.

Rachel was supposed to be attending her high school reunion later this year, or at least be thinking about going. She was supposed to still be taking care of Newman, her lively little dog that she loved so much. She was supposed to still be writing her blog with that smart, witty way she had with words.

She was supposed to be doing all these things and so much more.

Rachel was supposed to simply be living her life.

But instead it was cut short, way too short.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Rachel lately.

I’ve been thinking about last August when her birthday was approaching and a few of her on-line friends and I decided to send her some birthday gifts, small trinkets really, to try to keep her spirits up a bit. You see by last August cancer’s grip was tightening up, though we didn’t realize just how much. Her world was shrinking and that was really hard for Rachel.

Rachel belonged in a “big world.”

We didn’t think it would be her last birthday, or at least I sure didn’t.

Shortly after Rachel opened up her birthday package from me, she sent me an email thanking me. In true Rachel form, she sent me the cutest picture you can image of Newman helping to open it. Since Rachel was a dog lover like me, she knew I’d get a kick out of that and I did.

That was so like Rachel, to always think of the other person.

A few days later, a hand-written thank you note arrived in the mail. I could tell it had been difficult for her to write it and, in fact, in it she apologized for her “unruly” penmanship. By last August because of her cancer’s progression, Rachel’s dominant left hand was causing her trouble, so she was forced to write with her other, less practiced hand.

I treasure that painstakingly written note and never tire of reading the words it contains. To me those carefully written words look beautifully perfect. The message they convey is even more precious.

Her note also included a gift for me, a tiny sticky notes pad, which I don’t intend to ever actually use. I’ll just keep it as a tiny treasure.

I’ll take it out from time to time, look at it, read the silly message and smile as I remember.

Sometimes I still visit Rachel’s blog, The Cancer Culture Chronicles, I’m not even entirely sure why. It’s comforting somehow to find it’s always still there, a piece of Rachel that remains. I like knowing it’s there, something to count on, just like Rachel. I also like knowing it’s still there because I think I know how much it meant to her.

It’s so important for Rachel’s words to live on, continuing to educate about things people might not know, but need to.

I know she taught me a thing or two.

I often wonder how and why Rachel stumbled across my blog that day, soon to be two years ago. I wonder why she decided to leave a comment when most readers do not.

I wonder if it was something I said, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t.

I wonder if it was because she liked a photo of my dogs; undoubtedly, this is more likely.

Or I wonder if it was by sheer chance; in all likelihood, this is probably the case.

In the end, I know it doesn’t matter how we came to know each other.

I know it only matters that we did.

Have you grieved for any online friends who’ve died?

What treasure(s) from a loved one do you hang on to?

Do you have a memory of them or of Rachel to share?

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Remembering Rachel

31 thoughts to “Remembering Rachel”

  1. This has been a very quiet year without Rachel. She was literally a riot. I’d come home and be able to hear her and Sarah Skyping from outside the house. The happiest sound I might ever hear in my life.

    She is deeply missed.

    1. Ronnie, Oh my, that is such a poignant comment. I can almost hear those two right now! Thank you for sharing that memory, Ronnie. And yes, she is deeply missed.

  2. Nancy:

    Very nice words. Was Rachel BRCA positive? She was so young. Please feel free to spread awareness about inheriting genetic mutations that can increase cancer risk. 1 in 8 women gets breast cancer in her lifetime. About 90% of breast cancers are sporadic, but 10% are due to a genetic mutation that hugely increases cancer risk . A person that inherits a genetic can have up to an 87% lifetime risk of getting breast cancer and up to a 50% risk of getting ovarian cancer. Knowledge is Power. xoxox Amy

  3. Wow, Nancy.

    ‘It doesn’t matter how we came to know each other. I know it only matters that we did.’

    I know what you mean on that front- I find myself obsessing over tiny details and memories with regard to Chris as well. I have grieved and continue to grieve for Chris and what could have been. What was was wonderful, I just wish there could have been more..but I’m sure you get that.

    Thinking of you, and wishing you peace with your memories.

    Take care,


  4. Nancy, I’m glad you wrote a post about Rach. I honestly didn’t have the heart to write (another) one about her just now.

    Thank you for reminding me about how much fun we all had just PLANNING to send her some silly birthday gifts last year. I made her a picture book — a very snarky one, of course. And I still have the little pad of post-its she sent, too, on my desk.

    Like Ronnie said, I feel like my life and our blogosphere is a lot quieter without her.

    Hugs. Kathi

    1. Beth, Yes, I know you do. Lots of people miss her. I’m glad her blog lives on. It will keep opening eyes for a long time to come. Thanks for stopping by, Beth.

  5. Hi Nancy, I am lucky. I have never lost a friend and so I can only try to imagine how heartbreaking it must be. I have often wondered, do blogs live on forever even years after they have become inactive? Somehow I think her friends and family would find it comforting to know that Rachel’s words will always be out there and that they can visit them anythime. These days fewer and fewer people have grave makers, preferring instead to have their ashes scattered some place meaningful. Could a blog become that place we go to remember a loved one or a friend?

    1. Jennifer, You know that was something Rachel was looking into actually, just what happens to blogs out there. I’m sure it is comforting for Rachel’s family to know her words live on. It surely is for me. You raise a good question. Could blogs become that place to remember? Maybe so. Thanks so much for reading and taking time to comment. It means a lot.

  6. There are so many ‘firsts’ after losing someone we care about that serve to remind us of what we’ve lost. But birthdays. They might be the hardest of all. Still celebrating with gratitude that our friend was born. Still acknowledging the gift of having had her in our lives. All with a pang of sadness that she’s not here with us now. You said it, Nancy, “It doesn’t matter how we came to know each other. I know it only matters that we did.’ How lucky we are. — Gayle

    1. Gayle, It’s hard to feel lucky sometimes though when you miss someone isn’t it? Still, I know we are. Thanks so much for commenting. I know how much you miss Rachel too.

  7. It is so interesting that you chose to blog about Rachel yesterday. For some reason I was looking back at a photo I had of “The Blogger’s Table”at the 2011 NBCC Annual Advocacy Training Conference and decided to put it on my Facebook page yesterday to thank everyone for inspiring me to blog and get involved with social media as a breast cancer patient advocate. The comments were all about the two people in the picture Susan and Rachel that died. Today I went searching through Rachel’s blog “The Cancer Culture Chronicles” and saw the title of your post on the right side of her blog as a suggestion to read. I clicked on it and here I am seeing that you were thinking about Rachel too. I think you are right that she lives on through her blog. I was reading her “Paint the Town Pink” post and saw the irony in the fact that I now realize that she died in the very hospital that sponsored the event and as Gayle wrote, “She would have hated it”. I really was lucky to have met her and Gayle as well as the other bloggers in the photo in Washington. It is so important to remember Rachel and so many others that have died of MBC, so that we as patient advocates find a way to purge the Pepto-Bismal pinkwashing and get on the path that will truly end MBC. Thanks for the great post. – Susan

    1. Susan, Thank you so much for your insightful and caring words. I’m glad to hear you “went searching” through Rachel’s blog and made your way to mine as well. I’m also glad you read the “Paint the Town Pink” piece written by her husband Anthony. Yes, too much irony in that for sure. Thanks for taking time to comment and thanks for doing the advocacy work you do.

  8. I’m fairly new to breast cancer and I have not developed relationships the way you have. I came across Rachel’s blog before yours which brought me to tears. I loved her heirloom tomato story, and most of all her ability to help many realize, including me, that it is important to thoroughly investigate how our cancer donations are used. I admire the way you treasure the “thank you” note, it says a lot about the type of person you are. Your remembrance of Rachel let’s many see the bright shining light of your dear friend.

      1. Alli, Oh, I remember and miss Cheryl too. She was one of the first to read and comment on my blog. I didn’t know her well, but I could tell she was a kind hearted soul just by reading her blog and the comments she left on mine. I’m sorry you lost such a dear friend there, but I’m glad you have such wonderful memories. That last phone call with her must have been so hard, but what a treasure to have that memory. Thanks so much for sharing about Cheryl, Alli. We will not forget will we?

  9. I really didn’t know Rachel well. She posted on my blog a couple of times. Once I began reading her I was hooked.Her love for life was infectious.Why her beautiful spirit had to be taken away is anyone’s guess. I go back read and wished I had known her better too.
    I miss Cheryl (Indigo Dreaming) .For two years every Tuesday & Thursday she’d call with her lovely Aussie accent. Get her started on something she had the gutter- mouth of a sailor, she could spit those words with the best of them…She had a soft gentle side..Things always weren’t right for her, so many questions there were days she’d be so overwhelmed. The tears the laughter in the next breath. complications. Her cancer taking on an ugly side that was now visible. It was though as the cancer grew externally, it was a chronicle of her life ebbing away bit by bit. As this monster took over her body. She was always worried about me. I have so many things I wish I could type about her. As sick as she became she still called me..Talking in whispers. The Thursday before she died she called saying this was probably her last call.I didn’t want it to end. That all the visiting was over, family & friends said their goodbyes.. It was now just Haydn & Cheryl. – there were some rifts in that relationship that could have brought any marriage down . But when it counted most he stepped up..Helping her caring for her and just being there.Some men just can’t express or verbalize love but he showed her, she knew it and she loved him back for it. You meet some people even if a face to face opportunity wasn’t there, there is a connection of the deepest kind, a kinship. Not a day passes that I don’t think of her, her giddy laugh, her somber tone knowing the end was near. I couldn’t have loved her more if we had known each other for 25 years. I miss her……
    Love Alli….XX

  10. What a beautiful tribute to an incredible woman, who did so much to bring awareness to the MBC cause.

    I am very grateful to Rachel’s husband for keeping Cancer Culture Chronicles available online so that Rachel can continue to rally support for the MBC cause even after she is gone. Her words are just as powerful today as they were when they were written.

    As we honor the person that Rachel she was, let’s also honor the cause she so doggedly promoted by doing all that we can to spread awareness of the MBC cause and push for equity in patient support and the funding of MBC research.

    1. CJ, Thank you so much for your kind words about my post. More importantly, thank you for recognizing and acknowledging the wonderful work Rachel did on behalf of raising meaningful awareness about metastatic breast cancer. Like you, I am very grateful her blog is still out there continuing to educate others about a lot of issues. She certainly taught me a lot. We will keep on working toward the goals you mention. By doing so, we will honor Rachel, my mother and all those lost to this disease.

  11. What a lovely tribute. I was thinking about Rachel today, too. For some reason, the pink truck she posted about in her “Paint the Town Pink” post flashed through my mind while I was brushing my teeth this morining. Laughing out loud almost made me choke on my Aim. I didn’t know her well, but I miss her voice, her snark, her brutal honesty, I really do.

  12. What a great tribute to Rachel. She would love what you wrote about her and how we are keeping her memory alive.

    I’ve lost two online lymphedema support group friends to cancer. We supported each other by encouraging weight loss to help keep the edema at bay. We tried to avoid the “C” word. But it came up to bite two of my friends. So sad.

    I treasure the crafts that my dear departed Mom made, especially watercolor-painted greeting cards. Her memory will not be lost as long as I am alive and not senile.

    Take good care and keep up your influential writing! xx

    1. Jan, I’m sorry about the loss of your two online friends. It sounds like you have some lovely memories of them. I’m glad to hear you have some treasures from you mom too. You must have inherited some of your artistic talents from her. How nice. Thanks so much for your kind words. You take care as well.

  13. Last year we lost Barb Bristow from the BCSM group. Barb and I became very close from the first time she joined a Monday night chat. Her death really hit me hard, she and I had so much in common. The day she started home hospice I was planting my garden, I was texting with Barb as I was planting, and kind of emotional, but I wanted to give Barb something. A meteor shower was coming up. I told Barb I would think of her every time I saw a shooting star. She loved the thought. The interesting part was that I was planting columbine flowers known as Shooting Stars, beautiful red flowers. Those Shooting Stars bloomed the entire summer and every time I walked on my porch I was greeted by these beautiful Shooting Stars reminded me of dear Barb. I was talking about the meteors, but the flowers thought I meant them, and they heped me celebrate Barb’s life all summer long.

    1. Jane, I knew Barb too and actually wrote a post about her after she died. I love your story about the columbine flowers and how they reminded you of her all summer. I miss her. It’s nice somehow knowing you do too. Thank you very much for sharing about Barb.

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