A Few Sad Goodbyes

At the top of Kilimanjaro, we raised prayer flags and took part in a Relay for Life. We celebrated life and remembered those lost to cancer.

I had carried just one prayer flag up the mountain – for Chez. There are far too many I’ve known from my decade of survival who I did remember, but only one flag that I flew. Cheryl was on my mind as I flew to Africa; she had gone into hospice shortly before I left. I had said my goodbyes and knew it was unlikely she would greet the news of our summit.

Cheryl and I had met here, on this blog. She became a regular reader, emailed asking exercise advice, signed up for my Daily Tips, and in the process became my friend. I tried to help her figure out ways to retain some range of motion as her cancer spread, and to strengthen the muscles that were still functional in an effort to keep her mobility and independence. And for me she was a constant source of encouragement whenever I began to doubt if what I was trying to do mattered.

She was thoughtful and caring. She was always honest. I admired her grace in the face of great pain. She seemed to delight in the natural beauty that surrounded her.

I carried her in my pack as I climbed. I thought she would enjoy the view from the top of Africa, flying over the glacier. After our climb, she came on safari with me. I carried her each day as I ventured into the bush.

I miss her presence here and in my email box. I wish her family comfort and peace.

There were two more notable losses this week in the online breast cancer community. Rachel Cheetham Moro, of the Cancer Culture Chronicles; and Susan Niebur, @WhyMommy at Toddler Planet died yesterday. They were both strong, witty, outspoken and tireless advocates in the community. They argued for more research, better and more meaningful support for survivors, and more funding/attention/support for metastatic disease.

Why did they spend so much time writing and talking about metastatic disease? Because that’s what kills us. Cancer in breast tissue doesn’t kill us. Cancer that spreads from our breasts to other body parts does. And yet, a shockingly small amount of attention is given to METS by some of the larger and more powerful cancer organizations. A small percent of funding goes to research for met. disease, and yet that’s what kills us.

Their voices will be greatly missed. But, as another blogger said earlier today, there will be others to take their place. Yes, sadly, that’s true. There will be no shortage of new recruits to our ranks.

I think maybe the best tribute to them would be to continue their work.

If we believe that a larger portion of the money raised by any organization should be spent on research rather than yet another awareness campaign, we must demand it. If we believe an organization should pay attention not only to the nervous “newbies”, but to our sisters living with METS, we must demand it. If we think cancer organizations should offer the kind of support that really matters to us – the survivors – and not just to their large corporate sponsors, we must demand it. If we believe that our elected officials can and should do more to ensure that everyone has access to good and timely care if something is discovered in a scan, we must demand it. 

We must demand it.

Rest in peace, ladies. I will miss you all. And peace to your families.


This entry was posted in cancer advocacy, cancer culture chronicle, goodbyes, metastatic breast cancer, why mommy. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A Few Sad Goodbyes

  1. Julie,
    Thank you for this touching post. The New Year has been rough with these losses. I’ve been thinking of Cheryl a lot too. I’m going to miss all of these wonderful women. I’m glad you “carried” Cheryl with you on your climb. What a beautiful thing to imagine. I’m thankful the voices of these women live on through their blogs, though it isn’t nearly enough. I wish peace for their families too. Thanks for speaking out and you’re so right, we must demand more. Wonderful post.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful Post. Truly. liz@ihadcancer.com

  3. gillian says:

    Yes, very moving post. I didn’t know that Cheryl had gone into a hospice. All I knew was her blogpost, last updated about two months ago. And I kept looking for an update. I think I tried to email her too. But by then it was probably too late. I didn’t have the level of close contact with her that you seemed to have but we often communicated via our respective blogs. I too admired her honesty. And bravery. I keep thinking about the three bloggers I followed religiously who have died: Daria, a woman whose name I cannot remember – I didn’t find her blog till it was quite late – but whose face I can see clearly in front of me, and Cheryl.So sad. It is astonishing how we can feel united with others we know only through their writings online.

  4. gillian says:

    The other person whose blog I followed and in fact, when she died, I went back and read it all, was Pateeta (Patty) of Shades of Blue. That was the name of her blog. I see it is still there.

  5. I know them both. Yeah, I’m constantly amazed at how connected we can be here online. I often feel more connected online than I ever did with any local cancer support.

  6. Julie,
    I think of Chez so often. She and I became great online friends to the point I nearly went to see her a year & a half ago. Things with Hadyn were so bad and I was worried about her care and her frame of mind.

    This has been a rough week for all of us in the breast cancer community, and yes… Others will take their place.


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