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.