Tuesday, May 21, 2013


This is a letter I wrote to a close friend on a day weeks ago that I was feeling very vulnerable and the clouds seemed to weigh heavy in my world. She's a mom to young children and I knew she would understand my desperation that day...

Hi --

I'm struggling today to stay focused. I feel silly, almost ridiculous that I'm feeling frazzled and upset the way I am, and my hope is that by typing the words and seeing my feelings on the page that it will snap me out of this wave of sadness and worry that I'm getting swept away on today. Roger Ebert. I know, right? Everyone is talking about him and as they talk about his life, inextricably they are talking about his death and battle and loss to cancer. And every time someone "loses their fight to cancer" I'm always on edge -- sometimes more so than others. I can never really tell what triggers it. Yesterday, I read an essay Ebert wrote himself a year or two ago in his memoir. There's a part there at the end where he quotes someone else and they have described cancer, MS, any debilitating and mostly incurable disease as the "celestial train to death and that dying of old age is like getting there on foot." Those words were so powerful to me yesterday and I have been thinking about them since... mostly because Ebert says in his memoir that he's at peace going by the celestial train and not on foot, which seems dreary (and I paraphrase here for him). That pisses me off because my initial reaction was -- and maintains to be so -- "Well, that's easy for you say because you don't have children." As always, when I'm confronted with my immortality, my mind and heart always turn to Alyssa first. And I am pissed off, mad, slighted, supremely betrayed that I have been given a ticket for this celestial train ride at such a young age and with such a young child. I don't want this ticket; I don't want this ride. I'm an environmentalist for crying out loud -- I want to walk to my death!

I don't feel silly after all writing about my feelings, but I have not snapped out of my sadness. Unfortunately, I am very sad today. I'm worried as my surgery draws close. I crack jokes to cope with my biggest fear -- that I might not wake up. Or that if I do it's to bad news that the cancer is back. And I do think about this all the time -- that maybe not this year or the next five years, but what about when Alyssa is 11? Or 14? Or 16? Or 23? But I guess we never know -- none of us really know if we're carrying around tickets for that celestial train ride, right? And if I dig down deep and call on the ever-so-positive One Boob Diva that I am, maybe she'll tell me, "Hey, what if you were never given a ticket? What if you're meant to walk to the end of your life and see your great-grandchildren? It's just fate, the universe, something out there wanted you to take a detour so you could appreciate how great walking is?"

I think I just consoled myself. But I never know how long my inner sunshine lasts. Some days the clouds come and go. Anyway, at least outside the sun is shining. I might go for a walk in a bit or just sit in the sun on the deck. Maybe the external sunshine will crack through my very gray clouds.

Thanks for reading this.

...That was the end of the letter I wrote on April 5, 2013. The sunshine that broke the clouds later that day was a small joke a friend made by email. So wonderfully mundane.

And today, May 21, 2013 -- a week after my reconstruction surgery -- the surgery that puts me on the other side of my mountain (and still walking), I've heard of a wonderful, beautiful, young soul who's now in the clouds. His name is Zach Sobiech and he passed away yesterday from a rare cancer called osteosarcoma. And he wrote an amazing song, called clouds: http://youtu.be/7zxXAtmmLLc

To learn more about Zach and his beautiful life, watch this short film about him: http://youtu.be/9NjKgV65fpo and I hope you hear the message I heard -- that life is about living it; not worrying about what's next; it's about cherishing every day we get to wake up and be with the people we love. Walk, dance, dream and revel in both the sunshine and the clouds.

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