I interrupt this blog to bring you a more serious than usual post.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. While I personally do not have breast cancer, this disease found its way into my life through loved ones all too early. As I count the number of people I do personally know who have been affected, I run out of fingers on each hand.
13, 14? I don't remember my exact age, but that's about how old I was when I learned one of my dearest friend's mother had breast cancer. We never really spoke of it, it was just kind of there. I think our parents wanted to protect us. She was the mother of three boys, and her middle son and I were great friends. In fact, during my junior year of high school, he was my prom date. We all wanted to stay at my house for the night after prom and his mom wasn't so sure about a co-ed sleepover. Finally my parents convinced her. Since I was one of the only girls around when we would hang out, I would always stay upstairs and talk to Debbie before heading down to the basement to hang out with the guys. Every now and then Debbie would have little gifts for me, whether it was a cute keychain, or little pouch.
She loved reading (she was a middle school English teacher) and we used to share books and book recommendations. In fact, I still have a list of book titles written down in her handwriting. As the years went on, at time you could visibly Debbie sick. She never complained though. I don't know if I ever truly believed something would happen to her. She was always there - with a smile and a hug.
As I became an adult and went off to college, my schedule and her son's never seemed to match though we stayed in touch, I saw and talked to Debbie more - visiting her on almost every trip home.
I remember the night I said to my mom, you have to tell me if she is really sick. I have to know and be prepared if something is going to happen. I don't want to wake up one day to a phone call.
There I was my senior year of college and my mom kept her promise. It was a weeknight and she called to tell me Debbie really wasn't doing well. I dropped to the floor and cried. I didn't feel better until I got home and saw her. That was the fall of 2003.
By the summer of 2004, Debbie passed away (July 16th to be exact). I was already going home from New York for the weekend. I was supposed to go and visit her. She knew I was coming. Two nights later when I was at her house, her husband asked me if she knew I was coming home for the weekend. I said yes and with a small smile on his face, he nodded his head.
The suit I wore to Debbie's funeral was the same dress I wore two weeks later for my job interview. I got the job. Though I am sure the dress had nothing to do with it, I'd like to think Debbie was with me that day (the job was in book publishing after all, and wasn't that fitting?!).
Debbie's story is one of many. Our other friend's mom was diagnosed right before Debbie passed away. The two of them were best friends. Sometimes the way life works is strange. Sometimes life really hits us when we're down. The beauty is in how we get back up and fight - sometimes the best we can do is to hit it with our best shot.
Some battles will be won and unfortunately there are more that will be lost. Tonight is a story of a fight still in progress. TLC will air a special: Say Yes to the Cure: Lori's Fight (10/26 @10p.m. est.) My sister-in-law, Jen, was the executive producer. As she herself was 9 months pregnant this summer she sat with Lori through her mastectomy. Jen has beautifully captured Lori's story. I am so proud of them both. While they have my greatest admiration, in my heart as I watch tonight will be Debbie, and Julie, and Jenn, and Jean, and Nanci, and Aunt Dot, and Anne, and Evelyn, and Helen, and Amy, and Lori, and all women.
click here to support our efforts in raising money for breast cancer and the Noreen Fraser Foundation
Lessons Learned (in Debbie's words):
Dying is not as scary as not living.