This morning as I was riding to school, I was writing a Tumblr post in my head. A quick list of reasons I love bike commuting (especially in summer):
- The endorphins that come from moving
- scent of ripe blackberries on the wind at random places around the city
- checking out all the other bikes
- conversations about my crazy dummy loads
- ‘fueling up’ with Burgerville Walla Walla sweet onion rings and a blackberry shake
There are more, but you get the general theme. It was one of those mornings when life seemed pretty awesome and I was grateful to be enjoying it.
I arrived at the tutoring center at school and while I waited for my student I checked my email and learned that cancer snatched away another dear friend/wife/mother/daughter from us last night.
Jessie was a dear friend of my partner Jess (thankfully, she preferred to go by Jessie which minimized confusion :). Shortly after I met her and her husband Andy for the first time, Jessie was diagnosed with breast cancer. From her Caring Bridge blog:
In October 2006 I became a mama and was diagnosed with Stage IIb breast cancer. In August 2008 I learned that I have had a recurrence and am now Stage IV (stupid cancer).
With the necessity of juggling four busy schedules, I didn’t get to spend much time with Jessie and her family over the last four years, but we were privileged to enjoy several lovely Shabbat dinners at their house, enjoy their company at a few of our winter waffle brunches and meet up for walks, coffee dates, bike rides at Sunday Parkways, park play dates, breakfast in the sun at a local waffle window or just quiet visits at home.
Through all this, Jessie battled her cancer with a combination of fierce determination to stick around for as long as possible coupled with a courageous acceptance of the unfortunate likely outcome. She blogged regularly (something I can’t manage to do even with good health) on her Caring Bridge journal to keep all her fans and loved ones up to date, and usually began or ended each post with the reminder that “every day brings beauty, beauty in every day.” It might be as simple as watching her son Sam get muddy in the park, or highlights from their recent family trip to Hawaii.
Whatever turmoil, despair or rage she experienced from her cancer, she always came back to gratitude and that is what she presented to the world. Her willingness to accept her situation without denial is in stark contrast to my experience with my own family’s impenetrable denial through my mom’s cancer battle and it was admirable to watch.
I’m sad for myself, but mostly my heart goes out to Jess for the loss of her friend, Andy for the loss of his life partner, and Sam, who, at 3 years old, I hope will retain some memories of his mama that aren’t just from vacation videos and pictures (though thankfully, there will be plenty of those for him to look at when he’s older).
Cancer sucks and it’s easy to feel powerless when it comes knocking on your door. But there are people out there that remind me that there are things we can do to fight it. Since my mom died, I’ve often thought about doing something more about fighting cancer, but full time school, house, partner, cats and other excuses have kept me from it.
But last fall, on a whim I joined Team Fatty just a week before the last Livestrong ride in Texas. I don’t have Internet fame, thousands (or even tens) of blog hits or awesome prizes, but over just a few days, my awesome friends and family donated over $1000 to my Livestrong page.
This year, I have signed up for a ride I can do– the Echelon Gran Fondo, happening in just over a month in the Columbia Gorge. But that’s only half the equation. The Gran Fondo is also a fundraiser to fight cancer, with money going to both the Lance Armstrong Foundation and more locally, to the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute (where Jessie started her treatments). Clearly it’s time to stop procrastinating, and let you know that, if you hate cancer as much as we do, and you’re of a mind to throw your pennies in the cancer fighting pot, you can donate on my ride page.
I’ll be riding in memory of my mom, Genia, my uncle Jonathan, our dear friend Jessie and in honor of our friends and family who have joined the ranks of cancer survivors (or are still in the fight).
I’m gonna do the thing I love, to fight the thing I hate. When I reach the top of the twenty-mile climb and enjoy the stunning view of Mt Hood, I am sure I will have no trouble finding the beauty in the day.