Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Imagine all the people...celebrating more birthdays

It was days, really, between learning my friend was being sent home, cancer treatment suspended, and learning she had passed away. Sadly, the first symptom came well after the cancer had already metastasized and spread. They began intensive treatment, aggressive. It was hard on her, but she had a lot to live for: loving family, loving friends, and two beautiful children, as well as all of her work, including a book she authored for children about children on the autism spectrum. That was her: a do-er.

She was the sort of person you could picture growing older, still doing. I could even picture her forty years from now blowing out a cake full of candles. In my imagination, over her cake, her hair was still bright, as it was before she got sick. She’d do that, I knew, keep herself looking nice. She’d have a big smile, and she’d tell everyone they shouldn’t have made such a fuss, but everyone would ignore her because they knew she was deeply touched -- family and family times were everything. I wished that for her with all my heart.

When I got the message she was gone, I denied it. I didn’t believe it until I read her obituary in the paper. I left a comment on the online memorial. I spoke about what a fantastic person she was. I spoke about how heartbreaking a loss it was. I mentioned nothing of my anger.

The next day, I went for a run. My feet pounded the track in fury. The hot Texas summer sun pounded me back, just as brutal as my anger. I hate this, I thought, I hate this day. My children had been surly, uncooperative, and cranky. The day was intolerably hot and humid. The sun was relentless. I pulled myself along the straight stretch before a curve that took me along the water.

My iPod stumbled out of my pacing songs and Falling Slowly came on. I nearly clicked to the next song, but the lyrics caught and tugged at my grief. We’ve still got time…the song trilled. But my friend doesn’t, I thought, my friend hasn’t got more time. Why not? I knew how she’d feel about that, and that she’d be of two minds, and unapologetic. That’s how she was. She called it like it was. But she also called blessings for what they were too. I felt ashamed of my ingratitude: for having known her, for all the gifts I received from her, for the beautiful children she brought into the world and would not get to see grow up, for the fact that I had today, another day with my children even if they were cranky and I was grief-stricken and miserably hot.

I took the curve in the track a little slowly and I thought hard about her. She’d have loved this hot day. She’d have loved to be healthy and bickering with her children about getting ready for day camp. She would have loved having this day, I knew. And I wanted to give it to her, a late or early birthday gift, depending upon how you looked at it.

Here it is, I thought with my mind and heart, here is this day, another day, one you would have liked, one that was hot, one that was about being a mom, one that was about making a healthy choice.

I sent the experience of the day up and out, and away to her. And a little bit of grief fell away from my heart. She may not have another birthday, but I do. She may not get to celebrate another birthday with her kids, but I can. And I can send the appreciation and joy from that to her.

My friend, and all the other friends, mothers, sisters, daughters, brothers, fathers, husbands, wives – all the other people who have gone, or are still here fighting, or stand beside someone fighting cancer – are why I joined the American Cancer Society’s More Birthdays effort. I can take a page from my friend’s book and be a do-er. I can celebrate and recognize that every birthday is a blessing.

I am a member of the American Cancer Society's Blogger Advisory Council, a small group of volunteers that advises the Society on its social media strategy. Part of our mission is to spread the word that we have power in the fight against cancer. The first step is to build awareness and engage women. Visibility equals power! So we have started a blog "chain" to spread the word among women bloggers. We call it Bloggers for More Birthdays.

You can help me!

Join Bloggers for More Birthdays by dedicating a blog post to someone you love who's been affected by cancer. Host the badge on your site to build visibility. It's a simple way to celebrate those you love. Just write a post, host our badge, and know that whatever you write, you’re raising awareness and inspiring others to join American Cancer Society in the fight against cancer.

And please, host the special Bloggers for More Birthdays badge on your blog to encourage others to join. Just visit our site for the code to grab a badge, and sample posts.

We want to spread the word, so we ask you to get others in your networks involved by sending them your posts and asking them to dedicate a post of their own. If you don't have your own space online, email a post to and we'll post it for you.

You can tweet about the chain as well, please use #morebirthdays:


dedicate a blog post to someone you love with cancer and tell their story join for #morebirthdays

blog against cancer: join for #morebirthdays

Blog for #morebirthdays, less cancer join

Happy Birthday.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Julie, this brought to mind so much of what I have thought and felt in the past two years since my friend died. I'm in.

I'm sorry about Gina, and I think that dedicating some of the joy you find in your life to her is a beautiful way of adding to her life.