An Icon Gone

I am a jumble of emotions today.  If I was still getting my period i’d say I was PMS’ing.

This morning I sat down to breakfast with Miss M, opened my email, and came across a post from fellow metastatic breast cancer warrior Katherine O’Brien on her blog ihatebreastcancer.  Then I started to cry.

This is how I learned that the ever inspirational Katherine Russell Rich died this week.  On Tuesday April 3rd to be exact.  My last day of chemo.

Katherine Russell Rich was a sassy and vibrant icon for those of us in the mets community.  She was originally diagnosed and treated for breast cancer at age 32.   Then 5 years later the cancer returned and spread.  But despite the not so encouraging prognosis of stage 4 breast cancer, Katherine surprised everyone and went on to live another 18 years.  Virtually unheard of in our metastatic world.

Her book – The Red Devil:  To Hell With Cancer – And Back – was one of the first I read after I was diagnosed.  And I just loved the whit, sarcasm, and wry sense of humour she expressed in her writing.  I remember reading it while doing chemo and literally laughing out loud.  It was just what I needed in that moment.

I am actually  kind of surprised by how much emotion and sadness her death has kicked up in me.  It’s not like I knew her personally.  And yet, I feel connected to her somehow.  I guess it’s more about what she represents.  She was my ideal.  My icon.  The person who gave me hope.  She was invincible to me.  As long as she was alive, there was hope for me too.

Her death reminds me that none of us are invincible.  And even if I live as long as she did I still may not see Miss M get married…  Or get to enjoy retirement with hubby…  Or experience the joy of being a grandparent…  Her death is a reminder of the seriousness of my condition.

On the flip side, I appreciate how openly Katherine shared her journey.  How she offered hope for so many of us.  I admire her wisdom and the way she embraced life.  And how, in going after her own dreams, she is inspiring me to figure out what the hell I want from this life and go for it.

The hard truth is that there are no guarantees.  Everybody suffers.  Life is not fair.  Accepting my new reality is not easy.  And yet, I must do it.  My motto over the last few years has been “It is what it is”…   Take what comes and keep making the best out of each and every day that we are given.

Thank you Katherine for helping to initiate me into this new club.  May you be at peace.  And say “hi” to my mom if you see here up there.

Peace.  -T

PS – To read more about Katherine check out the piece that ran in the New York Times today.

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