One of the hardest parts of having metastatic breast cancer is watching cancer take over the bodies of friends, rob them of their future and rip them from their families. (Harsh… I know. That’s just how I feel right now) I can’t keep track of how many friends I have lost since my diagnosis in 2014. Many were friends I connected with online or over the phone. Hope Scarves widens my friendship circle, which I am thankful for. But also deepens the hurt when so many I know die.
This week we lost one of the greatest. Mary Eleanor. I met Mary Eleanor at an event we hosted for metastatic patients in 2014. I was just new at this – still on very shaky ground as I adjusted to the reality of the diagnosis.
Mary Eleanor took me aside. Put her beautifully manicured hand on my arm and looked me in the eye. She said, “You are too young for this. They have to figure this out. You will be ok.” The thought that I could survive this diagnosis was not an option I had considered. But, this strong, determined woman was giving me permission to believe it might happen. And, by God, I had a feeling Mary Eleanor was the type of person you listened to.
Regardless of whether or not this is realistic, Mary Eleanor’s determination stuck with me. Why don’t I leave a little room for science, for breakthroughs and research? What could that hurt?
Mary Eleanor faced metastatic breast cancer for 12 years and every one of those years were filled with life.
I probably received 10 cards from her over the past couple years. She was constantly thinking of others- even when she was the one who should have been receiving a card. One card stands out most of all. In it she included a $50 check. Not a donation to Hope Scarves. This was a check made out to me personally with a note that said, “Go do something fun with your boys!” She loved kids. Being a mom and a grandma were her biggest joys. This generous and thoughtful gesture was an important reminder to me to not let this time I have with our sons slip away. It also showed me just how caring my dear friend was.
Mary Eleanor donated 5 scarves and shared her story with Hope Scarves. She sent a Hope Scarf to a friend. She attended our events and made many donations. Just this past fall she stood on stage with me at Colors of Courage. She volunteered in our office and was the March, 2015 Face of Hope. Then, when she needed it, we sent her a Hope Scarf. She embodies the sisterhood of the traveling scarves. Sharing encouragement to others and accepting support when she needed it too. It’s full circle – this Hope Scarves thing. That’s what makes it so meaningful. In her story Mary Eleanor wrote,
“Live! Enjoy each and every day with family, friends and most of all the children in your life! Children are a source of love, innocence, vitality and joy. My grandchildren are my biggest joy now! Keep going. Try not to sit around lonely & dwell on your illness. When you feel good, be out and about with family and friends… Every day is a good day! I challenge you to find joy in each day.”
So, in honor of Mary Eleanor I left dirty dishes in the sink and I played ping pong with Wills & Bennett.
We are humbled & honored to be one of the charities Mary Eleanor chose to receive donations in her memory. Her spirit and compassion will be a part of our work forever. It’s hard to say good-bye to friends. But, it would be much harder if we never met at all. I think the people we love are with of us forever. May we continue to share compassion and care for others as she so beautifully did.
Peace be with her family and all who loved her. Let’s take her words to heart.