Tuesday, April 12, 2011

This thing on?!

2008 Susan G. Komen Walk/ Run
Hello? Anyone there? It's me, Melinda. Hello? Oh wait! These things never work unless you plug them in. Hold on. Just a second. There we go! Okay, I think that is better. I feel like I have been on a writing hiatus, too busy to bother with random life updates but all the while, I write in my mind and have the hundreds of files to prove it. I am back...with nimble, quick fingers and blistering thoughts.

Whew! I wish I could say my own hiatus was some philosophical removal of my hobby from my hands to cleanse my soul or discover my inner youth; however, my life is much more uneventful than that. I would describe these passing months as going from zero to sixty in milliseconds. The mere G Force alone was such that I was lucky to keep my skin intact and eyelids working. Work took its toll testing every hour I had in a day, bending the parameters of sleep into new dimensions. The holidays flew by with an assortment of decorations, meals, friends and pet love. Finally, I think I have been able to strike a balance between my home and office that carves more distance than a mere 11-miles.

When the New Year came, I refused to declare any resolutions on a"to-do" list as so often I have found resolutions require a list of excuses when you do not accomplish them. Instead, I thought about focusing on one aspect of my life and that was to ENJOY it. As usual, I was quickly reminded that I am not in control of this life I drive. My friend, former co-worker, career confidant, Judi Olsen (Cooper) gave her life fighting cancer this past week and with a few text messages and Facebook updates, I was thrust into a world of feelings and loss that I was not ready for. Judi, cannot be described in the usual terms associated with many cancer patients. The best way to discuss Judi is as a fighter and one hell of a lady.

Caner is not a new word to me. Like so many others on this planet, I came to know cancer in my early childhood, first with my great grandmother and again in adulthood with my grandfather. There are days when I try to recall their presence in my life and I can see their faces and hear their voices. Both persons were pivotal in my life but honestly, they were not fighters...not like Judi. Judi took her diagnosis by the horns, grasping them with white knuckles and punched cancer in the face, defying odds and diagnosis like no other. Every step was some new accomplishment even noted by doctors. Just standing with her for a few moments, you could feel nothing but pure awesomeness.

In this self centered, uncaring world, Judi embodied what it meant to be a giver. All through her battle, she gave more to others than herself. She gave hugs, smiles, laughter, and hope all wrapped with a huge bow. She convinced us all that she was not going anywhere. If there is anything that can stop you in your tracks...if there is such a thing as a wake-up call...this is it. Judi lived life, fighting, pushing, and never giving up. No matter what odds were scrolled across a doctors note, a computer screen or survivor’s cancer blog...Judi ignored all these things to carve out the most unique path a person can make...her own. Judi did not care for being a victim or a patient. She was Judi and although she had breast cancer, she did not declare loss, ever.

None of us ever believed she would not be here. We called her, emailed her, and read her blog all the while believing she would never leave us. I am now reminded of what my grandfathers oncologist once said…”Cancer is hungry and it never stops feeding.” So while Judi continued to give to all of us, while she continued to fill us with hope…Cancer continued its savage feeding on her body. I would never tell you that Judi lost her battle. She won. You only lose when you are defeated and as I hugged her last week and felt her arms clutch my neck, pull me in close, and truly grasp my body, I knew she was not defeated.

Grief is humbling. It doesn't matter how strong you think you are or how thick of a skin you show off to others, grief seeps inside and hurts. While bouncing from various stages of my own grief, I have been reminded that few things matter in this life except passion for what you do, happiness with yourself, and leaving the driving to someone else.