Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A FAREWELL, and A Love Story

This was written on Sunday morning before I went to see Lori. Please hold her and her family close in thought.

It's time for me to say goodbye to my friend. My heart is as heavy as its ever been and yet, it is so full of love. The depth of that love is limitless and that love will live on forever, despite the fact that our days together on this earth are coming to an end.

Lori isn't just my friend, she's my soul sister in every sense of the word. I have been carried from the fires of hell by the sheer force of Lori's love and concern, her fierce protective nature, her persistence in demanding a better life for me. She saw my future when I was too blinded to see much of anything. As I spun out of control, Lori, living with a terminal illness, was the one who remained calm and focused. It was Lori who guided me, gently at times, and forcefully when necessary to the beautiful place where I find myself today.

I closed a chapter that should have been closed long ago and Lori was instrumental in helping me turn the page. She knew exactly what to say, when to say it and how to phrase her words such that I would hear the message, and be compelled to take action.

And today, my heart is shattered in ways I could never have imagined possible.

Most recently, I was describing our friendship, really, our "love affair" and I expressed how I believe there are those who might live ten lifetimes and never quite experience what we share. Each of us quick to credit the other, each quicker to jump in to help, each rolling up our sleeves to make things happen. We sense each other. We finish each others thoughts, as if we share one brain. Some of those with whom we've had the honor to work beside have often joked that it's like they are hearing things in stereo. The biggest difference is my tendency to take forever to formulate my thought when Lori very quickly and succinctly captures the essence of the moment in a simple phrase.

This always, and still, amazes me. I can't count the number of times I'd simply remark, "Yup, what SHE said!" Those closest to us know how this works and just laugh. They know. They know, for the most part, what is said by one of us, is meant by both of us. On those rare times we didn't agree, there was an uncanny ability for us to discuss our points of view without ever going off into the proverbial weeks. We discussed the topic, we listened and we both learned. Lori might argue with me, but I'd say I learned far more than I ever "taught" yet, there was never a competition. Not. EVER.

Lori helped me be the best version of myself I can be. She laughed with me, she cried with me, she lifted me to do things I never believed I could do. She knew. She saw what I couldn't. She assured me I could and I followed her lead, embraced her suggestions with absolute blind faith and total trust, safe in the knowledge that she would never let me fall. And, she never did.

When I met Lori online, she was in the midst of watching climbing tumor markers, waiting for a diagnosis of metastatic disease. It would finally happen shortly after we began having private conversations outside of the public social media circles where we originally connected. How grateful I am for the visions of Alicia and Jody to build a twitter community around the #BCSM hashtag, and how grateful too, for Dr. Attai who embraced the hashtag from its inception, to help it become, not only a place of support but also a place that all could turn for accurate and reliable information.

I am her #FearlessFriend. There have been more than a handful of times I believed myself to be nothing more than a Shitty Cancer Friend, doing all of the things I knew NOT to do. I would find myself crying over the circumstances surrounding setbacks, and progression, and all of the other lousy things that occur along the disease trajectory for those living with metastatic breast cancer. Very matter of factly, she would state, "Sweetie, but we always knew this day would come."

Today, there is no room for the Shitty Cancer Friend. Today, I am fearless. Today, I will sit beside her, holding her hand, letting her know how deeply she is loved, saying goodbye for what will likely be the last time we will be sitting side by side. I will let her know I will preserve her legacy, make sure she is comforted in the knowledge that her legacy will live on forever, and most importantly, that her son and her husband will always know she didn't surrender to this disease, she didn't give up, she didn't stop fighting, she's not a warrior who lost a battle. She's a woman who lived a full and beautiful life. She's a woman who fully embraced every opportunity, who made a difference in the lives of more people than she wants to believe she helped, who spoke out against the things she knew to be wrong without ever alienating anyone.

I will surround her with love and support. And I will wish her Godspeed as she closes this chapter of her mortal life. And I will assure her over and over again, that I will pick up everything that she left unfinished and see it through for her. All of it. Whatever is needed. Because she would do that, and oh so more, if the table was reversed.

Cancer doesn't play fair. It's cruel and it's relentless and we are nothing more than pawns being picked off, or knocked down at will. I will continue to push for you, my love. I will do whatever I can to make sure everything is (almost) exactly as you would have wanted. I'll do my best.

I will miss you, Lori. But then, I didn't have to say that.... Of Course You Know That.

I will love you always, and always, I will look to you for guidance, for answers, for help.... for everything. Nothing will change for me, except I'll be seeking answers, instead of from a text response or a ringing phone, I'll search for the answers inside my heart where you will live forever. A piece of it is gone, and it will never be filled again. It belongs to you as it has since the moment we met, and it will belong to you for the rest of my days.






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22 comments:

  1. Sending you love.
    Sending her love.
    Cancer is awful. And this never gets easier, even if we know this day is coming.
    Love you. xoxo

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  2. OMG...I'm so sorry to hear this. My prayers are with Lori, her family and friends...I thought she was so lovely and warm when we met in DC.

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  3. AnneMarie, I have no words to express how sorry I am to hear this news. What a dynamic duo you two have been! No one has ever had or been better friends than you both have been to each other. I know the pain of losing one that you love so dearly and I feel your pain and her family's pain and pray for comfort.

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  4. Can't find the words to express what I feel. This truly sucks. My heart goes out to you, Lori and her family.

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  5. I am heartbroken. I was just thinking about Lori the other day when I noticed she wasn't on the BCSM chat. Lori is an inspiration to everyone she met. Her tenacity and "go get them" spirit influenced others far beyond the breast cancer community. I hate cancer. It steals too many friends from our lives. Hugs and prayers for you, Lori, her family and the entire BCSM community.

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  6. I am so very sorry. There just aren't words to this kind of loss but I will be lifting you, her husband and her son in my prayers.

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  7. Oh AnneMarie. My heart grieves for your loss. My eyes well up in tears and I have rarely had the ability to cry in 10 years. This touches me deeply. Lori was such an inspiration, a fierce dedicated woman, who spoke--yelled for others who could not speak for themselves. She has given hope to many. Here you are today gripping this tremendous loss by recognizing you overflow with her love, wisdom, compassion, and hope. Hugs for you AnneMarie. I pray you are comforted and as you begin a new chapter in your life, your loss will fuel your passion and hope.

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  8. So sorry for your loss.......

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  9. Tears are streaming down my face as I read this. The hole in your heart will never be filled, but place your memories there. Lori has been a inspiration to me and to see her losing her life to this dread disease is heartbreaking. What is happening to her will make me fight my battle even harder in Lori's memory. Sending you my love.

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  10. Shit. It's so hard. I don't have words....

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  11. My heart breaks with you. My heart breaks for you.

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  12. This is the most beautiful tribute to a friendship that I've ever read. Sending both of you strength and courage for the present and the future. Your beautiful friendship, is without boundaries and will live forever in your hearts and the hearts of all who know you. ❤️

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  13. That was indeed a loving tribute spoken from the heart. Lori and I have worked together on several Advocate teams (PS-ON, PS-OC, DoD) and Education Outreach Team for the Houston Methodist Research Institute. The group will be devastated to learn of her nearing the mortal end. She will live on through her family friends and the impact she has made in the breast cancer community.

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  14. Thank you, Annie. So damn sad. Lori is one of the very best.

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  15. Amazing Tribute... this is such a sad loss. I pray for both of you I'm a loss for words today 😘💕

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  16. I remember when I first 'met' Lori in emails. She was the president of Metavivor when I was diagnosed, and I was a newbie in the BC world and you guys (you too, AnneMarie) were these larger than life inspiring awesome Rock Stars who intimidated little Nobody Me and I had these fangirlgasms, these moments of "Sempai noticed me!" when y'all would speak to me. Especially when Lori'd write me back. She's a sweetheart to the tenth factor. And you do her justice with this, and yourself. And my heart breaks for you and her family. And I don't want her to go, I can't imagine a cancer world without her, it's not right and fair and fuck cancer and I hate this and I hate how it's hurting you. Hugs and love.

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  17. Ann,
    All I can say is well said. We had so much fun chatting at ASCO, Sandi, Lori, you and me. My prayers are with you and especially with Lori and her family. We will all keep her legacy alive. She is a tremendous force in this cancer world of ours and will continue to be as we keep her memory alive. I feel honored to have known her and call her friend. Cancer has taken so many of our friends. We will not stop fighting this horrible disease.

    Jeri Francoeur

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  18. I am so sorry about Lori. When I met both of you at a Summit in DC, I wasn’t on Social Media and had no clue (sometimes I’m still clueless). What struck me seeing the two of you together was the deep ease at which you both connected as friends. You both bonded with such ease. It reminded me of the deep friendship I had with my bestie who died - MBC. I haven’t the right words nor can I say I understand how you feel, just that I’m sending you healing thoughts as you try to process this.
    Lori was so kind too. I watched the great work you did together via SM. You have been through so much lately, and I’m hoping for better days ahead. Sending all friends and family love, light, and prayers. xoxo - Susan

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  19. Cancer is horrible but it has also brought me to meet some of the best people on earth. This message was beautiful and I loved reading it but wish it did not have to be written. My love and prayers are with Lori and her family. AnneMarie you are an angel and the world is a better place because of all you do.

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  20. This disease is harsh, but we are so lucky to have met the amazing friends we've known. I hang onto the memories. Sending love, my friend. <3

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  21. What a beautiful tribute to such a remarkable person who will live on in the hearts of all those she impacted. You truly were soul sisters and were lucky to have each other and I'm sure she was comforted knowing you are here to carry on her legacy. Xoxo.

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  22. Cancer is horriable and awful. And this never gets easier, even if we know this day is coming.

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