|One of the projects at the Sketchbook Project|
was to draw a postcard to leave behind and pick up
one from another artist. Here's the one I left behind.
So after this busy morning with the team, we met up with my son Nareg to go to an L.A. art event. Last year sometime, my daughter Ani and I participated in the Brooklyn Art Library's Sketchbook Project: a mobile tour of sketchbooks from around the world that would, after touring, find their way back to become part of the permanent collection of the Brooklyn Art Library. All participants signed up with a fee and received a small 5"x7" sketchbook which they could rebind if they chose to, and fill with whatever sketches, paintings, doodles, writings, collages - whatever they wanted to. You mail it in by a certain set date and the book gets digitized so it can be viewed on the computer, and then it goes on national tour. And today the tour ended in Los Angeles. And so we went to be part of the sketchbook project and see ours, and other artists' works on display.
Diane went through surgery and treatment and she made it through. We started corresponding through regular post, sending photos of ourselves with our children. Christmas cards. And then for a while I didn't hear from Diane. Several months had gone by and then I received news that her cancer had returned. I was numb. But she was doing so well. Three years had gone by since her first diagnosis. Again we started writing, but this time she was seeing another doctor. She wanted to go the holistic route and was traveling far to get to her treatments. But she assured me she was doing well. Life was busy for the both of us - but when out of the blue her husband called me one day, I knew something was up. "I just wanted to call you, " he said. "Diane passed away." And he started crying. He shared that the cancer was aggressive. She didn't want to go through chemo. She opted to live as much of her life as she could with her family knowing her as they knew her. She didn't want to be poisoned by the chemo and have her children see her that way. And so the cancer claimed her life. Diane was my first friend lost to cancer. For years I kept in touch with her mother, who would write me about how much she missed her daughter. We shared that connection. Her mom would write me about Diane's children and how they were growing, tell me about the flowers that always reminded me of her dear daughter. Eventually, the her letters became less frequent, and then became annual Christmas cards.
There have been many others that I've shared the connection with. My husband's boss who wrote me one day to ask for advice and prayers. Calls from friends of friends that just want to connect...to talk to someone that knows what they're going through. Men and women. A friend recently reached out to me. As her husband was getting ready to undergo chemo, she found herself filled with mixed emotions. Fear, anger, frustration, and guilt. Things were supposed to be getting better, she said. Life has been tough, and now this. Sometimes you can help by consoling and offering whatever worked for you. Other times, all you can do is listen and reassure that the feels are real and justified. And offer prayer.
I don't know why some people get cancer and others don't. Stress? Diet? Genetics? Who knows. What I know that I DON'T believe is that God gives cancer to people. But I do believe that faith can take cancer away. I also believe that there are no coincidences in life...and that all things happen for a reason. Sometimes the reason is very clear. And other times, we don't understand the reason until years later. When I got diagnosed with a second type of cancer, I urged my siblings to get checked. It was only because of that, that my brother's cancer was diagnosed early enough to save him. Had I not undergone cancer when I did that year, his cancer would have gone undetected. Like I said, I don't believe in coincidence. We are right where we are supposed to be. We have always been close....but now we share the cancer connection as well.
Two years ago, I recieved a call from my cousin. My childhood friend had just gotten diagnosed with breast cancer. Through the years, she and I had lost touch basically seeing each other a couple times a year. But we now had cancer in common. Ani and I were getting ready to walk in the Avon walk and that year, we added her name to our list of names we were carrying with us on our trek. Because of cancer, we rekindled our friendship. I'd like to think I helped her get through her battle in 2010 (at least a little), and come 2011, she helped me get through mine. Last year, she and I held hands together as we crossed the finish line after walking 39.3 miles in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. And this year, we'll be walking together again! Friends together. Survivors together. Sharing more than just cancer. Sharing happy, healthy times together walking for a cure!
As this year's walk is quickly approaching, I'm getting myself ready to once again go the distance for a cure. This year there are 14 on our team, but only six of us walking. Three of the six of us walkers are cancer survivors. Two of us women; one a man. Each of us sharing that strong connection as we walk with the hope that one day we'll be able to look back on cancer -- and all that we've experienced because of it -- as a thing of the past. Til then, we'll keep walking, we'll keep dreaming, praying, hoping, and sharing the connection with those around us.
If cancer has touched your life, or the life of a friend or family member, please send me their name and I will carry them with me, every step of our 39.3 mile trek. You can email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook message me. And if you'd like to support our team, you can click on our Team In Her Shoes website address at www.avonwalk.org/goto/inhershoes