I was 31 when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
It was around then that support groups for young adults with cancer and survivors of cancer were starting to pop up.
I learned about one called I’m Too Young for This (some years later renamed Stupid Cancer). No idea how I learned about it, but through them, I met Michelle. She was the Phoenix coordinator.
Michelle was an amazing, fierce woman who didn’t take crap from anyone. She was in remission from a bout with colon cancer, had a husband, two young kids, and a fiery spirit.
We clicked and easily became good friends.
She was part of my support crew when I started my health and wellness business, when The Kid was born, when I went through my divorce.
I was part of her support crew when she coordinated the most successful Phoenix Undy 5000, when she was diagnosed with a recurrence, and in the last weeks of her life.
Different people gift different things to us. Michelle’s gift to me was strength. There was not a thing in the universe I couldn’t conquer with her behind me.
She was using in-home hospice and was looking for someone to stay with her for a few hours one morning. I took the day off and went out to visit her (we lived about an hour’s drive apart).
A few days later, I texted her and mentioned I would be available to come out the following day, if she wanted company or needed help.
“I wish I could say yes, but I have plans. Raincheck?”
It’s the last text I have from her.
One of her bucket list things to do was to run a half marathon. (I was reminded of this when reading through comments on an old Facebook post I’d made about my first triathlon, five years before her death.)
Two years ago, I ran the Phoenix Half Marathon in her honor.
(I have no need to run any more half marathons—longer than I would like to run—but it was the perfect storm: I had been running with a running club and was feeling really good about my running and had started to think that maybe someday I’d do a half marathon. Then I saw Michelle’s old comments about wanting to run one. Then I met The Climbing Daddy who was running all kinds of crazy stuff. And It Was So. That one was for you, girl. I hope it was sufficient!)
Michelle, I miss you. I miss our conversations. I miss the strength you gave to me (and to everyone around you, I suspect). You would love The Climbing Daddy. You would continue to be amazed at The Kid. (Remember when he used the word translucent? And how smitten he was with your chickens?) Thank you for all that you shared in our short time together. I am eternally grateful our paths crossed.
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