A friend and I were recently asked to provide some commentary for a video discussing perceptions about metastatic breast cancer. As advocates, we were comfortable offering our insights. As patients, however, we worried that we might give a misleading picture of metastatic breast cancer. Whatever scars and side effects we’re dealing with aren’t readily apparent. And in my case, having a low volume of bone mets can’t compare to someone dealing with more aggressive disease and harsher treatments. Of course we tried to stress this–but inevitably we’ll probably both sound like Rebecca of Metastatic Farm. . .
I was reminded of Gigi, a truly joyful person I met online in 2009 and then in person at an MBCN conference in Indianapolis. Some time later, I was looking for someone with MBC to be a source for a reporter. I thought Gigi would be great–she was funny, smart and with her medical backgound (she was a midwife) an excellent spokesperson. I emailed her for permission to share her contact details. “Sure, I have no filter,” she said. “But I’ve leaving for Micronesia soon, so I don’t know if the timing will work.”
It didn’t–Gigi scuba diving on other side of the world by the time the reporter started calling people. I saw Gigi in Baltimore at the September 2011 MBCN conference and I thought she seemed a little down. We didn’t really get a chance to talk–I assumed she was dealing with some tough news.
“Today is one of those pits of despair days,” Gigi wrote on her Facebook page on July 5, 2012. “As for yesterday it sucked due to my nausea and sickness. I hate these kind of posts but I warned you.”
“A year ago I was dancing(salsa, swing), scuba diving, driving, going to work everyday, never thinking I’d be in the position I am now. I am unable to walk by myself, and unable to use my feet and hands. Now I am unable to do anything that I want to do. I have been off this ‘easy chemo’ (don’t let them sell that to you) for 6 months and I am still a disabled woman. But If today is a ‘pits of despair day’ then there are the “don’t take anything for granted days”. I hate these posts even more, but I must reiterate the sentiment.
“DO NOT TAKE ANYTHING FOR GRANTED. That sandwich you ate, the dog you walked, the stairs you climbed up with no difficulty…. Let me tell you, if you were in my position you would be happy you could actually do anything without help.
“Now back to our regularly scheduled program, Polyanna, the girl who couldn’t be sad even after she broke her leg!”
Gigi died a few weeks later. Some of her diving friends scattered her ashes in the South Pacific. At its 2013 convocation, SUNY Downstate Medical Center: School of Public Health gave out inaugural Gigi Robin Joyful Midwife Award to a graduate who exemplified her joy and enthusiasm.
I think she would have liked that.
I had to include Gigi when I put this video together. Hopefully it, too, is like Gigi: joyful but honest. (“No filter!”)