No More Rebecca of Metastatic Farm…

Gigi, shortly after her diagnosis

Gigi, shortly after her diagnosis

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!”)

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9 thoughts on “No More Rebecca of Metastatic Farm…

  1. what a beautiful video – I cried, I smiled, I thanked my lucky stars for all I can still do, and for seeing the faces of hope still radiant and determined to live large and pay witness to the good, the bad and the ugly of mets. thank you for NO FILTER!

    much love, XOXOXOXO

    Karen, TC

  2. Diane Wilson says:

    Found the song and bought it

    Diane Wilson

    I #StandwithWendy

  3. Great video, great sentiment. I’m also very touched by the blog entry. Often, I think (in being strong) we make things seem too easy. All my friends say “you look great” as I go through my third round of chemo in 4 years (non-Hodglins lymphoma). I should look great! I’ve lost 10 pounds this month alone, can’t eat a thing and sleep a lot!

    Carpe Diem (my cancer battle cry!)

  4. As usual Katherine, you use language in a beautiful way to elucidate the experiences of people like us. Thank you for your beautiful remembrances of Gigi and for speaking the truth. May we all have long periods of “Gigi time”. I guess having this cancer sometimes brings to mind the truism that outward appearances do not always represent what is really underneath.

  5. Susan says:

    What a beautifully moving video and post. Thank you.

  6. Dorothy Padilla says:

    Thank you for reminding me to live each day to the fullest, and not to take anything for granted. I want to have a heart filled with gratitude for each day God has given to me.
    Beautiful video filled with a wide range of emotions.

  7. Kathleen Engel says:

    Beautiful and truly moving video, Katherine.

  8. Lorie says:

    That was a very beautiful video! I’m sure your friend Gigi would have liked it. Joyful and honest, that was exactly how the video was. It made me smile, made me sad of the realities in it. And thanks for sharing her facebook post too. A lot of us can relate to what she said, to “not take anything for granted”. With our busy lives its so easy to let things pass us by without realizing how important they are to us and how we should be grateful of all things that we have. Today I am reminded again to be grateful. Thanks and I wish you all the best!

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