This past weekend, I walked with my wife and two young children around Disneyland. We’ve been there many times. Enjoying the moment as we walked back to the Disneyland Hotel I was very happy in the moment. Grateful for that moment. In that moment, I was happy that I was alive.
The day before, we’d met a man from Canada, Rob, who was on a bucket trip, bringing his grandson to Disneyland. We’d talked briefly, a conversation spurred by his comment and complement of our engaging three year old and quite vocal 6 month old baby. I heard him say to his grandson, “I didn’t ask for cancer. It just is.” I was struck by the tone of quiet acceptance and his attentiveness to the moment he was in. I asked him if he’d like to hold the baby and the light and joy that filled his face as he smiled and said yes was brilliant to behold.
Thinking of Rob while the family walked that next day brought me to that grateful moment. And reminded me of all those I had known or know that have cancer.
A friend’s fiancée in college, brain cancer. He beat it. My paternal grandfather, stomach cancer when I was a kid, he survived. My maternal grandmother, breast cancer I think, she died when my mother was 15 years old or so. My mother’s best friend and my second mom Bev – her second husband, lost to cancer. Bev herself, years later to aggressive brain cancer in 2005. In 2004 she had walked me down the aisle at my wedding, my mom gone from an aneurysm in 1984. I was in Iraq and didn’t get home in time to say goodbye to Bev. My Uncle Fred in 2011, also from brain cancer, a vicious aggressive monster of a cancer. My friend Ace, years back when I was in my thirties – ovarian cancer. She beat it but we’ve lost contact and I don’t know if she still has. My friend and professional colleague from the Army, Charlie, battles cancer now in its final stages, she lives each moment with dignity and delight now months past the last month her doctors gave her. She does not retreat, but fights for equality for her family as a lesbian Soldier denied recognition of her wife and daughter as her family even now while in stage IV with a cancer that has spread across her body. Rajeshwari Ravenlight, whom I knew as Ravenlight, who long ago when I was just moved to the Bay Area was a touchstone from home and who was kind when I was in need. She ended her decades long battle with cancer just recently. Another friend, who has battled two different cancers, and continues on. A literary colleague who battles cancer now.
Eleven people in my life. Grateful as we walked together, my wife and children, I considered that cancer strikes 1 in 3 women. We are four and walking I prayed that it would miss each of us, conscious that I have missed its statistical assualt several times already.
There is another young women, Julie Forward DeMay that lost her battle with cervical cancer. I never knew Julie. She was among many things, a writer as well as daughter, sister, wife and mother. Julie died two days after her 37th birthday, on August 10th, 2009. Before she died, she’d kept a blog journal of her journey and battle with cervical cancer. The book, Cell War Notebooks, collect the entries together and include many of her photos as she was also a photographer. Her mother published the book after Julie’s death.
Cell War Notebooks is a journey of courage and hope in a war that she did not win if winning is measured solely in the body living on. The book is her legacy to the world, and to others mired in the battle of cancer’s ravaging, and for their families. History is written by those who survive. Julie did not survive the war. Her words though, her photos, her art – go on and remain. Her spirit remains as a beacon of hope and courage, dignity and determination. She wrote her own history.
Julie is not here to blog or tweet or promote her own book. Today’s post is for her. Read her book. Share it with others. Julie’s words live.
The folks at Duolit have a blog-a-thon going today in honor of Julie. Please surf over to Indies Forward: Cell War Notebooks
January 31st is IndiesForward day – a special blogging event dedicated to spreading the legacy of Julie Forward DeMay and her touching memoir, The Cell War Notebooks.
What would you do when faced with a battle for your life? Author, photographer and creative spirit Julie Forward DeMay took on her fight with cervical cancer like she was playing for the new high score in her favorite video game, Asteroids. Inspiring, witty, beautiful and brutally honest, The Cell War Notebooks is a compilation of the blog Julie kept during the last seven months of her life. It’s a powerful read for anyone, whether your life has been touched by cancer or not. Check out the paperback on Amazon and keep up with the latest news on Facebook. All proceeds from book sales go to Julie’s nine year-old daughter.
Cell War Notebooks is available at:
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