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Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016 Wasn't A Killer Year

There's been a lot of chatter about how many celebrities have died in 2016. Many of them had lived long lives. Others had notorious and distressing history of drug and alcohol abuse and eating disorders. I don't know if 2016 really was a remarkably bad year for celebrities - I'm sure there are statistics out there. Some deaths made me feel sadness more than others. We all die in the end; sometimes naturally and sometimes tragically.

Since I began my journey with cancer in 2012, I've made many new friends and many of them shared the common situation of having cancer. It goes without saying that having cancer greatly increases risk of death.

Not a day goes by without thinking about the friends I've lost. 

2016 took two very special people that I had the blessing of knowing if only for a short time.

One friend was Alan Braverman z"l (of blessed memory).
I was honored to meet both Alan and his wife, Tammy, when they came to hear me speak just over a year ago. Alan and I shared some similarities on our cancer journeys; particularly that we were both very young to get the types of cancer that were each diagnosed with. We both had surprisingly early relapses and ensuing continued on and off treatments right up until the end. More importantly, we shared some of the same life philosophies. Over the past year, I've taken great comfort in having a friend that I could confide in and we shared a dialogue that only young adults with stage four cancer could possibly fully understand. Alan lived life his way and I learned a lot from him. Alan passed away last Friday night, December 23rd, 2016.

In April Alan and I were both invited by Tishkofet-Gisha l'Chaim to a HOPE seminar. We attended along with other cancer patients and survivors. 
Alan z"l

At the HOPE seminar I met Rella in person for the first time. We continued to correspond and support each other, making plans for getogethers which, sadly never happened. Rella Itin z"l (of blessed memory) tragically passed away on August 4th, 2016. 
Rella z"l 

I know that my friends' deaths are not about me. Their deaths left young spouses and families behind including teens, young children, and toddlers. Large extended families and countless friends are also in mourning.

I always say that life is short and precious. I often talk about the purpose of life on this earth and each of us being tiny pixels in the great big picture..... and while I know it's not about me, since I began this often painful yet meaningful journey, my "cancer friends" have come and gone from my life. Though I have friends who had miraculous outcomes, it has become clear to me that friends with advanced stage 4 cancer don't stay earthbound for long. There's no magic formula. No reliable predictions or prophecies. 

I'm not proud of the selfish thoughts that I obviously have. Five years is a milestone statistically for cancer patients. In August I reached 4 years of living with cancer. Some friends never had the opportunity to reach this milestone but many did and are no longer here.

People traditionally like to make New Years Resolutions. Each year of life is an accomplishment for each of us and is certainly felt more intensively by families affected by cancer. Resolutions are about ourselves. How can we be better? How can we make life better for others around us? How will our resolutions and actions leave a positive legacy after our short lives end? How can we bless the memories of the precious souls who passed on to the Next Life?

My New Years Resolution is to live a healthy life - physically and emotionally - and to share my love, faith, hope, and joy with you.

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