Monday, January 4, 2010


I hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday and New Year. The past weeks were filled with activities for me, and I was blessed to spend them with family and friends. Many people expressed to me that it must be a hard time for me. I definitely found myself reflecting on the past year and all that happened- good and bad. Christmas decorations went up, we cut down our trees, shopped, sang carols, opened gifts, rang in a new decade. And these moments were no less special, but I was always aware that someone was missing. Not in a painful way for me, but there were times when I did expect Dan to come in the door wearing his green ski hat bragging about a gift he'd bought or excited that the snow was falling. It is shocking how time passes, and how quickly it goes. His nieces and nephews are growing, and he didn't see the changes. He would have loved every minute of the holiday season, and well, it just doesn't seem fair he wasn't with us. But, I can never sit and think of these things too long because that wouldn't be fair either. To either one of us.

Perhaps the oddest thing to me is that it's now 2010. No longer 2009- such a formative year. I can honestly look back and be thankful for what that year brought. Last Christmas, I didn't know who would be in my life once Dan was gone. It was a very lonely feeling at the time, and I remember us talking about it. We didn't know Dan would be gone so soon after we celebrated, but there was a moment when we could sense it. How was I to know that those fears would never be realized. Dan's gift this year was his wonderful family that I consider my own, and his friends who have become mine. And his mission that will always be a part of me. I can look back and feel so thankful for his love and support. That won't leave me- ever. Memories that should be painful, particularly of his last few weeks, have taken on a new meaning. Sitting with his brother Bobby when Dan was in hospice, spending an evening playing board games with Patrice and James when Dan was still cracking jokes and getting mad he was losing, praying with Holly & Cindy the morning he passed... those are very special and poignant memories now. Even as he neared the end of his life, Dan allowed us to come together... he was a catalyst for such a change and awakening in my life. I am sad to see 2009 go- it was the last year he was here, and was filled with such hope, determination and love. It is hard to say goodbye.

Cancer can't rob us of these moments. In the past few months, cancer has been a consistent presence in my life. My dear friend lost her father after only 3 months- to lung cancer. They weren't granted the gift of time that we were, and it was a tough road. I sat in the same church where Dan's funeral and watched my friend speak about her dad in the same spot I had stood only months before- how is that possible? Our dear family friend is currently undergoing chemo, and I went to her first chemo appointment at Hopkins in late December. Back on familiar ground... it was oddly comforting. Yes, there were dark days there, but Hopkins was also such a huge part of our relationship. We spent more time there with family and friends than anyplace else. And we loved to get Rita's italtian ice on the way home, and talk about everything and anything under then sun. I hate to see other people go through similar things that we did- the fear and uncertainty and the randomness of bad things happening to wonderful people. I realized that I can't ignore cancer- not that I ever would. And I am reminded of how powerful the connection is for those that have been on the inside. Some things can't be explained on that front, but when cancer comes around now, I am there, ready to swing for the fences, hold a hand, cry with others... do whatever it takes to make it just a little less scary. For me- 2009 was the year of cancer... my largest and now continued exposure to the disease. But as I said, cancer can't take away our love, hope, laughter & admiration for one another- but like Dan, it can be a catalyst for good things as well.

The holidays are often a time when we wish peace for each other. I don't know that I will ever be at peace with the loss of Dan. I get to move on and have these moments, but he doesn't. His restless energy visits me often- I know when he is around. And I rather like it... because there is much work to be done. Yes, as a cancer advocate. But also as a good friend and someone who can lend a helping hand or just a feeling that someone doesn't have to be alone. I am still learning what this whole experience means, and will be for a long time to come.

So, I am not making any resolutions this year. Any day is a good day to wake up and decide to make a change or do something new. No excuses because life is really way too short, and even if you go through something awful... life goes on and a new challenge will be presented.

I thank everyone for the love and support this year... I didn't get around to doing Christmas cards and am way behind on many things. But I am getting there, and I have all the wonderful notes and cards hanging up- from new family & friends, and the old.

I wish everyone a great year. For those that lost Dan or someone else they loved- I am sorry they weren't there to celebrate with us physically. But they are in our hearts- always.