On Friday night, our friend Lisa Adams died of metastatic breast cancer. She was 45.
Much has been said about Lisa, about how she was a warrior, about how hard she fought, and I nod my head and echo those sentiments. Lisa stood out because Lisa was a different type of cancer patient; she defied the very stereotype of a dying person, doling out inspiration and comfort by the fist.
I say this because I think that Lisa would agree: Lisa wasn’t here to bring us comfort. Her disease and suffering did not exist to inspire us. They just existed, and she hated it as much as a mother dying of cancer should. Lisa was not prone to personal sob stories; instead she fundraised and educated us on the disease and the brutalities of metastatic breast cancer. She wasn’t writing for sympathy, or to comfort us.
But she did bring comfort, the hope that one day we would, too, live tenaciously, live beyond what our diagnoses dictated.That we could be as strong as Lisa.
Sometimes reading Lisa’s blogs confounded me. How could she be so steely, I wondered, so full of reserve, so full of fight. She was, at times, airtight and clinical. She was patient with her readership, knowing that they did not fully understand the world that she inhabited. Lisa explained things, gave knowledge, shared tips on how to be a better patient. And then Lisa would share a poem, or write about her children, and your heart would crack at the unfairness of losing this young mother, this beacon.
Earlier this year, I began to emerge from a two and a half year illness that had taken me out of my busy, twentysomething life and placed me in the apartment above my parents’ garage. Throughout this time, Lisa was as close to me as she had ever been. She was always a message away from helping me, and I greedily accepted her knowledge. She answered my questions speedily. She referred me to a hematologist who helped revive my blood counts. I knew Lisa online for five years, and throughout it all, no matter what she was facing, up until this very last month, she wrote me, checking to see how I was.
I recently found the first correspondence we ever had. It was in 2009; I was holed up in NYU hospital, battling a lupus flare and the first emergence of diabetes. Through Julie Klam, she had found my blog and even as a stranger, sent me good wishes and offered advice.
She sent me more than that over the last five years. She sent strength and beauty and delight. I loved how she loved my niece, and how she cheered me on.
I won’t ever forget her. I won’t ever want to stop asking how she is or hear something funny that her son Tristan said. I’ll never forget how much she went through to stay alive, for as long as possible.
And the next time I face a health obstacle and want to give up, I’ll hear Lisa in my ear, telling me to persevere. To keep going. That there is beauty outside and I must go and see it.
When I recently admitted to her that I felt guilty that I had survived, and that she wouldn’t, she didn’t let me finish my sentence. She made me feel that I deserved the sunshine.
But she deserved it too. And God, I wish she had longer in the light.
Goodbye, Lisa. Thank you.