“…I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone, from the beginning to the end.
He noted that first came her date of birth, and spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years…”
The way we live our lives creates a ripple effect, like a stone cast into a pond, and we are so often unaware of the reach our decisions have, or the impact they will make on others.
We so often take for granted our good health, our homes, our jobs and family. We wish away the dishes, the teething, the laundry, the terrible twos, the troublesome teens without giving thought to how we are blessed with the opportunity to experience them.
Every trial, every tribulation is another opportunity to appreciate that we are alive and well enough to experience it. Suffering of course, is a matter of perspective, but no one has ever put my life into perspective quite like Susan Niebur, or how I came to know her: @whymommy.
I don’t remember how I stumbled across her blog, or her twitter account, I just know that I am forever changed because I did. She is a woman about my age, a mother, a friend, a blogger, a 4 time cancer survivor, a wife, an astrophysicist and perhaps one of the most exceptional people I’ve ever crossed paths with.
Since her original diagnosis, Susan has blogged her way into the hearts and lives of countless people across the globe. Her eloquent way of expressing herself in such honest, open terms allowed people from all walks of life to identify with and rally around her. An army of warriors championing her to defeat the disease that threatened everything she held dear.
Because of her open honest accounts of her cancer treatments, she has thrust Inflammatory Breast Cancer in to the lime light, and demanded more funds, more focus, and more research to be done. She is a one (wo)man army that is unstoppable. Because of Susan, women are learning that there is a breast cancer that is lethal and vicious, and comes without any lump.
Because of Susan and her blog and tireless efforts and unfathomable grace, I took notice of an irregularity in my own right breast, and with a lump the size of a golf ball in my throat, trotted off immediately to a doctor who didn’t know what IBC was, but because of my insistence, they performed a biopsy (2, actually as they botched the first). Thankfully, it came back normal. We don’t know what caused the discoloration in appearance, but it is now gone with nothing to remind me but an angry-looking scar.
My story had a happy ending, but it could have been different. And had it not been for Susan and her honesty, I wouldn’t have paid it any attention. Explaining it away as a bug bite, or reaction, or bruise, or anything other than the scary big C. I know countless others have also yielded her advice, and I implore you all to do the same. Know your body. Be educated and don’t take no for an answer.
To give you an indication of the impact this woman has had on virtual strangers, I point you to the @whymommy love fest. That is only part 1. Part 2 and 3 are floating on the interweb somewhere, and I believe the submissions keep pouring in. You can visit the @whymommy love fest on facebook, as well.
Her reach and her impact, her dash has been lived in such a way that is a shining example to everyone. She is every inch, every ounce nothing short of exceptional.
I don’t know what the future holds for Susan, as here is an excerpt from her most recent blog post
“A conversation with my husband, shortly after arriving home this afternoon with fresh oxygen tanks, spots on my liver, fluid pushing around my lungs (likely filled with cancer, as are the tumors inside) and at least one broken vertebra that must be healed before we resume any kind of treatment. –
How did we get here? I asked my love, across the bed strewn with children’s toys, books, and an oxygen tank.”
But I do know that the future of women’s cancer is more optimistic because of her, the path for women in planetary science blazes because of her and the ripples from the stones she has cast will outreach, and out last all of us.
Susan, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for letting us into your life. Whatever is in your future, I wish you peace and grace.
For more information on Inflammatory Breast Cancer please visit some of the following links:
Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation
Canadian Cancer Society – Symptoms
Willow Breast Cancer Support
Breast Cancer Society of Canada
Discussion Boards (If you are looking for support)
If you’re a mother with cancer, you are not alone, visit this tremendous group of women just like you. You are not alone
Mothers with Cancer
Please, share this information with your mother, sisters, aunts, neighbours, coworkers, friends, nieces and any woman you may know. IBC is not detected by mammogram, and it is unknown to many, many women.
It is with great sadness that we mark the passing of Susan Niebur on February 6th.
Her husband Curt writes a good bye post
Rest easy, Susan. You’ve made a difference.