It is breast Cancer Awareness month and I think about the survivors who are dear to my heart. Here are just a few:
Millie Harmon Myers
These women continue to lead their lives as if they have been blessed with a second lease on life. They continue to forge ahead with confidence and curiosity rather than fear and regret. And if there are moments when these fine strong women worry about the possible return of the pitiless bully, they certainly do not seem to let their worries get in the way.
And there are those who fought with all of their might but just could not win. One woman in particular comes to mind. Her name is Anna Lobianco.
Anna, whom I mentioned in my book, Fortytude: Making the Next Decades the Best Years of Your Life through Your Forties, Fifties, and Beyond, was truly a force of nature. As a high school classmate of Anna’s, I would watch in awe the way in which she effortlessly engaged with others and her infectious laughter that seemed to even disarm those who were not easily amused.
The last time I saw Anna was October 22, 2005. It was my friend Amy’s 36th birthday, and Amy wanted to celebrate it by inviting her dearest friends to her favorite lowbrow, tacky Mexican restaurant in the West Village. Because I had already been informed that Anna was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 Breast Cancer after she discovered a lump in her breast while breast-feeding one of her two children, I was surprised to see her at the party. But, after several rounds of chemotherapy and a double mastectomy, Anna was finally in remission and felt well enough to participate in the festivities and even take a couple of tequila shots to commemorate our twenties and embrace our thirties. It was such a relief to see Anna in such good spirits. It was also such a relief to know that she was strong enough and healthy enough to look after her two little ones after the proverbial hell through which had to go.
In June, 2006, Anna passed away. I will never forget the day that I received an email from Amy that read, “Sadly, Anna Lobianco has passed away this morning after several days of fighting for her life…”
I attended Anna’s funeral and not surprisingly, many people from all walks of life attended as well: teachers from the public school where Anna taught in Harlem, androgynous looking college pals with pink hair, pierced noses and low-slung jeans, her fellow classmates from our alma mater, Dalton, and countless others. You can imagine that there was not one person who could abstain from crying for the loss of this young vibrant 36-year-old woman. But, as requested by Anna during her remaining days on this earth, everyone was supposed to invite humor into the funeral. So those who were assigned to the eulogies made a point to tell a funny story that involved Anna. Just thinking about it six years later makes me laugh and cry at the same time.
Cancer is one son-of-a-bitch pitiless bully. I don’t ABHOR much in this world. But, I ABHOR Cancer. It is cruel and unforgiving. And, it steals lives from those like Anna, who have impacted many with their generosity, brilliance, strength, courage, and ferocity.
Perhaps Anna was given a greater purpose by being placed in another world, where she is to welcome those who, too, could not win the battle. And if she is lucky, she may be the one to welcome our generation’s game changer, Steve Jobs with open arms and to disarm him with her laughter.
R.I.P. Anna. And Steve, make sure to let Anna know that she is missed.