When I went through my year of hell I thought that there couldn’t possibly be anyone who could fully understand what an emotional roller coaster this disease causes. I’ve written time and time again about the anxiety, confusion, waiting, changes, decisions, more waiting, bad news, fight and uncertainty. But then I met my match when I connected with Lindsay who would tell me things as if she was reading my mind. Our long conversations included phrases like, “TOTALLY!” or “I know exactly what you mean!” or “You took the words right out of my mouth!” ….and then suddenly her C-Word (Crohn’s) turned into another C-Word (Cancer) and I found myself struggling to find those right words.
Luckily for me, Lindsay was beautifully open and honest and allowed me into her world of now fighting for her life. And one of the things that she told me was that (up until a certain point,) Crohn’s disease had been far more debilitating than cancer and she (at times) felt way worse from a flare up, than she had been during chemo and radiation. She reminded me of the times of crawling on the floor to try and make it to the toilet, or the incredible blood loss, or the pains of the stomach cramping. So once again, we were connected.
Months ago (as if we were just on the same wave length) we decided we were going to team up for this year’s Gutsy Walk. I don’t even remember actually discussing it, but we just knew we HAD to do it together. We had to take on this fight together and tackle fundraising in a dual effort for a foundation that was so dear to both of us. And so was born, “Team C-Word.” Our goal was $5000 and to my most humbling disbelief, we raised $6025.
Leading up to the walk, I knew Lindsay’s health was deteriorating and I asked over and over again, “Are you sure you want to do the walk?” “Do you think you’ll be able to come?” “Do you want to arrange a wheel chair I can push you in?” …Her responses were, “I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” and “I’m doing better than usual and I’m confident I’ll be just fine!” I can honestly say I held my breath the entire walk, waiting for her to say she needed a break or couldn’t do the whole thing. But my god! She raved about the weather, how kind my people were, what a beautiful location our walk was. She took the time to get to know my best friend, my sister and really soak in what a wonderful time with her mom. We took photos, we laughed, we held hands and hugged each other tight. It was the MOST special day.
The Gutsy Walk was the last day I ever saw Lindsay.
We lost her on July 19th and I will never forget getting that gut wrenching news. My world just became a lot darker, and my baggage just became a lot heavier. Other than remembering my second family being by my side, and a fast drive home from my sister and a long tearful phone call from my best friend, the day was a blur.
The next few days were a slew of condolences and love sent my way because people knew what a loss this was. My best friend said to me, “At first I wouldn’t have understood the significance of your grief if I hadn’t met her myself. But I spent only a couple of hours with her, and I’M completely devastated,”…and so she understood the impact this beautiful soul had on the world, and I had my shoulder to cry on.
The following days included a visitation where I could barely keep my knees from collapsing, and a heartbreaking service where her mother gave the most eloquent speech, filled with laughter and happy memories perfectly encompassing Lindsay’s life. Her bother who was poised, strong and wise, along with an entire chapel filled with people who were touched by Lindsay’s bravery and positivity showed me how much joy she brought to this world.
And then I saw an individual that I recognized. I met her once at a Jays game when she was there with Linds and I remembered that they had only met that day, but connected in a “bile cancer” support group. I don’t know the extent of their connection but here was this girl who only just met Lindsay, sitting at her funeral grieving. I was also reminded of the outpour on social media from individuals all over the WORLD reaching out to me leading up to her passing, asking me for updates and sending prayers. They saw me tagged in recent photos with her (from our Gutsy Walk) and needed to know how she was doing, and needed me to pass along those well wishes and prayers. Once again I was blown away (but not at all surprised) of the inspiration and magic she brought to the world.
Suddenly my world had light again.
The last few weeks have been nothing short of excruciating. Returning to work, to reality, the grind, the day to day, the normal…when all is not normal. I find myself keeping busy is the hustle which has helped absolutely, but then I’ll be driving and I feel that pit in my stomach, or a certain song comes on the radio and I have tears welling up, or I go to send a Snapchat and have to pass over her name. At the same time, that light has shown me rainbows, sunrises, puppy ice cream, sunflowers, and laughter. And I’m slowly realizing that it’s okay to be happy again. It’s okay to grieve, and miss her and be sad, but at the same time it’s okay to smile, to dance, to kiss and to breath. It. Is. Okay.
The last few weeks I also have gained a new love and utmost gratitude for our dear friend that connected us. Kelsey, not only did you share your best friend with me, and graciously allow us to develop a portion of a friendship you already have with her, but you recognized the pain you feel, is in me as well. You have been a ray of sunshine that has reminded me of what a blessing it was to have known the BEST person. You left me with a little Moroccan trinket, I will always attribute to the piece of my heart that is lost, but the beauty this big world has to offer. She is proud you are out exploring it, and next time, it’s my turn to cross the Atlantic. You brought her into my life just when I needed it, and although I’m still navigating the whys and hows of the past month, I know she was somebody I was supposed to meet. So thank you.
I will leave you with this message from Lindsay, posted on the day of her second chemo treatment in an effort to inspire, offer courage, and share that love:
“Trying to maintain a positive mindset when your body’s organs keep failing on you time after time has never really been easy, although I’m doing it well. I’ve definitely realized that being positive isn’t about expecting the best to happen every time, rather its about accepting whatever happens is the best at the moment. Think of it this way: every cell in your body is eavesdropping on your thoughts. If you’re thinking negatively and critically, it’s affecting your whole body. Which is why I choose positive. Positive life, positive choices, positive people.” ❤