My older sister, who is, incidentally, SUPER WOMAN, will sometimes patiently listen to me bemoan the current troubles and turmoil of my life. Then I will feel guilty, because, as far as troubles and turmoil go, it often seems like Shirleen has won the sweepstakes. I will apologize, and then, because she is wise (and SUPER WOMAN), she will say, “It’s not a contest.” It is a lovely acknowledgement that we all have struggles and she that validates mine in spite of what might be happening to her. Of course I love her dearly.

And I really take that sentiment to heart: IT’S NOT A CONTEST. Everyone has personal demons. Everyone is entitled to bad days or bad weeks or even bad years. Some problems, unfortunately, TAKE years with which to deal. There are real and serious maladies, physical and mental (which IS physical in that it’s usually chemical), that can take what seems a lifetime to resolve or just manage. Therefore, I must confess, personally I’d like to take up the RIGHT to such predicaments with the “Buck up” brigades or the “yank yourself up by your bootstraps” contingent; indeed, I have some choice words I could share with the whole “suck it up and get over it as quickly as possible for it makes me uncomfortable and I tire of it” club. For not EVERYTHING can be wished or “positively thought” away.

Shirleen could sit and very dispassionately tell the story of her life and silence them all. SHOCK and AWE, I tell you. OR, my “Best Girl,” Lindsay, could SHUT THEM UP. Shut them up BIG TIME.

It would only take two words: Eleven years. Lindsay has fought not one, but TWO primary cancers for ELEVEN YEARS. Today, in fact, is her “cancerversary.” At age seventeen she was diagnosed with brain stem glioma. Her prognosis was beyond grim. But despite the cancer, and despite life experiences that would have destroyed the best and bravest of the Greek or Roman mythic heroes, she is STILL HERE. Years and years of chemotherapy and radiation and surgeries and batteries of tests and a SECOND major diagnosis – Multiple Myeloma – she is STILL HERE. For eleven years she has been in treatment or in physical and/or occupational therapy to RECOVER from treatment.

Kate and Lindsay
Kate and Lindsay (in LIVESTRONG glow and Artsy?)

In addition to treatments, during these eleven years she has managed to work (HARD), attend classes (I do believe she’s the only person I know – nay – the only person I’ve ever HEARD OF who has passed classes WHILE IN A COMA, but that’s a story for another time) and take a trip here and there. This is in addition to her regular activities of taking care of OTHER people.

Now, it’s important that I explain to you that Lindsay is a FOREIGNER (not unlike my Soul Sister, Henrike) except she speaks a fascinating dialect of English, as she is from Regina (“Rhymes With Fun” – you’ll either get that or be flummoxed – if you are flummoxed, you aren’t MEANT to get it, trust me), Saskatchewan (in the Foreign country of CANADA). Get this: They don’t have mountains there!

She was able to visit me last March, not too long after she finished a BRUTAL clinical trial for her Multiple Myeloma. Ironically, we spent a certain amount of time doing what I’ve done when I’ve been in Canada: We stood in various stores – especially convenience stores – comparing the snacks and items that the other country does NOT have. I find this endlessly amusing. Then, a few months ago, I had the AMAZING privilege of rooming with Henrike, my Soul Sister, AND Lindsay, my Best Girl, in Austin, Texas at the LIVESTRONG Challenge.

Lindsay, Kate and Henrike
The “Bubble Wrap” Brigade: Lindsay, Kate and Henrike

While I battled personal demons and a clusterfu – em – debacle with the airline and was late to Austin, Henrike (with a SERIOUS leg injury – the extent of which was not revealed until she was back in Germany) and Lindsay, with her mighty cane, did the 5K walk. Yes, they took a slight detour, but they DID IT; they received their yellow roses. Sadly, I was ON the plane at the time, but the thought of my two dear friends achieving that goal together is very moving.

Lindsay, who has an INCREDIBLY generous heart and is loathe to “bother” or “cause trouble” for anyone, has supported ME – sometimes from her hospital bed. She is a true friend. She is the DEFINITION and POSTER CHILD of true friend. She always wants me to remember how “amazing” that I am. We have this back and forth argument (of the mocking variety) wherein I respond to that with, “No, YOU!” Sometimes we agree to AGREE.

I grant you, Lindsay has some bad days (some REALLY bad days if you consider them objectively), but she tries not to complain. She CERTAINLY does not complain widely or loudly, so to speak. On December 10th, (yes, on her “cancerversary”) one year ago today, she was suddenly faced with the prospect of being put in a medical coma. She found a friend to take her phone to text updates to me, but before they actually medicated her into the coma, she went under on her own. It was a completely and utterly terrifying time and I’ve never felt so helpless in my life. And LINDSAY – you’ve tried it before, but you are NOT to apologize for any of this – it was ALL beyond your control. Besides, YOU were the one going through hell; it’s about YOU not ME.

I won’t go into too many details, but I received the most chilling text message from Jen (Lindsay’s friend in charge of updates) at the salon just as I’d had a cut and style. She sent it in real time, so for several horrible moments… I cannot describe it. A second message finally tempered the first a bit. I stayed calm, somehow, until I was in my car and I tried to relate the story to a mutual friend who was keeping tabs on her, too.

Considering some of the events while she was under, and the fact that the longer she in a coma the worse her chances of coming out AT ALL were, every day counted. But Lindsay hadn’t fought ten years (at that point) for nothing. With the whole Facebook and Twitter cancer communities behind her, sending prayers and thoughts to her, she performed a Christmas miracle. Yes, I believe in miracles because of Lindsay. On Christmas day, 2009, she FULLY woke up. She’d given a few encouraging signs in the days before, but that day she TOOK her phone from Jen’s hands and texted me herself. Hands down, the best Christmas present ever.

So today, Lindsay, on your eleventh “Cancerversary,” I want you to know how amazing YOU are. No, it’s not a contest. But if it WERE a contest, you’d WIN (which, I grant, is a mixed bag of prizes). I know this day is not scheduled how you’d like it to be. I know you are STILL deeply entrenched in this journey – this journey that seems endless to you sometimes. But you are here for a reason. You inspire me, as you inspire so many others. I love you, my Best Girl!

You can read Lindsay’s “story” (well, some of it, anyway, as so much as happened since she wrote it) on the Voices of Survivors Website.