Well, this past weekend, I met a lot of amazing friends, sistahs, and soul mates at Ladies Rock Camp Boston — most of them had no idea what was going on in my life prior to meeting them. So, I’m going to do a quick shout out here.
My friend Raven just posted a note on my Facebook: “Who did people look up to before Liza came along?” This is incredibly touching because when Raven knew me, I wasn’t exactly the nicest, kindest person on the block. I was catty, petty, competitive, and focused more on pushing others down so that I would seem taller.
I’m definitely a work in progress. I’m not as kind as I want to be. Not as forgiving as I need to be. And not as confident as I have to be. But I know that my life has changed for the better.
And, it really started with this little girl right here.
Back in 2003, my incredible husband, Jorge, and I were living the dream. Good jobs. Good money. Nice apartment in New York. New baby. Even when we moved to Massachusetts, we were experiencing so much success. We just bought a house. Our families were growing. And, our careers were really taking off.
Then, one day, we found out Joli had cancer. She had just turned 2 years old, and our world came crashing down on us. We had no warning. No net. Nothing to shake us from this nightmare.
But, as I reflect on that day, our world wasn’t turned upside-down at all — it was finally turning right-side-up.
On that day, and each day since, we all became more loving. More kind. More generous. More compassionate. We began to see that life really did change on a moment’s notice, and that we had to find ways to express love more than hate; kindness more than pain; joy more than sadness. We began to see that when we helped others feel taller, we felt taller, too. Not a small goal for a 5’2″ chubby gal…!
We aren’t perfect, and many times we forget these lessons. But, overall, our glass is not just half-full — it’s always overflowing. We found that the more love we put out there, it always multiplied back. And, the beauty of it all is that it came from family, friends and strangers.
It’s that outlook that got us through chemotherapy, a removal of her eye, and lots of diagnoses and doctor’s appointments since then. It got us through my sister’s cancer, my own BRCA diagnosis, a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy, an upcoming oopherectomy (removal of my ovaries), a skin cancer scare, and even some other genetic diagnoses that I’m still just not ready to confront yet.
Once I began to see that cancer was the greatest gift our family had ever received, nothing could stop us. Nothing could stand in the way of believing that “what we create is far greater than what can destroy us.”
Joli’s endurance through her cancer treatments, how she deals with bullying, and even the ways she sticks up for others when doing so isn’t popular, reminds me that cancer didn’t rob her of her vision or her health.
Cancer gave her a heart.
And, through all of that, she gave us a little bit of soul.
Peace, love and remembering “You don’t have to find out you’re dying in order to start living” (Zach Sobiech, RIP)