36. Talk about the elephant

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Lauren shared what it was like to follow her daughter’s lead in getting through Melissa’s end-of-life, and how having had open conversations about Melissa’s wishes gave Lauren a path forward during grief and led to the founding of a nonprofit to support thousands of AYA cancer patients in her community.

I thought a lot about what Melissa’s brother said during his graduation speech to his 400 classmates 20 years ago – that Melissa’s life was not taken away, but that it was just shorter than most. I’m astounded by how much is packed in that one simple sentence in the mind of a 16-year-old. There was a sense of defiance, meaning – don’t pity my sister. But there was also this profound wisdom about – it’s not how long you live that matters, but what you do with the time you were given. I know that losing my dad helped me better appreciate the finality of my own life and has given me focus and gratitude that I probably would not otherwise have if I didn’t go through that painful experience with him.

I’m also keenly aware, however, that insights like this are often luxury in a sense. It’s a perspective that’s easier to hold when you can put the adversity behind you. For those in the thick of things, it may not be so easy. But that’s also what’s really incredible about Melissa, is that she had that clarity while facing her imminent death.

Find out more about 13 Thirty Cancer Connect‘s programs that are now available virtually and locally in Rochester NY and Syracuse NY.

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