Friday, March 2, 2012

Oh the Places You'll Go

Dear Ellen,

Last fall, when you moved to the other side of the world, I really wanted to buy you a book by Dr. Seuss. I am fully aware of how weird that is. Ironically, today is Dr. Seuss' birthday but that has nothing really to do with this letter.

I wanted to send you this book because I felt like it was perfect for the adventure that you and your dashing husband and your three beautiful daughters were about to embark on, in a far off land on the other side of the world. And even though we would never again be three houses away from each other, hollering across the back yard fence - I was so happy for you all that you got to go. To live your dream.
Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!"
And I knew it would be challenging in ways that you hadn't anticipated. And I worried that it might not be as fun as you'd imagined - all that change at once. Everything so different. But I had faith that you would make it awesome. That you would appreciate each new day of your adventure. And you did.
"It's opener there, in the wide open air.
Out there things can happen and frequently do
to people as brainy and footsy as you."
And things did happen there. You saw things and smelled things. And ate things. And you made new friends and made new plans and were well on your way to making a new home. And then you found a lump.

And they sent you back the US by yourself, without your beloved family, to get it checked. And they told you it was breast cancer. And then you told all of us. All of us here who love you. And we all sort of fell apart while you stayed tough and pragmatic and strong. And the only crack in your armor seems to be the fact that they are there and you are here. And you will not see that dashing man and those three beautiful girls again for a while.
"I'm afraid that some times you'll play lonely games too.
Games you can't win 'cause you'll play against you.
All Alone! Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something you'll be quite a lot."
I worry now about you being away from your sacred, small family. I also worry that you're scared. Isn't it funny how scared and sacred are practically the same word? I always mistype them. I'm not the first to see the connection between those two words but right now it feels like it. And I have a feeling that in the months to come, all those who love you will be experiencing those moments - those scared, sacred moments. Where we have to face what's happening to this family we love. And our hearts will fill up and our eyes will fill up and we'll say a prayer.

But those scared, sacred moments will really be yours alone.
"And when you're alone, there's a very good chance
you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won't want to go on."
When I get worried about this, there is one thought that sustains me. The fact that you are a tiny, hardcore, ass-kicking ninja. And though you're scared, everyone who knows you knows this: You're braver than you're scareder. You will kick this cancer's ass the same way you've beaten every other shitty thing life has thrown at you.
"But on you will go, though the weather be foul.
On you will go, though your enemies prowl.
Onward up many a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore, and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike and I know you'll hike far
and face up to your problems, whatever they are.
They caught this early. You're strong and brave. You're going to be well and reclaim your amazing adventure. You will smoosh your girls with the sort of hugs that could possibly crack their ribs (because you're strong like Mighty Mouse and sometimes you forget that). You will have a really long, Hollywood style kiss with your handsome husband and no one will care that it's a little awkward because there are other people there watching. You're going to win.
"And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)


So today is the day your fighting really starts. Even though you've been in battle mode for several weeks and technically today is the wonderful Dr. Suess' birthday, it's really your day. Today you have the the surgery that will remove the cancer. And that's good.

Though I have to say - this is in many ways a horrible day. Because none of this should be happening to you. You should not have to move this mountain. The unfairness of it makes me want to scream and ugly sob and kickpunch. (Except that I tried to kickpunch that one time with you in the cul-de-sac and I fell down. Remember? I can only kickpunch if I'm doing it in slo-mo.) I hate that this is happening to you and your family. I hate that you're here in this scared, sacred moment today, though I know you will come through it beautifully.
"Somehow you'll escape all that waiting and staying.
You'll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing.
This is also an amazing day, because you have doctors and technology and health insurance and people all over the world who love you so much. And honestly, this cancer has no idea who it's dealing with. But it's about to find out.
"Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting.
So... Get on your way!"
I'm praying for you, for your husband and daughters, for the people in that far away land who are helping to care for them, for the family here in the US who is caring for you, for your surgeon, your oncologist, everyone who will help to guide you through this. I'm praying my ass off.

You know that at any time, the Cap'n and I are happy to have you here. We have room. Right now being with your extended family on the left side of the country is where you need to be, but if you ever want to come back to the right side (and by that I mean the East Coast), we're ready to be here for you for as long as you need us.

And I'm so sorry. Sorry this is happening, sorry for every time in our friendship that I was ever a jerk. And very sorry I didn't buy you this book last fall, when it would have been describing another sort of adventure altogether.

Love you,

This is my beautiful friend.
Ellen was the first friend that Kate and I told about this blog. She was our first fan. She was the first person to "like" us on Facebook. She made Kate and I believe that we were sort of cool and refused to let us give up. She is the kind of friend you don't often get in life. She's the kind of mom who makes you want to love more. She is part of this and she is one of us and she is 30 years old and fighting for her life. Please, please pretty please pray for her - or send her your best wishes or whatever you're comfortable with. Because we need her.

This is the picture of us saying goodbye before she moved.

If you want to keep tabs on her, here is her blog.

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011


  1. Oh my God. I mean that, please deity of your choosing; watch over this amazing woman . Ellen, I have come to care for you as deeply as I do Lydia (limited and a little pathetic given I read a blog for this one -sided relationship).. But... I am so very sorry you are going through this and I give all my prayers and positive energy to you. I wish I lived near your family so I could offer to take the kids for a play date or make your kids their favorite food. Duh, yes I know they would want me to take them to McDonalds.

    Best wishes, hope, and love -
    Please take care,

    PS how stupid am I read "ellen" and thought "isn't this water refreshing" paraphrasing that great attitude from the T-Box tasting. And the dead bird, [giggle] and toilet tag... and "you might want to wait to but on your shirt until you brush your teeth - I love you boobstain but those things have a gravitational force all their own...." and buying Lydia the pajama pants that gave Kate an eye twitch on TV..... Please, please get well soon!

    1. Thanks so much Von. I love that you know her from all those posts. Hugs, Lyd

  2. Sarah In OntarioMarch 2, 2012 at 7:25 AM

    Dang you! Dang you to hell Lydia! You made me ugly cry and scare my kids first thing in the morning! I'm not a church person but I do believe in a higher power of some sort and I will send my prayers for Ellen. Please keep us updated.

  3. Prayers for Ellen, and for the doctors and nurses who care for her,and for everyone who is having a scared/sacred moment because of their love for her.

  4. I am sending your friend all of the kind thoughts, good wishes and healing energy I can.

  5. Ellen,
    Cancer can suck it. Go kick it in the taco, you can beat this! I'll send up a prayer for you and your family today.

  6. I am a sobbing mess at work at my desk. Thanks for that, Lydia. This is one of my favourite books and its so, so fitting.

    Ellen is how I found RFM. We've been online friends since our babies were babies (almost 10 years now!)and she really is an amazing mom and person. Her girls (and her husband!) are really lucky to have her. I'm confident she will beat this.

    Thinking of you today, lady. FIGHT LIKE A GIRL!!

    1. Love "fight like a GIRL!" Perfect!

  7. Many thoughts and prayers go with you Ellen, as you set out on this unwanted journey. Kick cancer in the ass.

  8. Ellen, you kick ass. And you have a fantastic bum.

  9. You are totally going to slap cancer in the face with a sandwich!

    Tons of prayers...

  10. Praying for Ellen, her family, the doctors and medical staff and you, her wonderful friends.

    Thanks for helping me get my sob on before work. This is my favorite book. I read it to my students at the end of each year.

  11. Praying for Ellen today and in the days ahead!!

  12. “I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I've bought a big bat. I'm all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!”
    ― Dr. Seuss

    Big prayers going up for Ellen and her entire family.

    1. I love this so much. Thank you! xo, Lydia

  13. OMGoodness...prayers. For Ellen. For friends who support ud through the good times AND bad. For our heavenly Father to comfort and keep her today, for the doctors and nurses to work expertly, and for her body to FIGHT LIKE CRAZY to beat this.

  14. Prayers for you and your family, Ellen. We are going to love you through this!

  15. Praying for your friend. May her battle be victorious and her recovery swift and complete.

  16. Too many young people going through this... my heart goes out to you guys as you fight this battle!

  17. Praying for Ellen!!!

  18. This is such a moving and amazing letter Lydia!
    Ellen, my daughters and I are sending love and prayers and healing energy your way. And also happy wishes for years of new and exciting adventures along side your family after you kick this cancer!
    xo - Kerry & family

  19. Praying for Ellen and her family and friends!

  20. I am bawling my eyes out. That was a lovely way of sending your friend your support. Cancer is a horrible thing that no one should have to deal with, but it sure makes it easier with friends and support like this. Sending my prayers and good wishes for anyone who needs it.

  21. Lydia, that was beautiful. What amazing women you and Ellen are! I am praying for a fast and full recovery!

  22. Oh, you made me cry and that never happens! What a beautifully written piece. Praying for her now! Cancer needs to go suck it big time!

    Happy thoughts, prayers and get well wishes to you and all of your support team!

  24. My mom and my grandma both kicked breast cancer's ass! And my mom's hair grew back more beautifully after the chemo made it fall out. So there's that to look forward to!

  25. Bridget Y. (Louisville, KY)March 2, 2012 at 9:35 AM

    Prayers prayers prayers prayers!! This is a true example of how wonderful the internet and social networking can be: stories reaching so many people and prayers coming from thousands (millions?!) of complete strangers, all united by this crazy, wonderful blog!

    Ellen, sending you hugs, prayers, and best wishes for a speedy recovery and quick remission as you embark on this unfair journey.

  26. Well, starting the morning off with an ugly cry. But an ugly cry and a prayer. A lot of prayers. Prayers all day long. As we say in my house, you got this Ellen. Hang tough, kid.

  27. That was beautiful! Gave me goosebumps. My mom was just diagnosed with breast cancer, so it means even more to me.

    1. Thoughts and prayers to you and your mom too!!

  28. Tiffany from IndianaMarch 2, 2012 at 9:58 AM

    What a beautiful, moving letter Lydia. Ellen is lucky to have you. And it's not a bit weird that you wanted to give her this book when she moved! I give children's books as gifts all the time as I find they often are the most appropriate for many milestones and big events in life. I'll be praying for Ellen and looking forward to updates on RFML.

  29. AAAWW You guys made me cry! 17 months ago my girlfriend found out she was pregnant with her 2nd child. Her 1st was 7 yrs old. A week later she found out she had stage 3 breast cancer. All this after she too, moved far away. But today she, the baby ,and big brother and daddy are all healthy and fine. I will pray for your Ellen very much and very hard, because that's what got us though.And Love. And Hope.

  30. 4 years ago my mothers uterine cancer came out of remission for the 3rd time. 3 is evidently the magic number....this time around if we couldn't beat this thing it was all over but crying. We knew we would! We had to. Without my Mom I am not sane. Which is funny because she is also the reason I am INSANE! Lol! The snag in our grand plan was she didn't have health insurance. No one would cover her. She'd been denied from every company under the sun. Fast forward 2 years. The tumor in her uterus is so large it's the equivalent of her being 5 months pregnant. It's causing her to bleed constantly. She is in a constant state of anemia & has had to be rushed to the emergency room 5 times. We have $45,000 in medical debt we are powerless to pay. Still no one will help. She collapses again & is again rushed to ER. They tell her there are now 2 more tumors joining the first, which has also grown again. Her ovaries too have now become the territory of the cancer. The only solution is for her to undergo a radical & complete hysterectomy & pray. A $15,000 surgery. We pray for a miracle, we pray for her life, we pray for ANYTHING to happen that doesn't include losing my Mom before she gets a chance to hold her grand baby, a chance to see her only daughter walk down the aisle. Finally, an answer. A charity organization has heard about Mom through friends. They want to help! They call her Dr.s, they call the hospitals. They negotiate like it's THEIR lives on the line, not a woman they never met from central FL. They negotiate the bills to $0 & find a surgeon to perform the operation free of charge, all we have to pay is hospital stay. We get the news & cry. For 3.5hrs over the phone we cry (I live in Norfolk, VA). One week before Thanksgiving she has life saving surgery. I cannot be there for her & it kills me. When I finally get to be by her side it's like I have a new Mom! She has color in her cheeks & a light in her eyes. We cry again. Fast forward 2 more years. No hint of her cancer remains. She is sewing my wedding dress & we take turns visiting each other every 6weeks so she can watch her grand daughter grow. Moral of the matter how difficult it may seem, YOU CAN WIN OVER CANCER!!!! We love you Lydia & Kate & Ellen! Sending our prayers & thoughts & kick a$$ attitude!

  31. Cancer can stand in line to kiss your ass. Thoughts and prayers are with you, Ellen.

  32. Ellen, you tough amazing woman! I know we've never met but woman I am pulling for you and praying my religious little heart out!! GO TEAM ELLEN!!!

    P.S. Lydia, you beautiful, wonderful, amazing, sweet, woman!! You made me cry!!! Prayers for you too, sweetie!! You are one HELL of a "Real story" story teller!!!! LOVE THE HECK OUT YOU WOMAN!!!

  33. Ellen, I just wanted to let you know that you have prayers and positive thoughts coming from all across the world!! You WILL beat this horrible thing and you will come out on the other side of this mountain victorious and healthy!!! Just remember to "FIGHT LIKE A GIRL!!!!!" We're all behind you 100%!!!

  34. May she move hills and bumps and mountains galore,
    May she push them and shove them and move them some more.

    May she fight this big fight, in a mom-ninja way
    The cancer must leave, it just cannot stay.

    In her times of sorrow, and anger and fear
    May she feel the love those far and near

    The love of those that know her - and the wishes of those who do not
    She needs the well wishes and we moms got a lot.

    So, fellow moms, raise your mug, raise your glass.
    Let the world know that Ellen the Ninja-Mom will kick cancer's ass.

  35. Thoughts and prayers!!! I hope you are healthy and with your family very soon!!!

  36. Darn you Lydia!!! I am ugly crying in front of a bunch of construction workers working on my house!!!

    Dear Ellen. Know that you have the support of hundreds. Women and families across the world are thinking of you, praying for you, hoping for you. May you have a quick recovery. Calm nerves, and a peaceful heart. Fight like a girl and remind your body how things are supposed to work!!!

  37. Prayers not only for Ellen and her family, but for all women fighting this scourge.

  38. Ugly crying here. I don't know Ellen beyond here, as I don't know Kate or Lydia... but it's a funny thing, this online world. We get to feel like we know people we really don't. All kinds of good thoughts for Ellen, her family, friends, surgeon, and medical staff. Kick its ass, Ellen!! You can do this!
    Lydia... I'm not sure if you are aware just how powerful a thing it is you and Kate do here. And maybe sometimes you need some of what you give to all of us (whom you don't even know) directed back at you. So I'm sending you the loving caring thoughts you share with and give to all of us - one way or another (think of all you did with Christmas hookers, people you didn't *know* but helped so much). You're also an amazing woman.

  39. My thoughts and prayers to your friend Ellen. I don't even know her but I'm ugly crying at work. I really hope all goes well.

  40. Dear Lydia,
    Today I was sent this link by a childhood friend with whom I was lucky enough to be reconnected recently via Facebook. She could have written it to me herself. Twenty years ago I followed my heart to the other side of the world and now - with a wonderful husband and three little girls (and one big boy) - I find myself on my toughest adventure yet. I was diagnosed with BC in January and started my own battle 9 days ago.

    Ellen is lucky to have a friend like you to hold her through her journey (and I'm sure you are lucky to have a friend such as her, too!). And I wish her - and myself - every success, now and forever.


    1. Sending you love and hugs, Carrie! Kick it's ass!!

  41. I just now went and lit a boysenberry-scented candle on my mantel for her, and I said, "Girl, you go and kick that cancer's ass! We're all with you."

    Heathen love and vibes to her.

    --kate in MI

  42. That was one of the most moving things that I have ever read in my life... you are so f**king brilliant, Lydia... we miss you all terribly... All the cul-de-sac parties, red wine, hummus, and laughter... Thanks for being so amazing to me, my wife, and our three girls...

    Love from Jakarta.

    -Ellen's Husband

  43. On Sunday at my church we are all celebrating a dear friend's end of chemo treatments. Over the past year she has beat breast cancer. My aunt beat it this year as well.. my grandma beat it around a decade ago... and a few years ago I had another friend with a rare advanced, fast growing form of breast cancer.. she had to have stem cell transplant to finally beat it as it had spread a LOT.. but she's fine too...

    My point is simply that this is a beatable cancer! Yes there's scary surgeries.. yes there's disgusting chemo treatments and horrible radiation therapy... but you can beat this! Just do what it takes.. embrace the support of family and friends... and pray (to whomever you believe in)... Never lose Faith.. You CAN AND WILL beat this!!!

    And don't forget to warn your MALE FRIENDS.. MEN GET BREAST CANCER TOO!!!

  44. Ellen,
    Go kick that cancer in the taco. We love you.

  45. Ellen, I met you when you were 13 years old and we started going to the church your family attended. You were a skinny, perky, little brown haired beauty even then. I watched you grow up right before my eyes. I remember you babysitting my children - remember you taught Cam how to ride his bike without training wheels? I remember; he wouldn't trust anyone else not to let him fall - he trusted you - by the time my husband and I got home, our son was riding that bike like a pro.

    I remember when you got your first job at Kentucky Fried Chicken, you were so proud to be "working". I remember when you went to your prom; your parents wouldn't let you stay out past mid-night and you were so mad! I remember when you moved out on your own, you were so young and stubborn, I was really scared for you, especially since you were too damn young and bull-headed to know you should be too. I remember when you got your first tattoo, it was beautiful but I was thinking, "she's gonna regret that one". I'm laughing because I now have one too and, when I see you, am going to ask your permission to get the butterfly tattoo you designed and now wear. I will wear it in honor of you and so many others who have faced this horrible "Cancer" dragon; some having lost the battle, some having won. YOU WILL WIN!

    I remember the first time I heard about the young man who would become your husband. Girl, you were floating on air. He came to see you and meet your family and friends. I remember you telling me how you made him leave when you and he were alone in your little apartment because you two were so in love and you feared you'd not be able to wait until your wedding night if he stayed any longer. I was so proud of you! In today's world where sex is as casual as eating a candy bar, you and that young man took a stand. I remember thinking then - that little lady has something most don't. That something is strength, backed up by your faith in God, knowing He will not let you fight anything alone.

    I got to see you and your awesome husband walk down the aisle. You were so beautiful and when your awesome man took your hand and you said "I do", the love between the two of you was evident to all. You two had it bad...really bad...for each other in a way I don't think many people truly find in life. You two are blessed! I can't imagine how hard it is for your prince to have to watch this from afar without being with you; I am sure he feels helpless and aches to be with you in a way he never thought possible. But the strength and faith you two grabbed a hold of long ago is right there, so grab it again and take one step at a time, day by day and moment by moment.

    Now Go My Little Warrior Woman! You fight this dragon with all your might! Face it like you have faced everything else in your life with strength, courage, sassy bull-headed stubbornness, humor, faith and prayers. Oh and honey, look around you and see all who are cheering, praying and loving you. My Little "Ellen" I love you, I'm thinking of you and praying for you continually. This will probably be the hardest task yet but remember you are allowed to cry, feel discouraged, get mad and scream - it's OK, you do whatever it takes to WIN. The rest of us will cheer you on and hold you up in thoughts, love and prayers and when you have WON - we will shout praise and thankfulness for having you in our lives.

  46. Lydia, Lydia, Lydia.
    You are not only a kick in the pants, but you are an amazing writer as well. Thank you so much for capturing some of I've felt during this whole thing, even back to when she moved overseas. Ellen has changed my life, and I think you summed it up well when you said, "She is the kind of friend you don't often get in life." That she is.

    -Ellen's best friend since 2000.

  47. OMG! I had no idea who Ellen really was until just now. As another poster said above, I 'met' Ellen online when our kids were babies. Her oldest kid was born the same month as my son.
    Ellen- Fight Like a Girl! All of us 02 moms have your back!

  48. I must say that this is quite a bit of deja-vu for me. In 1994, my then 42-year old mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. We were living in Cairo, Egypt. She flew "home" to Missouri where her parents lived, had a mastectomy and started chemotherapy. My dad went home with her long enough to see her through the surgery, then came back to Egypt where my three young sisters and I were. At the time, we were 17, 14, 11, and 9 years old. Living in a foreign country. Without mom. We had AMAZING friends living there with us - we stayed with them while my dad went home to be with my mom. They fed us when dad was home and overwhelmed. My dad was a rock star during that time, and it is still a time we talk about with great love for him, for those friends, and for my mother.

    Fast forward to 2012. My mother is 60-years old and a 17-year survivor of breast cancer. She spent several months back in the States and then came "home" to Egypt and finished chemotherapy there - because it's where we were.

    It was such a difficult time, but tell Ellen that she is not alone and she is about to become a member of a kick-ass club of SURVIVORS. And in 17-years, she'll get to tell her story to someone walking in her shoes, needing to hear that it really can be okay.


  49. Just came from her blog and want to say that she will kick this cancer's ass. Because that is what moms of girls named Emma and Abigail do. They fight and win. Thinking of your friend non-stop. God, cancer just sucks.

  50. Ellen, good luck! Our prayers are with you! Kick the big "C" ass!!

  51. Cancer sucks! Good luck, Ellen. Kick it's stupid cancer ass!


  52. Oh Lydia, almost broke down with the ugly cry at work, and I work with a bunch of men. I had to run to the kitchen and collect myself. You are truly a good friend. Ellen is lucky to have you all.

    Ellen, my 75 year old mom kicked Breast Cancer in the pants last year right after my dad died (coincidentally from cancer). She had an amazing network of family and friends that supported her and would not let her forget how much she was loved and needed in this world. I am so grateful that I still have her here. I know that with the support you have on here and the people that surround you, cancer will have no choice but to bow down to the hardcore ninja that you are. I will say prayers for you for a quick recovery and reunion with your family.

  53. Lydia, thank you for sharing your beautiful friendship with Ellen with Mommyland. I hope that every one of your readers has a friend they feel this way about, whether they are neighbors or half a world away. You may have made a bunch of us hookers ugly cry, but we love that every post isn't rainbows and that y'all are real.

    Ellen, I'm keeping you and your family in my prayers!




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