Saying goodbye to Julie

Saying goodbye to Julie

Saying goodbye has never been easy for me. My family moved 13 times by the time I was 18, and it seemed like my world was one goodbye after another. Goodbyes have gotten harder since being diagnosed with cancer.

Cancer is wrapped up with loss. We lose the feeling of being “normal.” Some days, after I’d been diagnosed, I lost my faith in the future. I hear people all the time saying, “Get out of your comfort zone.” Sometimes you’re thrown, overhand, out of your comfort zone.

And, then, there are the final goodbyes. This morning a fellow blogger posted on Facebook that she’d lost a friend to cancer. Since joining my support group in Homewood, I’ve said goodbye to three friends. Cancer deals out loss in random and relentless ways.

Saying goodbye has gotten harder, even if the goodbyes aren’t final. In December my personal counselor and the leader of my support group both moved on to other places. When Judy, our support group leader, told our group that she would be leaving, I felt so overwhelmed. Everyone else in the group was so gracious and kind and offered supportive words. I just cried. I was a writer without words.

When I sad goodbye to my counselor at our last meeting, I managed to say the things I needed to say to her, to thank her. But, I started crying the moment I left her office and sat in my car sobbing for about half an hour before I was able to drive.

Maybe cancer has made me more fragile. If it has, it has also made me more grateful for the good in my life. Most of the good has come from people. I want to tell you about one of those people.

Those of us who have blogs with ChicagoNow also have community managers: Julie DiCaro and Jimmy Greenfield. They aren’t editors. They don’t give us assignments or approve our writing. They’re more like coaches or teachers. They teach us about the art and craft of blogging, from using social media to using WordPress software to writing headlines.

julie

“Blogging works, yo.” Julie DiCaro, community manager at ChicagoNow, is moving on to her dream job at WGN radio.

Every day they send out an email with tips and advice. They give encouragement via email and within our Facebook bloggers group. Sometimes, they even have to give some pushback. They meet us for “office hours” at various places across the Chicagoland area. They interact with us almost every day.

Julie DiCaro is moving on. Last night when she posted the email telling us about it, I felt the all-too-familiar hollowness. So many people had warm, supportive responses. She is, after all, moving into her dream job. We should all be happy for her. I am very happy for her.

But, still, I hate to say goodbye. Julie has helped me realize a dream of my own. Writing in a public place, writing to people who read my words, has always been the thing I wanted to do. For various reasons, I didn’t pursue journalism and ended up becoming a university professor, a writing teacher.

After my blog was accepted she and Jimmy provided enormous support. Through email and face-to-face meetings I’ve learned so much about writing. Julie has helped me, specifically, think about why I want to blog, about the character of “Cancer is Not a Gift.”

Because of Julie I’ve had the confidence to reach past the boundaries of writing about cancer. While this blog will always be about cancer advocacy, it is also my blog, and I’m more than a person with bladder cancer. I am a writer. Julie has reminded me about this, has challenged me to imagine a more robust identity because she understands what it means to be a writer.

So, thank you Julie DiCaro for sharing your insights with me. Thank you for coming to Governors State University to speak to my students. Thank you for involving yourself in our lives as writers, for sharing your own experiences and for being vulnerable.

I hate to say goodbye because people like you aren’t everywhere. You’re very special and bring a very special energy to the world. But, I’m glad that other doors are opening for you and that you have the courage and wisdom to walk through them.

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