My hero: Aubrey Bean
On June 18, 2013 Erika Bitzer celebrated another birthday after beating cancer as a young adult. On that same day, she lost her dear friend Aubrey Bean to colorectal cancer. She was kind enough to share these words about her amazing friend:
I am dedicating this birthday to my friend, Aubrey, who passed away today. It’s ironic that it happened on my birthday because Aubrey taught me how to live without fear and to take every moment life offers you. I met her three years ago through a young adults cancer group. I was “cancer free” and trying to figure out how to feel whole again. She was there with cancer still in her body, with a terminal diagnoses. But you would never know it. I was afraid of everything at the time – I was overwhelmed by life, travel, eating, getting sick again, never being as happy as I thought I had been before I had been sick. She was living as though she had nothing left to worry about. She was present, planned for the future and said yes to life.
The best way to understand how Aubrey lived is to hear about Italy. She had been told she’d need to start another round of intensive chemo in 6 months – she was currently undergoing maintenance chemo and on narcotics. She and her husband had been planning to go to Italy in a year. So they moved the trip up and went early. She had recently lost mobility in both of her legs so was now in a wheelchair too. I know you are thinking, poor girl, but you didn’t see any of this in how she showed up in life. She wasn’t dying, she was LIVING with cancer. They spent several weeks in Italy and she wheeled herself all over the cobblestone streets. She joked afterward that her butt was bruised from going over the big stones. It was an amazing trip even though it was hard for her.
When I last saw her, she was saying how much she loved that I say ‘yes’ to life and opportunities that come my way, even if they seem crazy. She told me what I was like when she first met me, how I was so afraid. And I realized that it was her that lifted that from me and taught me how to live…modeled by her attitude and actions, and through many long talks.
I often wonder why someone as incredible as Aubrey or Sarah (my peer supporter during treatments) has to leave us so soon. After my last visit with Aubrey, I reflected on this with one of my friends. He said that maybe my job was to carry forward the gift that Aubrey gave me. I think he’s right.