Jamillah, and Norma too.

Ursel is not the first friend I’ve lost this month.  That would be Jamillah, and Norma too, actually.  Both of these women I only knew via email, so I don’t feel like I should own any sadness, but somehow, weeks later, I still do.  I’d like to take a few minutes here to talk about these friends, because their memory, like Ursel’s, will live on.

Jamillah Abdulbaaqiy passed on February 12.  She had fought IBC for nearly 4 years, first as Stage IIIB and then after it metastasized.  (Metastasis is when the cancer spreads from the original site to the bones, blood, liver, brain, or elsewhere in the body.  Metastasized cancer can be fought but it is much harder to eradicate from the body.)

Jamillah, though, fought hard with both body and spirit.  She took the treatments like a champion and became an advocate for women, urging everyone to learn the signs of IBC.  She had a special heart for African American women, who are diagnosed with IBC at twice the rate of women of European descent.  (In fact, she inspired my letter to the editor on this topic.  She educated me, and I am forever grateful for that.)  Jamillah got the word out through Ebony magazine, spoke at breast cancer events, and was embarking on even more advocacy this Fall, when she suffered a recurrence and lost her voice.

Jamillah, though very sick, went to Mecca for Hajj this year, and shared her experiences with her IBC sisters via long emails, typed by her adoring niece.  She was the hit of her group.  As the guide said, “We are blessed to have Sister Jamillah in our midst,” though he had just met her.

Her caring heart, willing voice, dedication to Allah, and support of other women on our list made her well-loved, even through the impersonal vehicle of email. 

We were indeed blessed to have Sister Jamillah in our midst.  I will miss her.

Norma Greer was a well-known advocate throughout the country.  One of her pieces, in the Arizona Star, is often forwarded.  Diagnosed in August 2006, she fought hard, opened herself up on the IBC email list, and supported newcomers whenever they popped up, and with whatever questions they had. 

Norma was a staple of the list, a reassuring voice, and a listening ear.  She fought hard, but the disease took her life as well. 

I suppose in the end, we all succumb to something.  I was not prepared to lose these women, though, nor for the other death notices that come across the list, women I’ve gotten to know to varying degrees, or women who joined the list for support and found it with a single post, or, sometimes, no post at all.

It’s been a hard day, as the full consequences of my cancer, and my networking with other women with cancer, really hit home today.  I have been blessed to know these women.  I have been enriched by knowing them.  I have learned from them about cancer, about fighting, about keeping the will to survive, and about life.

We only have a few days on this Earth.  Let us enjoy them with each other.

17 Responses to Jamillah, and Norma too.

  1. Angeline says:

    its very hard to hear people who have the same problem as you to go first….

    in times like these, our heart become thankful (that we were selected to stay longer with our love ones on earth) but at the same time, feel sourish for the families of those that have passed on.

    you have been a good friend to them (I believe with my whole heart) and that’s good enough. Cos’ people who are sick needs people who truly understands their emotions. and they are non-other than those in the same plight as them.

  2. amanda says:

    I am so sorry to hear this, but glad. You continue to sustain this incredibly powerful message, and today, through your words, the spirit of amazing women.

    Thank you.

  3. NYfriend says:

    I’m so sorry to hear of the losses of these great women. My thoughts are with you, your family and their families.

  4. Heather.PNR says:

    May Ursel, Jamillah and Norma rest in peace. Thank you for making them known to us today.

  5. Jacquie says:

    May they RIP, and thank you for sahring thier stories with us.

  6. Stimey says:

    I can’t even imagine what emotions these stories must bring to you. They all sound so brave. I wish I had words for them or for you.

  7. debi says:

    Yes, Amen to that. You always leave me with a nugget of truth. God Bless and keep you, debi

  8. justenjoyhim says:

    I am so sorry for these losses.

  9. I’m sorry for the losses of these wonderful women, and for your pain in losing them.

    I hope their memories and stories help strengthen other women who are faced with IBC.

    Hugs.

  10. isabel says:

    what a beautiful tribute to these women.
    and it is sad. i hurt for your loss.
    the heart can love so many, in so many ways, and it grieves according to its own knowing.
    thinking of you.

  11. JoC says:

    ouch! I am glad you told us about them. A beutiful tribute indeed. Our grief, I guess that is the risk in admiring, connecting and loving. As you said we only have a few days on this earth. Lets all enjoy them and risk despite the hurt.

  12. Mandi says:

    Thank you for sharing about your friends. I am sending out much love to you and their families. Loss is so hard.

  13. Robin says:

    I’m sorry. I wish I had had the chance to know them.

  14. chaotic joy says:

    I am sorry to hear about the loss of your friends but you honor them beautifully here. I continue to keep you in my thoughts and prayers although I am often without words, please know that I am still here.

  15. Hope says:

    I, too, am still in mourning over the loss of my cousin, Jamillah. Because she remained so completely positive and uplifting despite her struggles, I never expected that she would actually ever leave us. For me, Jamillah was my confidant, my voice of reason, my ideal. She was/is truly the imbodiment of those things for which we all should strive. I miss her desperately!!! Though her ability to speak was diminished, I know that Jamillah’s VOICE will never be silenced.

  16. Hope says:

    P.S. Jamillah dear. Please accept my apology. I know it is spelled embodiment. Love you and miss you.

  17. Brooke Greer says:

    Hi, Norma Greer is my Mom and I just ran across your blog/site. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing both the emotional and educational thoughts/stories/facts of IBC.

    My heart, positive energy and strength go out to you and your family during these times.

    This is the last blog/site we have for Mom/Norma (there are links to articles with factual info. too): http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/normagreer

    I thank you so much for sharing my Mom’s story, while also feeling for what you may be going through. Please feel free to contact at any time.

    This is something we can work on educating, living with and conquering. Thank you,
    Brooke Greer

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