This Wednesday, May 18th, so many of us experienced a tremendous loss. Our beautiful friend, Jody Schoger, gained her wings. There is so much to say about Jody, about her warmth, compassion, wisdom, eloquence, determination, and strength. She was a tremendously talented writer and patient advocate who blazed a unique trail through social media, co-founding “Breast Cancer Social Media.” Also known as #BCSM, it quickly became a global online community, providing powerful support, connecting thousands of people from around the world affected by breast cancer, and sharing critical information that was always grounded in and supported by medical evidence.
Jody was fiercely committed to #BCSM and those who formed this tremendously important community. In fact, shortly after she learned that she had metastatic breast cancer, she wrote to me:
“This was a huge shock, but we are absorbing it, and I need to do some rearranging of activities, so I can treat this and still advocate. It is as important as ever.”
And as her #BCSM co-founder, Alicia Staley, shared in a beautiful tribute to Jody, “When it came time to leave, she insisted on walking me to the door and down the driveway. I knew this would be a long walk for her, but stubborn as she was, there was no stopping her. She walked with me, one arm around mine, another hand on her cane … She squeezed my arm and pulled me in close. ‘Now listen, you know what needs to be done for #BCSM. It’s up to you to take care of them now.’” This powerfully shows so much about Jody: her resolve and inner strength, her poignant honesty, her innate ability to gently guide and teach us the most important life lessons–and the simple, but profound fact that she was always an advocate for others in her heart, throughout her soul, and with every breath.
Yet as I have tried to write this tribute today, I’ve found that it is nearly impossible to adequately describe Jody with any words I might share. Rather, it is her own words–such as her blog’s tag line, “Working for a better world, one word at a time”–through which we can remember the beauty, joy, knowledge, and compassion she brought to so many. The following is from Jody’s blog, “Women with Cancer,” a place where I’ll be returning often, to again spend time with her in one of the few ways I still can:
Tuesday, March 24, 2015: “Stable Disease”: “It’s one of those days. I can’t stop smiling. Spring has arrived after a long, grey winter here in south Texas. It was dank, it was long, it was wet and cold … On my part, I’ve learned a lot about the seasons of metastatic disease in these past four short months … I’ll always have cancer, yet I have a team at MD Anderson that will go the distance with me. Friends have stepped forward and clearly demonstrated their love, compassion, and courage. Yes, some things could be better as far as my health news. But being here and writing and chatting with you today is simply marvelous. It just is.”
Friday, April 26, 2013: “Cancer: Round Two”: “It has been difficult, and still is, to relate to this new information. Yet my life is different. How I prioritize will be different. One thing is steadfast: my commitment to #BCSM and advocacy. This is as strong if not stronger than ever. So is my knowledge that I am not alone in living with metastatic breast cancer. When there are times of complete stillness, I know all of you will be with me. That is how I feel about you. And that we are all in this together, in this moment and those to come.”
On the same day that Jody posted the blog excerpted from above, she sent an email to several of us that began in her always honest, open, and eloquent manner: “I wanted you to hear this difficult news from me first instead of Twitter where the link below will be published sometime today. When I went to MD Anderson two weeks ago for my annual survivorship clinic, metastatic breast cancer was discovered in lymph nodes in my neck and axilla. I was so shocked, the only thing I could say to the radiologist who’d performed the FNA was, ‘really? are you kidding me?’ Of course she wasn’t kidding … We are adjusting. I am adjusting, reorganizing, and sticking close to home. Thank you for your friendship and the concern I know that will come my way. You all help make my world go round.”
Jody, you have helped make the world go round for so many, and your words on your blog and #BCSM will continue to be a source of comfort for us. We are heartbroken, but as you showed us, we are adjusting. And we know that we must still advocate, now more than even before: as a wonderful and wise woman once said, “It is as important as ever.”
Rest in peace, dear Jody.