Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Pin. A Fight. A Woman Named Jen.

About two weeks ago, I walked with five close friends from high school through a winding park. We carried candles even though the wind kept blowing them out. Still we lit them again, and again. There was one girl who wasn't there. Her name was Jennifer Hoffman. She wrote about her fight at a blog called Elegantly Laced.

My instinct is to write that she struggled with breast cancer for 10 years, but really, struggle isn't the right word. She fought long and hard, and every step of the way kept incredible dignity. And she loved. And she laughed. In her first marriage, at 29 years old, she wore a beautiful flower behind her ear and a scarf wrapped around her bald head. Chemo didn't stop her wedding. It didn't stop her life.

Her husband sent pins for us to wear for the walk. A man from one of their three-day walks heard Jen speak. He lost his wife, this man, and apparently was so moved by Jen's speech that he made monogrammed "Jen" pins (donned with a Red Sox cap, her favorite team) for others to wear. Imagine, Jen struggling through chemo and walking for three days. Imagine a man being so moved. I had hyperemesis for all of five months. I hardly got out of bed.

Jen was one of my closest friends in high school, and for whatever reason, we lost touch. I never stopped loving her as a person. I never stopped wishing and hoping that the cure would find her, would save her from another day of the insanity of cancer.

I read archives of her blog now from time to time. If I was really, really honest with myself, I would admit that I knew she had a blog for all those years. But for whatever reason, I didn't read it. It is possible that it scared me that someone I knew, someone I was no longer in touch with, was so ill. That maybe reading her blog would have made me feel like some weird voyeur than a friend.

Whatever my reasons were - this was a woman who had tremendous supporters. She certainly didn't need me to add to the list. She had her new husband's family. She had people standing on the side of the road holding signs as she walked. No hair, short hair. The vibrant smile of a living woman - conquering her fight that day.

Oh, and she had an incredible sense of humor. The sign she and her husband held at the top of Mount Whitney said it all: "Cancer Schmancer."


  1. What a beautiful tribute to an amazing woman. I watched her speech at the 3 day and I cried and cried.


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