It didn't really hit me at first. I think I was just in shock, because the last I heard, she was still fighting a good fight. She was diagnosed with stage 3C melanoma three years ago, and it was a long, grueling battle for her.
I first met Sarah when I moved to Newport the summer before 10th grade. My next door neighbor, Allison, who was also in the 10th grade at the time, had a group of friends over and invited me to meet everyone. That group ended up becoming my close-knit group of friends throughout high school.
From the moment I met her, I really admired Sarah. She was gorgeous, very funny, outgoing, popular with everyone, and could make anyone laugh or smile in any situation. I had switched schools when I moved, and at my previous school, I was a nobody. When I first met Sarah, I never dreamed she'd be friends with me, but we started hanging out during and after school, and we became very close friends.
Sarah is the one who introduced me to the locally-famous casserole-style mostaccioli at Detroit Beach Pizzeria--I attribute at least 10 pounds of high school weight gain to that dish! Sarah is the one with whom I had my first experience with alcohol (I still can't look at a bottle of Sour Apple Pucker without gagging!). Despite being teenagers, Sarah and I shared a love for Elmo from Sesame Street--we each had a collection of Elmo stuffed animals. Sarah was the first friend I told when I had my first kiss, at 16.
In high school, I was embarrassed of my weight, as always, and when Sarah wanted to lay out in the sun in bikinis, I lied and said I didn't have a suit; she gave me one, and I said it would be too small. She assured me it was too big on her, so I tried it on. After she saw that it fit, she said, "I lied! It's not too big on me. You're the same size as me. You look hot!"
Sarah is the one who introduced me to thrift store shopping. We loved to go on half-off day and find some very... erm, interesting... outfits. Sarah taught me to be bold, and not care about what anyone else thought of my clothes or my hair--just to have fun and be silly sometimes.
|I have NO idea what we were thinking with those baggy clothes!|
I remember Sarah and I going to visit one of our (male) friends in the hospital after he'd had a minor surgery, and he was sleeping. Sarah had the funny idea to whisper sexy things in his ear to see if we could get his heart rate up on the monitor!
Sarah introduced me to tanning beds, and we used to go tanning together in the evenings sometimes. That was before we knew just how bad it was for you. Now, it's a bittersweet memory--we had fun tanning, but knowing that it contributed to her cancer and death makes me feel awful.
Sarah became pregnant during our senior year of high school, and after graduation, we went our separate ways. I went to a university, while she got a job and had a baby boy. She ended up marrying the father of her baby, and just before I became pregnant with Noah, she had another baby--a girl. She was a fantastic mom; one of those "cool" moms that her kids would never be embarrassed to be seen with ;)
When my kids were a little older, we got together for playdates a few times, and it was always nice to catch up and see what was happening in each other's lives at the time. She divorced her husband, and was a single mom for the last several years, not getting much help from him. Her cancer diagnosis was tough--after her initial surgery, she wasn't able to work anymore.
I went to visit her in the hospital about a year after her first surgery, and she was the same old Sarah that I remembered. SO positive and upbeat, and I was really happy to see her. Even as her cancer progressed, and continued to get worse, she stayed positive and hopeful.
So yesterday, when I heard that she'd lost the very long battle with cancer, I was definitely shocked; but it didn't really hit me until I was running this morning. I had an awful pit in my stomach, and I couldn't even make it through my run. Sarah was way too young to die, and her kids are too young to be without a mom.
For the last few years, Sarah was on a mission to get the word out about just how bad tanning is for your body. Sarah had no family history of melanoma, and her doctors told her the cancer was most likely from tanning. Her cancer started as what looked like an innocent mole on her calf. No matter how good you may think you look with a tan, it is not worth the risk of getting skin cancer! It's an ugly and extremely deadly disease.
When Sarah was diagnosed, it really hit home for me--since we used to tan together, it very well could have been me who'd gotten cancer. I'm pasty-white now, and I honestly don't care how much thinner or better I'd look with a tan. I started using sunscreen religiously when I learned of Sarah's diagnosis. I even took my kids and myself to the dermatologist for a skin cancer screening, so that if something pops up, we can catch it early. I urge anyone reading this to do the same. If there is any good to come from Sarah's struggle, I hope that it will be to have saved someone else from going through it, too.
But for now, I am happy that Sarah is finally at peace after fighting so hard for so long. It goes without saying that she will be dearly missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing her.