It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of a friend and mentor of mine, Lisa Simpson Brewster. Lisa passed away after a long battle with Breast Cancer.
Sometimes people come into your life, touch your heart, and your life will never be the same. I first met Lisa, three years ago, in an educational context. Despite the twenty-year age difference between we connected and became friends. She was back in school starting a new career path in counselling. From the moment I met her, I noticed her enthusiasm and passion for life. It was infectious. She is also the proud mother of her son, Adam. Even with all the hardships she had endured, she pressed on and didn’t let these obstacles stop her from living. Lisa had such a beautiful heart.
Sunsets remind me of her, as we spent one night chatting about life in her backyard as a beautiful sunset was in the background. Lisa was an amazing communicator. Prior to meeting her, Lisa had a fulfilling career in radio and television journalism with the CBC in Saskatchewan and Vancouver, followed by a career in communications with the Ministry of Health. However, when I met her she was going back to school to pursue a career in counselling and wanted to created spaces for deep authentic conversations.
When I was over at her house that summer in her backyard, I was sharing about what I wanted to do with my life and how I want to share my stories and inspire others. She told me about vision boards, the blogs she loved, etc. I told her I wanted to blog and share with others. She encouraged me to do it and has inspired me in so many ways. Lisa was and is a mentor for me. Therefore, I am writing about her as she lost her battle with cancer a couple days ago.
Lisa encouraged me to be open, real, vulnerable, resilient, and authentic in life. I think her quote from the article she posted says it all:
"The messages women with breast cancer often receive are that we should wear a smile (often so we don't trigger someone else's discomfort or fear), agree that we're fighters or accept the label survivor even if those terms don't fit, wear the pink t-shirt to fundraise at every opportunity, try to look healthy and attractive even when we feel awful, and ultimately stuff down our feelings. I think this can make it challenging to show our vulnerability, to ask for support or even to identify what we need. Always trying to be upbeat and presenting a false self is a heavy burden and it can create resentment or shut down our ability to really notice what we are experiencing. Feelings are messages that can help guide us. Psychological research tells us the release of intense feelings with someone emotionally safe like a trusted friend or a counselor (and not presenting a false self) is what is truly therapeutic.
I wonder what would happen if we ditched the cult of positive thinking and focused on being real and truly present with ourselves and the people we care about? What would it be like if we listened more (to ourselves and others) and provided empathy rather than advice? I'm not suggesting taking on alternate or uncomfortable coping styles - I'm talking about being ourselves. When I was having chemo, humour was my antidote. I e-mailed friends with a list of the Top 10 Things I've Learned from Cancer Treatment - and it was raunchy, funny and appreciative of all the love I received. It would be great to become more accepting of a range of emotions - anger, grief, fear, humour, joy - and to be kinder to ourselves, especially if we're not feeling happy or resilient, or don't fit someone else's image of what a breast cancer patient or survivor looks like, says or does." Taken from Lisa's Post - The Survivor Challenge.
I really encourage you to read Lisa's full post. So often in our society, individuals put on a mask (or as she says “wear a smile”) and not show what they are truly dealing with. I told her about this and she encouraged me to do this on my blog and live my life this way. Since we had this conversation, almost three years ago, I have kept to it and have noticed a change in my life. In her honour, I will continue to live my life this way and encourage others to do the same.
Lisa didn’t only impact my life; she impacted the lives and hearts of so many people (i.e., family, friends, and even helped create a support network for those going through breast cancer, Breast Cancer Now What).
I’m so blessed to have gotten to know and had a wonderful role model in my life. RIP Lisa. You will be missed dearly.
Thank you for showing me to persist despite whatever life throws at you and to live life to the fullest. Your message will live in in my heart and I promise to take the lessons I learned from you wherever I go.
Thank you for reading and your presence at this beach retreat. You Rock! I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts in the comment section below.
See you at the beach!