A bright, shining light has gone dim today, as we say goodbye to Susan Niebur who last night lost her five year battle against inflammatory breast cancer. I won't say her light has burned out, for the light of a star which burned so brightly, which illuminated so many, never truly goes out, continuing to shine it's light out through the darkness into the lives of all those it touches, but truly it has dimmed.
From that moment five years ago when Susan told me her breast looked "like the skin of an orange" I have dreaded this day. As a lactation consultant those few words struck fear in my soul, harbingers of a terrible foe, a terrible, aggressive breast cancer that presents without a lump, and all I could do was whisper back please, go to a doctor, don't wait, go now. But in the time that she was given Susan fought with all of her might, and used the time she was given to be - and remain - present in her own life. In the lives of her husband and children, in the lives of her friends, in the lives of her colleagues in planetary science, in the blogosphere, in the lives of other Mothers With Cancer, and in the lives of all she touched. Her legacy, her strength, her grace, the way she fought to remain strong for her young children and keep their lives as normal as possible, her fight to further the research that will someday put an end to this terrible disease, all these and more will continue to shine Susan's light out into the world in the days, weeks, and years to come.
But tonight a husband goes to bed without his wife, and two children without their mother to kiss their brow.
And that breaks my heart.
Goodbye Susan, and godspeed. You will be greatly missed.
And one more thing Susan would want you to remember - please take this piece of information and sear it into your memory - inflammatory breast cancer presents WITHOUT a lump. Please, if you see ANY unexpected changes in your breasts, whether lumps, marks, rashes, dimpling, changes in size, or anything else unexpected, PLEASE ladies, see your doctor, even if just to rule it out. Knowledge is power, and early knowledge is more powerful by far.