A Tribute to Breast Cancer Blogger Punk Rock Mommy
The blogging community lost a powerful voice last week, with the passing of Andrea Collins-Smith, otherwise known as Punk Rock Mommy. On July 5, Andrea lost her year-long battle with inflammatory breast cancer. She was 38 years old.
I only became of aware of Andrea's blog after I joined the group blog Mothers With Cancer in early June (I am not sure how I managed to miss her before that, her blog touched thousands of readers). In fact, Andrea, a mother to five boys and a girl, authored our first post, about finding out that what she had thought was mastitis (she was breastfeeding her infant son at the time) was in fact a very aggressive form of breast cancer:
"Its not that I didn't feel sad. I did to be sure. But mostly I just thought it was so cliche'. Very Lifetime television. Mom of six finally graduated from college finds out she has deadly cancer the NEXT day? Implausible. I made up a top ten list ala David Letterman. Top ten reasons its good that I have cancer. Some of them are very funny. I let myself cry only a little. I pray. And although I know that the next world is more wonderful than this one, I will hold on dearly and pray for God to let me remain here with my lovely children and wonderful husband. But I won't be angry or bitter. Life is too short. Especially mine."
The next time I heard from Andrea, it was in an email to the group of moms who write at Mothers With Cancer, letting us know, with what I would learn was characteristic frankness, grace and courage that she would no longer be part of our number:
"So ladies, I was really looking forward to spending some time with you. I have some preliminary results to my scans and I am considering hospice. I am just not responding to any treatment. Nor do I feel like being treated to death...I am very proud of all of you. I know you will do wonderful things with the site. I pray that you all have many years with your babies!!!! God bless you. All my love, Andrea."
In her final weeks, Andrea continued to blog. She shared with us her decision not to undergo further treatment (made in concert with her husband and kids) and to begin palliative care. She wrote of her pain and sadness but also of her joy in living and her love for her children and her husband, Kelly. And she wrote her own final blog post, to be posted on the day of her death:
"Cancer treatment is hard. Really hard. The chemo, scans, medications...it is physically daunting. I was willing to subject myself to it all to have even a little more time with my husband, children, and loved ones. It was worth it. I would say that I packed a lot of living into that year while I was dying. I was still me. I was still engaged with my friends. I still was able to love and be here for all of them when they needed me. I still changed diapers and played games. Kelly and I fought like a married couple and loved like one too."
It is clear from her blog that Andrea was a spirited, talented and creative woman, as well as devoted mother, friend and spouse. She was so much more than her cancer. I am sure that she inspired many, many others in the way that she has inspired me.
Even in her last days, Andrea was strong, courageous and loving. I hope that, when my turn comes, I can face death as bravely and with as much dignity.
Andrea's memorial service was held today in Philadelphia. Her husband posted his eulogy on her blog. It concludes as follows;
"...Andrea turned this tragedy into a gift and gave it to all of us. Her spirit was so strong that sometimes it was hard to believe she was sick at all. Cancer may have killed her, but still did not defeat her as she lived and laughed and loved till the day she died."
You can read Andrea's obituary in the Philadelphia Inquirer here.
You can read more of my writing at Not Just About Cancer a blog about living and parenting with metastatic breast cancer.