Susan Niebur and Her Indelible Marks
The members of the on-line support groups I belong to are in mourning. Susan Niebur-- physicist, mother, wife, and writer-has died of inflammatory breast cancer almost five years after her diagnosis. Susan's cheerful smile is beloved by everyone who has been reading her blog Toddler Planet and following her journey as a mother and a cancer patient over the years. I wrote about the ways she used writing to navigate cancer in a sharepost in June 2008.
When Susan finished her first round of treatments successfully, she wrote one of the groups I belong to announcing her good news, "I'm sure I'll always be nervous about its return, but this is good enough news for me right now. Wanted to share the happy!"
Susan was willing to squarely face the horror of cancer. One of her blog entries movingly addresses the way Facebook cancer awareness games like listing your bra color trivialize the issue. She read this blog in August 2010 at the BlogHer's community keynote address to 2,000 bloggers.
Despite her honest look at many of the issues and problems surrounding her life as a cancer patient, Susan was always willing to "share the happy." She cheered on other women with IBC, especially young mothers like herself, who suddenly found themselves struggling with balancing the demands of cancer and little children.
She was also a tireless advocate for getting out the word that cancer doesn't always start with a lump. She encouraged a member of our group who was preparing for a media interview, "Good luck in your interview! My recommendation is to emphasize to women that if one breast suddenly looks or feels different from the other IN ANY WAY, that they call their doctor immediately and ask to be checked out to rule out IBC. I've found that this is simple advice that makes sense to people. Kind of simplifies the "grab bag" of symptoms that we all can have too."
As a scientist, Susan believed firmly in the power of research, In his Goodbye post on Susan's blog, Curt Niebur says of her, "She is survived by her family, friends, achievements, and the indelible marks she made on people around the world. In lieu of flowers, please consider furthering Susan's legacy through a contribution to the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Or please choose to make a difference somewhere, anywhere, to anyone."
Susan, you have made a difference to me. I will miss you.