I’ve wanted to write about a friend of mine for a while and couldn’t really figure out the right time to slip a post about her into the mix. I think, considering yesterday’s news about Patrick Swayze, today is the day.

I’m not going to give a lot of details about the circumstances of our meeting or where we most often cross paths, because I don’t want her to worry in the least about her privacy.

So. I have this friend. She is beautiful. She is a young (early 30s) mom. When I met her, I liked her immediately. She oozed friendliness, and was always full of smiles (she still is). When we met about two years ago, we bonded over what we have in common (which I can’t reveal: see italics above) and, over the next year + a couple of months, our conversations were just…normal. Day-to-day stuff about anything, about our kids, whatever. Through it all, I always looked forward to seeing her because the happiness just radiates around her.

Almost a year ago, she disappeared for a while, and I didn’t see her when I normally would have. I missed her.

After a while, I sent her a text asking her where she’d been and telling her that I missed seeing her.

I saw her soon after and she filled me in. She’s got cancer. She had been away, having surgery.

I felt like my heart had been torn a little bit.

“How long have you known?” I asked.

As it turns out, she’d known for a long time: it’d been six to seven years (and many surgeries) since her diagnosis. In fact she matter-of-factly told me that she is about a year past her estimated life expectancy, as provided by her doctors.

All of this news Blew Me Away. I gently asked questions, trying not to be overly intrusive, and she answered them for me.

I didn’t understand how someone could have all of that information about their health and be a mom and know that, though the doctors are doing all they can, it might not be enough…and still smile through life and live it though you don’t have a care in the world.

She became a role model for me. She is not letting her diagnosis stop her from making a great life for herself and her children. She doesn’t want to be known as “the girl with cancer”; she’s bigger than that. She’s brighter than that (and I mean in smarts and in positive energy). I admire her so much, and I am blessed that she is a part of my life.

I wanted to end this post on an “up” note by telling you about the last time I saw her, almost two weeks ago. She walked up to me and her smile was only half the size it usually is. I said, “What’s wrong?”

She said, “I’ve gained, like, 15 pounds in the last three months.”

Now, normally, because my boss says it whenever I complain about something and it got stuck in my head, I NEARLY said to her, “Well, at least you’re not dying of cancer.”

Thank goodness I censored myself in that moment, because we ended up having a great moment, and a laugh. Instead I said it this way: “Umm…I think you might have other things to complain about besides 15 pounds?”

She thought for a second, chuckled, smiled that big smile that I love so much, and said, “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

An attitude of gratitude. We all need a reminder now and then.