Sunday, November 16, 2014

Reality star's death strikes a nerve

From left: Alicia Quarles, Diem Brown, Kara DioGuardi
First thing yesterday morning, a tab slid onto my computer screen offering STORIES THAT MIGHT INTEREST YOU. The headline read, "Reality star Diem Brown dies after cancer battle."

These alerts are often annoying, but the genie in the computer guessed correctly that I would click on a story with the word cancer in it.

The story, from USA Today, was that Diem Brown, a star of MTV's Real World/Road Rules Challenge died Friday at 32 from ovarian cancer.

Brown had first been diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 23, and it had returned twice, in 2006 and in 2012, and a third time earlier this year.

I had never heard of Diem Brown and had never watched any reality show let alone this one.  But I was still touched when I saw the photos of this beautiful woman and saw when she endured.

Brown had chronicled her fight in a blog for, becoming an advocate for cancer patients and founding MedGift, a support registry for those suffering from any illness.

Diem Brown
The charity provides a way for patients to create a gift registry so that loved ones can contribute money and time to help a patient cope with treatment or ease a financial burden. It also provides tools to create and promote support pages for people with cancer or any health-related need and has a space where readers can ask questions that are answered by a panel of experts.

On her blog, Brown wrote about her cancer treatments, her desire for a family and children, her fertility treatments, and about her struggles, fears and hopes. She competed in one competition just after finishing a round of treatment, taking off her wig.

In looking at why this resonated with me, I thought back to our Districts championships in August 2003, when I competed (and won) with my tennis partner Donna in between rounds of chemotherapy just before my first stem cell transplant. I asked her if I should keep my scarf on or show my bald head as a way to throw our opponents off balance. I think it was a joke. In any case I wore the scarf. (I never could deal with that wig.) Also I had pneumonia at the time but it was a fungal ball on my lung that was contained by a pill I was taking. Also after that I had to go almost straight back to the hospital to have that thing removed.

But anyway, back to where I was:

Unlike leukemia, which is curable, ovarian cancer is often fatal because it is difficult to detect until it is too late.

A story like this, in addition to making you feel terrible about a life ended so early, can send shivers up and down your spine. It is a reminder that you can do the right things health-wise and still get hit. (Example: Me.)

Still, I’m taking a moment to appreciate what this woman did by putting her energy into helping others rather than just talking the talk, putting herself out there in a popular venue such as People

(Certain people like myself might not admit to liking the magazine, but watch us go right for it in check-out lines, doctors offices and airports, and see us welcome it to leaf through when we’re not feeling well.)

She had good messages, such as:

"No matter what it is, you're going to have the bad days, but if you have hope throughout, you won, no matter what the results.”


Robin said...

I'm with you on this. She was such a tough woman and fought incredibly hard all the while putting forward what she could for others. Heartbreaking to read of her passing.

Anonymous said...

Here's to Diem Brown,

a brave, compassionate and giving woman...