My Ultimate Inspiration Comes From My Best Friend.

My dad let both my big brother and I share a short something in my mama’s honor before he gave the eulogy at her memorial service. My brother told a great story– he has an awesome gift of being able to make people laugh, insanely, despite life’s darkest moments– it moved the audience and also, of course, had them chuckling. The big guy, who’s now a software developer by day and stand-up comedian by night, credited my mama for buying him his first comedy magazine, Mad Magazine. He was home sick one day as a kid and she returned home from errands with medicine, soup and the magazine that sparked his love for comedy. She rocked at the doin’ the mom thang. I chose to read a part of a script from my mama and I’s favorite TV show, Gilmore Girls. Weird… I know. It was a segment from the speech given by the daughter, Rory, at her character’s high school graduation. And, it perfectly describes my mom. I’d used it before in tons of captions for pictures of us on Facebook and Instagram.

It felt right to read this in front of a church full of people who knew and loved my mama.

“But my ultimate inspiration comes from my best friend, the dazzling woman from whom I received my initials and my life’s blood, Susan Maynard Doan. My mother never gave me any idea that I couldn’t do whatever I wanted to do or be whomever I wanted to be. She filled our house with love and fun and books and music, unflagging in her efforts to give me role models from Jane Austen to Eudora Welty to Carole King. As she guided me through these incredible twenty-four years, I don’t know if she ever realized that the person I most wanted to be was her. Thank you, Mom: you are my guidepost for everything.”

Happy Birthday To My Bad Mama Jama.

Today marks exactly one year since my mama‘s stage-4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis.

It also would have been her birthday.

Today is bitter-sweet at its very core.

It also calls for joy.

A photo posted by stephrosedoan (@stephrosedoan) on Feb 12, 2015 at 2:47pm PST

Happy Birthday, Mama Goose! I’m so v. thankful we were able to talk you into the silliness of celebrating your “Halfy Birthday!” Not only was it the day you turned a 1/2 year older but it also marked 6-months of fighting cancer like a bad Mama Jama. I am so proud of you! Thank you for being my world, my moon, my guiding star and my entire galaxy for 24 years.

You Wouldn’t Like Me When I’m Angry.

A woman who no one in my family had met before died and I sobbed about it. She lost her battle with pancreatic cancer at about 11am last Sunday, according to a post on Facebook.

My dad, too, cried over the woman who we’d never met in person and didn’t really know– the woman in the picture with her death announcement was a total stranger to us. If we’d have seen a “healthy” Albie on the street, we would’ve walked on by without a second look. It was the same way with my mama. People who met her during her 8-month battle with pancreatic cancer were shocked at seeing the pre-disease pictures we’d chosen for her memorial service. This disease strips every inch of meat from its victim’s body until nothing remains but a half-alive skeleton. And it gets worse, so much worse.

My dad and I had just finished a greasy diner breakfast (note: challah french toast is king) and on our walk back to my apartment dad brought up Albie. Neither of us knew how she was doing and the last we’d heard she was taking a “much needed break” from her treatment beginning late July. We’d only ever communicated with Albie via Facebook since “meeting” her in a pancreatic cancer support group last fall. The newest post on her wall said Albie had passed away that morning, and my dad and I read in disbelief.

I get mad sometimes. I used to get mad all the time back when my mama was still fighting and it felt like our family lived at her cancer center. We were surrounded by sick people all the time. I was mad because while I spent all my time with people who were either dying, on the road to dying, or lucky and beating death to a pulp, other people kept on keepin’ on with living. I was mad because before I knew what cancer really was I’d also kept on keepin’ on with life. I’m doing it again, too. We all keep on keepin’ on by going to work, making dinner, working out at the gym, meeting up with friends, falling in love, getting married, buying table lamps and oval-shaped rugs and those damn decorative pillows, and we live our lives. It’s the way we’re supposed to live in a continuos and unaffected circle of life. And, I hate it.

I hate the saying: “keep on keepin’ on” mostly because it sucks. Not only has it grown cliche and too sorority (I’m a member of the tribe) but who the fuck in need was ever helped by shit staying the same? What progress has come from us keepin’ on keepin’ on with zero change?

I guess, I’m still kind of mad. I’ll tell you why. (Ha, of course, I will.)

One triumphant moment in my history of being the younger sibling was when I explained something to my big brother (aka my superior who I will never be as kewl as, ever) and he said: that’s a good point! Fellow baby sibs will understand this. This is not shit that happens for us v. often. My brother and I were sitting on our mama’s bed–we all took turns guarding her during those last weeks just in case the mighty angels came down and swept her away in chariots of fire or whatnot–it was our turn and we started debating her initial decision to have fought this stupid terminal disease. Coming out the gate 8-months ago, her doctors were clear on this is how it ends: she dies while her children sit on her bed watching. But she wanted to fight and she fought like hell. The side effects of chemo sucked the life out of her, though, and she suffered through the cycles of side effects like high fevers and intense weakness, plus exhaustion, and even more nausea, and this super weird cold-sensitivity thing forcing her to eat everything at room temperature and wear *gloves all the time.

So why go through with it all– the extra sickness and constant glove-wearing– if she was dying no matter what? Fair question. But, as I told my brother, someone’s gotta be the one to say no. Rosa Parks said no. She got arrested and didn’t get to ride the bus after her “no” but it definitely stirred shit up for the better. Something NOT okay was going on and because she had the courage to say no, despite the consequences, things changed. And it wasn’t an overnight change. IDK (history too well) if she ever got to enjoy the changes she put into motion that day… but, just like my mama, she decided things could not keep on keepin’ on.

Basically, I got my big brother to agree with me that our mom was a lot like Rosa Parks. (He was under a lot of mental and emotional stress back then.)

When it comes right down to it… the reason my mama (and Albie, most likely, also) died is because she starved to death. My mom stopped being able to eat at the end of March, and then her family and close friends had to watch starve to death. For weeks. Day and night. While we planned Easter dinner and then during the entire month of April. We watched her starve for a month and live without water for over 15-days until she died on April 28.

You mad too yet? Nope. Okay, I’ll keep on goin’ on.

My mom’s body stopped digesting solid food and eventually, when even our go-to liquid meal of chicken broth caused her severe pain until being vomited back up, her oncologists suggested (commanded) it was time for hospice care. I’ll remember this forever, of course. It’s imprinted in my soul: the day her oncologist had “reassured” us that her best bet at having more time was by going into hospice care, which my mom surrendered and agreed to, because continuing treatment would kill her. So, her best chance at surviving was to enter into a service that is designed for people who are dying, and they’re dying very soon.

One of the nurses put it best, “Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t.”

When our FB friend, Albie, posted a status saying she was taking a “much needed” break a few weeks ago, my dad and I shared the same thought of that’s not good. After my mama had died, Albie checked-in on us often. My dad and I prayed for her every day and talked about visiting, or meeting, her one day. I replied to her comment on my profile picture once saying how much I wished her the miracle my mama never got. She needed to beat this impossible cancer– for her self and her own family but also for my mama. Go, Fight, Win!

But, the pancreas doesn’t respond to chemotherapy. It’s used as palliative care to stop and/or slow the cancer from spreading. It was big, big news when the FDA approved the drug Abraxane for use along with the already used drug, Gemcitibine, in September 2013. Groundbreaking research was done for the discovery that together these two miracle drugs drastically improved the average survival… by two months. The lifespan of patients went from 6-months to 8-months! Woo! That’s the only advancement we’ve made in 20-years.

And yet no one’s called bullshit.

The Pancreatic Action Network (PANCAN) celebrated like it was 1999 again for two more months! No one had the balls to admit two months isn’t enough and we need to do more. Our patients, loved ones, moms and dads, brothers and sisters, children, trial test subjects, whatever these people are to we who care– need more than an additional two months.

Why should we demand more? Why should we care? As we keep on keepin’ by going to Soul Cycle, shopping at Whole Foods for only organic veggies, buying new shoes, being overall dang good people who donate to charity and don’t litter… why stop our lives and care more?

Because, pancreatic cancer will be the second leading cause of cancer deaths in 2020, according to the American Cancer Society stats. It’s moving from the fourth leading cause to the second in less than four and a half years. Add ten years, and it’s predicted that by the year 2030, the number of new pancreatic cancer cases will have doubled and the deaths will have almost tripled. Last year, 46,420 people were newly diagnosed and 39,590 people died.

This cancer is coming for you, or someone who you love even more than you, and there’s no cure. All you can do is plan what to do with the exciting gift of those extra two months.

*I got Mama a little present to cheer her up during the weird cold-sensitivity-thing, and also make her feel a little more useful around the house. It was good for her to feel like she still had purpose. I bought her fuzzy gloves that were made for dusting! She, however, did not wear them so it was a loss. Great idea, though, glove company!

I Want My Mommy.

RORY: All I could think of the minute you left was “I want my mommy.” I haven’t thought that since I was two.

LORELAI: That’s natural.

RORY: I’m eighteen. I can sign contracts, I can vote, I can fight for my country. I mean, I’m an adult. Adults don’t want their mommies.

LORELAI: Yes, they do, honey. I’m not a good example, but –

RORY: Everything’s so foreign. I have to share a bathroom. I’ve never shared a bathroom with anyone but you. So I’m gonna be running into people in the bathroom, we’re gonna have to make small talk. I don’t know any bathroom small talk.

LORELAI: Um. . .gee, your hair smells terrific?

RORY: You didn’t socialize me properly. You made me a mama’s girl. Why don’t I hate you? Why don’t I want to be away from you? It’s going to be very hard to be Christiane Amanpour broadcasting live from a foxhole in Tehran with my mommy. I guess you’re just gonna have to learn how to operate a camera ’cause I’ll need you there with me.

LORELAI: I would do that.

RORY: And how did I end up at Yale? I mean, I let Grandma and Grandpa manipulate me right out of Harvard and into Yale. That’s how strong-willed I am. I know nothing about Yale.

LORELAI: Not so – you’ve memorized its entire history.

RORY: How can you be so fine with this? You left here without a care in the world.

LORELAI: That’s not true.

RORY: You couldn’t wait for me to get out of the house. What were you doing when I paged you – turning my room into a sewing room? I should hate you, not miss you. Do something to make me hate you.

LORELAI: Uh. . .go Hitler!

(One of Mama’s favorite Gilmore Girls episodes, 4.02: The Lorelais’ First Day at Yale)


I couldn’t agree more. Life just isn’t fun without Mama. It’s just not. I feel robbed. So many others, too, feel robbed. My Aunt texted me yesterday, saying how she feels robbed of spending retirement visiting, shopping and knitting (well, my Aunt knitting while Mama pretends) together, my dad is robbed not only of growing old along with someone but also of the only person who remembers all the stories they’d collected during 30-years together, my mom’s besties are robbed of decades together spent aging gracefully (and disgracefully, bc it’s them, ha) while giggling through it all, my big brother is robbed of having the mother who– despite not sharing an ounce of DNA and completely by choice– raised him and loved him and lit up outer space laughing at his jokes, my brother and I’s kids (not, like, our kids together… like, kids w/ our spouses… this isn’t GOT… also, I feel like I have to explain this abnormally often in conversations) will be robbed of a Nana who couldn’t wait to spoil them and who wanted nothing more than to be a grandma to her very lucky (and not inbreed) gran-babies, my future husband (or cat) will be robbed of meeting the woman who made me… me and will never know the person who has filled the most space in my life, and I am robbed of the many, many more words we would’ve spoken and the tons of fun adventures we would’ve found, together. Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 9.59.02 PM