Every once in awhile, you meet a person who makes you very aware of what it means to be a truly exceptional human being. A person who genuinely cares about the well-being of others, who is the opposite of selfish, who's warm and kind and real and who perhaps has a wicked sense of humor, too. For me, Susan Niebur was one of those people. I found out today that she had died. She was 39.
A mom of two and a planetary scientist, Susan wrote Toddler Planet. For the last five years, she's lived with inflammatory breast cancer. No form of that is ever good but IBC is a particularly nasty, aggressive kind. Susan took it on with grace, humor, wisdom, honesty and extreme guts. Four times, she won. Along the way, she dedicated herself to educating people and raising awareness about IBC. She launched the support site Mothers With Cancer. Susan had young children and yet, she never stopped thinking about ways she could help others. She inspired countless people. She saved the lives of countless women.
One of the side effects of having a mastectomy is lymphedema, swelling in the arms that comes from removal of the lymph nodes. Two women created a special compression sleeve to help control the swelling, which Susan had benefitted from. Not everyone could afford the $1oo for one, though, and Susan got the women to donate ones to women in need. Then she started a project to raise awareness about the free sleeves—and along the way, raised money for more of them.
Susan's efforts won her a Blogantrophy Award; the ceremony was at the Type A Parent Conference, and that's where I met her. She knew who Max was. "Everyone loves that Max!" she said. This was last June, and her prognosis wasn't good; the cancer had metastasized. But she didn't want to talk about herself. No, she just wanted to know how Max was doing. She only wanted to talk about Max.
That is the kind of person Susan was. I didn't know her well, but all you had to do was read her blog or meet her for a few minutes in person and you knew that people like Susan don't come along very often.
I'm hoping you can join in with honoring Susan's memory. Her husband asked that people consider "furthering Susan's legacy" by making a donation to Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation. "Or please choose to make a difference somewhere, anywhere, to anyone," he writes.
Here's a simple thing: Take a look at this brochure about the symptoms of IBC. You're doing it for Susan, but you're also doing it you—and, really, that's all Susan would have wanted.