I first met Amy in high school. With two years between us in school, our paths wouldn’t necessarily have crossed, but we both got jobs at the Cedarville STAR Market when it first opened, and we bonded over our royal blue smocks and courtesy booth shifts. Amy was a kind person, a gentle soul, and a pleasure to work with. The majority of my connection to Amy occurred during those years in the early to mid-90s, as I returned home on college weekends and some summer breaks to work at good old STAR Market (“See what makes us shine!”).
Amy and I reconnected on Facebook in early 2013; it was 15 years or more since I had seen her. As often happens when years pass, we had both grown up, gotten married, and had children. Amy had a beautiful daughter who looked just like her; I had 2 sons, one of whom is my doppelgänger. By the time we connected online, Amy had already been diagnosed with breast cancer and had finished chemo. Shortly after our Facebook connection, Amy got the news that her cancer had metastasized and returned.
Part of my journey in life has been to educate and inform others about toxins in personal care products, and offer safe alternatives. Shortly after Amy and I became Facebook friends, I posted a video warning women of the dangers of keeping their cell phones close to their bodies (especially near their breasts) as more and more young women are developing breast cancer and it’s believed to be linked to cell phone radiation (according to the President’s Cancer Panel, only 10% of cancers are genetic; the rest are caused by environmental factors). Amy commented on my post and told me she believed her breast cancer was triggered by her cell phone as it occurred in the very same spot where she kept her phone in her lab coat (Amy was a pharmacy tech).
Throughout her illness, Amy shared herself on Facebook and through her CaringBridge site. She shared her ups and downs; she shared photos of herself and her family; she shared links for people to become more aware of metastatic breast cancer. At a time when some people would have shut down and withdrawn, Amy put herself out there. In March 2015, Amy shared (with help from her mom) that she had welcomed hospice into her home; her fight was coming to a close. On May 30, Amy Hadfield Mayberry ended her struggle with cancer. She was 37 years old.
In the age of Facebook and social media, we often know things about people and have a view into their lives that we couldn’t possibly maintain were it not for selfies and blog posts. I haven’t seen Amy in person in many years, we just recently reconnected on Facebook, but I find myself thinking of her constantly and grieving her loss. I’ve been struggling to understand my own emotions; as I’m not a current “real” (aka in person) friend of Amy’s, what right do I have to grieve for her? That right should clearly be reserved for her family, her dear friends who have been there all along. And then I read a Facebook post from another high school friend, who shared that he too had lost touch with Amy after high school but had watched her battle with cancer on Facebook and felt similarly moved by her journey and deeply saddened by the loss of her light in this world. That’s when it hit me: I’m grieving Amy because we should ALL be grieving Amy. Amy was the type of human being that made the world better through her life. She was a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a neighbor of extraordinary character. The energy that Amy radiated was peaceful and kind. She had an ability to profoundly impact people with her way of being (even if your only recent interaction with her was through social media). The inspiration that Amy provided in her last months on Earth cannot be measured. My life has been altered because of her journey, and as I read others’ posts on Facebook, I know theirs were too. I got my first mammogram in March and had a questionable lump checked (thankfully it’s a lymph node) because I felt like I owed it to Amy, so bravely facing the end of her battle. Amy has also been a huge inspiration for me as I continue to educate people about toxins in products and as I pursue my dream of becoming a health and wellness coach. The thought that I could work with women like Amy to support them in regaining health is very moving.
The world has lost a bright light and a brave woman. We are all blessed to have encountered Amy on our journey.