Monthly Archives: April 2014

Don’t Let Cancer Win

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops Jon Bones Jones on TV defending his title at UFC 172 main event in Baltimore“Mom, do you need anything brought to the cleaners?” my son asked, holding up a half- dozen dress shirts in shades of blues and red.
“What are all those for?” I asked. His eyes sparkled.
“If Jon wins,” he said gleaming, “parties.” The coming weekend, his friend, Jon Bones Jones, would defend his title as UFC Light Heavyweight Champion of the world.
As my son walked to his car, the colorful shirts fluttered in the wind, reminding me of Tibetan prayer flags. And suddenly hope was hugging me as I watched him drive off.

Jon’s fight; I had to see it. He had to win.

“So bloody. Too violent,” friends said when I canvassed to share the Pay-Per-View. To see the event I’d have to go to a bar, by myself, at ten on Saturday night. That was less likely than my son ironing shirts. But I was determined.
Googling the contender’s name, I couldn’t stop reading about his powerful blows and 20-game winning streak. Could Jon beat this guy? Memories of injuries from past fights pummeled at my hopes. I rubbed my eyes to wish on fallen lashes. I cried, imagining the dismal scene if he lost, the clean shirts put back upstairs unused. Please let Jon win.
For days I willed him to be strong and went without my daily glass of wine, to comply with his training regimen. Let Jon keep his title, I pleaded each night, looking up at the stars as I walked the dog. He has to win, I told myself all week. The last time I’d prayed this hard was near the end of my daughter’s almost three-year battle with leukemia. I needed a victory celebration.

“I’m so excited,” I emailed back to my friend Marcy when she confirmed I could watch the fight at her place. “I’m so nervous,” I told her husband and son-in-law as I plopped down on their couch during the preliminaries and quickly devoured the corn-chips.
Please win, I whispered as the match began.
Please, because I want my son to wear his dress shirts and be happy.
Win, because my daughter’s friend, Jake, an avid martial artist, had said, “Don’t let the cancer win,” before he died. And last week, Troy, one of her high school classmates, lost his fight against cancer. Because the National Cancer Institute reports survival rates for young adults with cancer have not improved like the rates for pediatric and adult cancers.

You have to win, Jon. Because I need to see more young people winning their fights and living their dreams.Robin Botie photoshops Jon Bones Jones winning UFC Light Heavyweight Championship


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Bucket Filling

In Ithaca, New York, Robin Botie wants to fill a bucket for her son on Easter.I wanted to be a mother on Easter again. But my son, in his adult state, does not like sweets. What can you give to someone who has everything? Who buys, faster than light, whatever he needs or wants? I bought him a bucket. And tried to fill it for him.

For my birthday he had taken me to one of our favorite restaurants. After dinner we sat over glasses of Armagnac and I asked him, “What’s next?”
“I don’t know,” he said. And not wanting to bring up the touchy topic of job searches on a peaceful evening, I tweaked my question toward the outer limits:
“Don’t you have a bucket list?”
“I’ve already done everything on my bucket list,” he said. And he named a dozen amazing things he’d experienced in his remarkable young life.
“Well, you can’t be all done. There’s gotta be places you want to see, more things you want to do,” I said, thinking of my own bucket list, which is endless.
“No, I can die at fifty.”
“No. You can’t,” I told him. “Because I wanna live to a hundred and you can’t leave me childless.” Losing a child was not something I wanted to do twice.

Over the next week I tried to make a list for him: see sunrise on a hot-air balloon over the caves of Cappadocia in Turkey; watch the sunset in Santorini, Greece; eat at the Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence; visit an active volcano; howl naked at the moon with wolves; give a homeless person a hundred dollar bill; attend a birth, … but you can’t make a bucket list for someone else, no matter how much you love him.

The day before Easter, I scrunched my way through a crowded Wegmans gathering travel-sized toiletries and smoked salmon, Clementines, a RedBull energy drink, … special breakfast items. Even a man with no plans and no hunger could appreciate a new toothbrush and a nice Easter breakfast.
Behind the bakery counter, a woman smiled as she drew icing-faces on bunny cookies.
“Do you love your work?” I asked.
“Oh yeah, decorating cookies is the perfect job for me,” she said. “I look forward to it every day.” I added a bunny cookie to my son’s breakfast collection.
At the Agway store, I grabbed a five-inch tall metal bucket off the shelf. The possibilities for a small bucket, even empty, are limitless.

There was one more bucket left on the shelf. I took it for myself.

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Photoshop Therapy

Robin Botie in Ithaca, New York, photoshops a friend flying in clouds over trees..“Can you make a picture of me flying in the clouds?” my friend had asked, looking up from her wheelchair. That was 3 weeks ago. After cancelling and rescheduling several times, we were finally together in her apartment squeezed between the wheelchair, a big armchair and a card-table.
There were questions to consider: Would she fly horizontally or vertically? Did she want wings? What should she wear?
In my collection of cloud photos there were wispy cirrus clouds in a blue sky over trees. There were bright sunlit mackerel skies. But she wanted thunderclouds, lightning, maybe a tornado. “For my dark side,” she said.

It was raining when we shuffled outside to shoot her in a flying pose. She stood against the brick wall just outside the door, flapping her wings.
“You don’t look very happy to be flying,” I said. “Look down at the ground like there’s something special down there.”

Back inside, I inserted the chip from the camera into its slot in the computer. We sat at the card-table and chose a shot from the 21 images of my friend twisting, turning, banking into the wind with arms outstretched. I cut-and-pasted her form from the brick background to the photo of storm clouds.
“I need to be smaller. No bigger. Can you make me higher in the sky? A little more to the right …” she orders.
“You’re too pale,” I say. “I’m adding blush to your cheeks.”
“What about the dark circle under my left eye?”
“I can fix that.”
“Something’s missing: what am I pointing at?” she asks. “Should we put a rat in the picture?”
“I don’t have any photos of rats. What if we add another shot of you?”

“Let’s name this one ‘Ascension,’” she says, two hours and four pictures later. “Besides making me prints, what are you going to do with all these?”

A friend flies over stormclouds in Ithaca, New York.

Glennon Doyle Melton's book, CARRY ON WARRIOR has just been released in paperback.

I’m still fixing. I’m still a part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir, Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released last week in paperback, CLICK HERE!

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Stuck Fixing My Messy Beautiful

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, is reflected, praying with cameraIn March 2011, I turned into frozen mud.

I always believed I could design my way into or out of anything. To design is to start with something, a lump of clay, a need, canvas and paint, or a girl who died of leukemia and her grieving mother, and then turn it into something else. For me, to design is to fix and to make beautiful.
But in March 2011, cancer killed my daughter. I could not fix that. I froze. Like mud in winter. Who am I, I wondered? Am I still the mother of a daughter? Who or what am I supposed to fix now?

The day after she died I discovered my daughter was a writer. So I began to write. I wrote our story. And rewrote it and kept writing. Here was something I could fix. I could edit the manuscript endlessly.
But this is messy. In rewriting, I relive the times in and out of hospitals with my daughter. I bring her back to life for twelve chapters and hold my breath as I watch her die. Then, dragging my dashed spirit up off the floor, I fix the next half of the book where I travel alone to Australia with her ashes, come home, and begin a new life. Over and over again, I write and relive every day. For three years.

“When are you going to get a real job with health insurance?” my mother nags.
“It’s time to move on to something else,” says a friend.
“I’m designing my way to healing,” I try to explain. But the truth is I am stuck.

Writing led to blogging. Almost everyone has lost someone or something they love. I ache to fix the pain as another relative is diagnosed with cancer, a friend’s son kills himself, a stranger online reaches out for support.
“There’s life after loss,” I blog on my website, and write the stories of my own struggles in the hope of helping someone else.
Blogging led to photography. I wanted to add pictures to my stories.

My frozen mud began to thaw when I discovered Photoshop with all its fixing tools: a Patch Tool, a Dodge Tool and an Add-Anchor Tool, a Magic Eraser, a Magic Wand, a clone Stamp, …and a Healing Brush. Photoshop lets me redesign my universe. The opportunities for change are endless. The beautiful truth is there are some things I can fix.

“Can you make a photo of me flying in the clouds?” an elderly friend asks from her wheelchair.Glennon Doyle Melton's memoir, CARRY ON WARRIOR, is out in paperback now

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE!   And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

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