I met Lisa in October of 1995. She was the production manager for our creative services team at Megahertz, but as far as I was concerned she was some sort of corporate goddess. She was smart. She was funny. She was driven. She was creative. She got shit done. She had this sharp spindle thing on her desk with like 500 post-it notes and scraps of paper on it and when some random question came up she’d pause for a second, run her finger down the spindle, hit the exact scrap of paper she was looking for and have the answer for you. She could keep a million plates spinning. She could charm even the most crusty hardware engineer or accounts payable clerk. She loved dogs. She had a huge boat that she towed around and could handle on the water all by herself. She was a total bad-ass. And did I mention that she was and is insanely beautiful?
I’m not quite sure how it was that we became friends. But my twenties are filled with memories of us having dinner at the Oyster Bar every time I came into town. We’d order a bottle of chardonnay and eat way too much bread and talk about work and about writing. Lisa was still a corporate goddess, but she was also twenty-something-Natalie’s lighthouse, helping me find the passion for what I do for a living and inspiring me to never let go of my creative outlet.
I vividly remember where I was at and what I was doing when she called because she had “news.”
“YOU’RE PREGNANT!!” I excitedly blurted out.
I remember thinking, “Is that even possible?” because she was so young. So so so so young.
Lisa handled/embraced/fought her cancer with style and grace and humor. No one could regale you with a post-colonoscopy-public-fart story like Lisa. No one could rock a fanny-pack like Lisa. No one could create a complete re-work of your packaging, collateral, and merchandising strategy during treatment like Lisa. No one can throw the most rockin’ Vegas bachelorette party followed by the best wedding of all time while she’s got cancer like Lisa.
Last weekend Alek and I saw 50/50. And at the part where he goes in for the surgery to remove his tumor, I just started bawling. It was the full-on ugly cry. And it was probably even uglier because I had to keep quiet because we were in a movie theater. And my nose was running and I couldn’t find the Kleenex buried in my purse. I was a hot mess. (Note to self: Movie Theater = not a great place to ugly cry.) And I basically cried from that point until the end of the movie. Afterward I tried to explain to Alek.
I started crying because I was thinking “Oh man, with Lisa’s cancer the surgeries were almost as scary as the cancer itself.” And then I started thinking “Oh man, Lisa lived this whole damn movie!” And then I started thinking “Holy shit. Lisa really lived this whole damn movie! This whole drama I’m watching on screen, it was real. She did it. She is amazing.” And then I started hoping that I was a good enough friend to her during her circus of cancer. I hope I was but I wish I could go back and be better. I started crying because I am so happy that Lisa is not only alive, she has cultivated a beautiful life with her hilarious and handsome husband and her two gorgeous babies and her warm and loving family and 16 years later, I get to be part of that life.
When I moved back to Utah one of the first orders of business was chardonnay and too much bread at the Oyster Bar with Lisa. Lisa has now become 30-something Natalie’s lighthouse. In addition to her always spot-on relationship and career advice she is showing me what it means to be a wife and a mother. Oh, and without Lisa, I would not be running and that’s a fact. And 16 years later, she is still pushing me to write. And I am beyond grateful for that.
Happy 10th Cancer-Versary Lisa! Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for always listening. Thank you for inspiring me. I love you from the bottom of my heart.