"Is all this for me?" Sarah Bach asked her husband, Peter, as they drove down their suburban Portland street following a radiation treatment. "Sarah's Warriors" had adorned trees on the block with giant orange ribbons - Sarah's favorite color - to rally her in her fight against conjunctival melanoma, a mucosal cancer originally diagnosed and treated in 2005. What was thought to have been behind them, resurfaced in June 2010, when the cancer was found to have metastasized to her lungs and liver.
Statistics indicate melanoma patients survive 9 to 12 months past diagnosis; however, Sarah is determined to defy statistics. "I'm not a statistic," she has said. "I don't care what the stats are, if there's one person [who responds to treatment and survives], I'll be that one person." Between June 2010 and January 2011, Sarah underwent multiple treatments.
determined to fight
Accompanying Sarah to every treatment has been her signature red boxing gloves, personalized with inspirational sayings in black permanent marker. An image in her CaringBridge photo album implores her to "Fight like a Girl!" Nearly 400 people wear orange silicone wristbands emblazoned with "Sarah's Warriors" and boxing gloves to show their support.
It would be easy for Sarah, a stay-at-home mom in her early 40s, to resent cancer. Instead, she's been stoic, eager to continue living to the fullest. Frequent trips to Eugene to visit her family, shopping with friends, and hanging out with Peter, 4-year-old Simon, 7-year-old Ava, and 10-year-old Elliot help her maintain an appreciation for life - and give her so many reasons to "Fight Like a Girl!"
The Bachs pledged not to go through this journey alone. "We knew we had a great community and we were going to share with them," Peter says. "We weren't going to hide."
Needing an outlet through which to share updates, Peter started a blog the night of the melanoma diagnosis but never published a single post. At a neighborhood party that night a friend told Peter, "Don't waste your time with the blog! You need CaringBridge." He went home, checked it out and signed up. "I knew this was the place," he says. "It had the templates and everything we needed. It's so easy." He deleted the blog.
tapping into others' strength
CaringBridge has connected the Bachs to their support network for prayers, meals, household chores and help with the kids. While difficult for Peter to post on occasion, it's also cathartic and allows the family to tap into others' strength when they have little. "To have to say things only once is so helpful," he says. "I don't want to leave everyone feeling like they're on the outside wondering how Sarah's doing. With CaringBridge, they can find out, focus their prayers, and chime in [on the guestbook] without interrupting."
Sarah appreciates CaringBridge for bringing her closer to distant relatives, old friends and family in Eugene. "All of this support is very heartwarming, almost overwhelming," Sarah says. "I find it humbling - almost strange - how many people want to hear my story. I'm a pretty average mom, housewife."
The orange ribbons lining her neighborhood have created an even greater awareness among her physical community, resulting in a local newspaper story and flowers from a complete stranger. The family was duly honored when the employees at Peter's family-owned business made a Christmas gift to CaringBridge in tribute to Sarah. The Bachs themselves have been donors as well.
As for the orange ribbons outside her home? While she's uncomfortable with the attention, she secretly hopes the visual reminders of the love and support remain. She got her wish, at least initially, as the ribbons multiplied and Sarah's Warriors began attaching encouraging notes to strengthen her resolve to fight.