Friday, June 13, 2008

The Best Friend I Never Met

It is with great sadness that I announce the death of Leah Ryan. Leah died from leukemia yesterday at the age of 44. She lived in Sunnyside, NY. She leaves behind her mother, Arlene, and her adored kitties.

I met Leah on the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Discussion Boards last Fall. She had recently relapsed and was contemplating a transplant. You can tell a lot about a person by the way they write. Leah's voice was very distinctive, and since she's a writer, her posts were wonderful to read. Back in December, Leah sent me an email, our first contact of a more personal nature. She had read my blog in preparation for her own transplant. We became cyber pals.

Although I never met Leah, I feel I know her. She was smart, funny, no-nonsense. She lived life on her own terms, and she died that way, too. We wrote to each other not just about our illnesses, but about coffee, books, our lives, writing, our fears. Like me, Leah was a type-A personality. When I wrote a blog post about how I can't sit still, she immediately emailed me, somewhat relieved that she was not the only post-transplant lunatic making to-do lists and driving herself nuts.

Leah meant a lot to the people who participate on the LLS boards. That's because she was supportive and caring. And of course, funny. Did I mention she was funny? Leah started her own blog after her transplant, and so much of it was hilarious. One particular act of Leah kindness stands out for me. Back in March, when I was freaking out about my perpetual fear of relapse, Leah immediately wrote to me and gave me a pep talk. She also gave me her phone numbers, and told me to call whenever I felt like it. Leah was one of the best friends I never met.

I would eventually call Leah, right after I read on LLS that she had relapsed once more. At the time, I couldn't decide whether calling her would be an unwanted intrusion or not. I had the sense that Leah was a very private person. Truthfully, I didn't even want to make the call, because what was I going to say? Leah being Leah, she immediately put me at ease and we spoke for ten minutes or so. She sounded exactly as I had imagined she would.

Leah, I'm glad you took the time to share yourself with me. Cancerland is a sucky place, but you've made it more bearable. You've touched me.

Peace to you, my friend.


Ann said...


ml said...

hi pj, i'm ML here. Yes, i've never known leah personally but have been reading and learning a lot from her posts. And from yours as well.

I feel the sadness and the shock as well cause even we never know her, but from the posts she has wrote, i felt sad personally cause someone with her courage has lost with her leukemia battle. I hope everyone in the forum and anyone with leukemia out there will survive and live a long, happy and healthy life.

And i want to thank you pj coz let me know about your great blog. I can't wait to have my moments back.

Take care and keep in touch.