Celebrate Life

I am so spoiled. Today is my birthday. While I am turning 23 and am pretty excited to be enjoying another year of my life, and let’s face it birthdays are always fun, I am most excited about the people in my life. My best friends, and even my mom and a few other friends are ALL flying in this weekend. Some for work, some for pleasure, but all are here to help me celebrate my 23rd year of life. People at work are asking me what I want for my bday, what they can bring me, and to tell you the truth I have everything I want. I am surrounded by the people I love, and they all love me enough that they took the time and effort to travel 100s of miles to get to NYC to be with me on my big day. I couldn’t be happier. I am so fortunate to feel so loved.

Love these people!

Every day she brings sunshine to my life!

But today is also special for many other reasons. One year ago today marks one year since Jill Costello lost her battle. Jill was a dear friend who passed away from lung cancer last June 24, 2010. Jill was one of those people where it didn’t matter if you saw her yesterday or 4 months ago she would greet you with one of those smiles that made you feel as though she was genuinely joyed to see you. She radiated happiness, positive energy, and love. She was committed to her friends, her boyfriend, her crew team, her sorority, her family, and her faith. Precisely, she just LOVED life. It hit everyone that ever met her pretty hard when she was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer at age 22. She was a hard working member of the nationally racked, Division 1 Cal Women’s Crew Team. She had never smoked, was an active young college athlete, and was deeply rooted in her faith and social life. She was involved with so many different groups, teams, friends, PEOPLE, that everyone was in shock. How can someone so young and so amazing get diagnosed with something so awful, so fatal? I didn’t understand it then, but now everything about the severity of lung cancer is clear as glass.

– 25% of all women diagnosed with lung cancer NEVER smoked

– 60% of all new lung cancer cases are patients who don’t smoke

– the survival rate of lung cancer is merely at 15%, and it hasn’t changed since the 1970s – mostly due to lack of funding, and stigmas attached to the disease. But diseases like breast cancer’s survival rate have risen quickly to an astonishing 80% over the last few decades

We all wanted a miracle to cure Jill, but we overlooked that SHE herself was our miracle.

While she endured endless ( i’m talking 14+ ) rounds of chemo, radiation and a slew of other tiring treatments, the tumors had already spread throughout her tiny little body faster than anyone could help her. She put up a damn good fight but a year and a few weeks after her diagnosis, she passed away. Her last year touched me more than I ever thought it would. She lived her life to the fullest, she did everything she dreamed of, she finished school and graduated, she coxed the varsity boat to a gold medal at the crew Pac 10 championships and to a 2nd place finish at NCAAs. She did everything, all the while enduring endless health obstacles and undergoing treatments that depilated other patients. But while she may not have had control over her illness, she had a control over what could be done about LUNG CANCER. She worked hard with the Bonnie J Adarrio Lung Cancer Foundation to find a cure. Her goal, that she wrote endlessly in her journal was to BEAT LUNG CANCER. It was never to beat hers, though she did believe in affirmations, but it was to beat the disease as a whole. To prevent others from the thing she so bravely fought. Jill- always selfless. She planned things, scribbling details down in her notebook, about how these lung cancer fundraising events and drafted lofty goals. Little did she know that after her passing, the mere effect she had on everyone’s life inspired one giant committed cause. The attendance numbers at the runs/ jogs she planned were far past her goals. The money raised as well. The awareness, the presence of the foundation, all fueled by people who loved her the most and became as dedicated to the cause as she was. Out of love.

She was a beautiful person. I could talk about her forever ; but this piece, aired by ESPN at the beginning of June, pretty much says it all. Please watch this video :

Jill\’s documentary on ESPN : \” Wave and Wake\”

Her last year, she kept a journal to chronicle her treatments, her feelings, and more to share some inspiration. I read that journal still to this day whenever I think I’m having a hard time, sad, even when I’m happy. It really helps me to put life in perspective. So today, while it is my birthday and I celebrate being 23, I am reminded to really celebrate LIFE because it is precious, short lived, and really wonderful. It is easy to get caught up in the little things that prevent us from fully enjoying every day. And when I do, I know I turn to some of these words, and I am reminded to live in the present. To enjoy every moment that passes. For jill, because she did. For me, because it enriches my life. Because I CAN. For those I love , because their happiness is my happiness.

” Love-Do it all the time without restrictions. Don’t hold back your love; constantly remind the people you love that you do. Talk about things you love…Don’t waste your time criticizing or complaining; there’s no time for that ”

“Decide what is true for you, what brings you joy, what allows you to live passionately, and then believe wholeheartedly in those things.”

– Jillian Costello

So, I challenge you all to CELEBRATE LIFE today in any way you know how. Who are you going to inspire today?


5 thoughts on “Celebrate Life

  1. Nate Floyd

    Melly, beautifully written. I am so appreciative of you in my life and wouldnt want to be anywhere else in the world right now than on may way to your apartment to celebrate your life, Jill’s life, and all life. 🙂
    Life is good, dear, and precious and I value spending every moment I can with those that I love and love me back. Happy birthday babe!

  2. Sally Samuels

    We don’t know each other … your words are not only awe inspiring but so very beautiful and so eloquently worded. I only met Jill once, the day of her UC graduation when she came over to the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation “Living Room” meeting for a little while with her mom and Jack. I will never forget Jill. The legacy she left will live on forever. She will help us “beat Lung Cancer big time”. We are all richer for having known/met Jill.
    I wish you a very happy 23rd birthday and celebration of your life.
    Lots of hugs.

  3. Sherri Oakley

    Very beautifully said, Melissa! Jill is still with us all, isn’t she? Have a very happy birthday with your family and friends! 🙂 xo

  4. Lauren @ WWoB

    Happy birthday Melissa, I hope it is wonderful.
    I am so sorry to hear the details of Jill’s death. When you mentioned your friend, I had no idea the circumstances. This may sound dramatic, but your post has ensured that I never take a social drag from someones cigarrette again. I cant believe how prevalent it is among non smokers and how YOUNG she was. She sounds like she was an amazing girl; exactly the kind of person we want to surround ourselves with.
    Ill be thinking of you today. Thank you so much for this post.


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