Jennifer Goodman Linn You Fearless

Daniella Szule – A Dear Friend and Survivor

My surgery was two weeks ago today and I made my first official trek outside of the neighborhood.  Unfortunately it was to attend the memorial service of a very special woman I was proud to call a friend.

Dani's website says it best...."Who doesn't love the Dani? I don't know anyone".  This proved true today when hundreds of people gathered to wish Dani goodbye after a long and tough 3 year battle with sarcoma.

Dani and I shared the same oncologist at MSKCC.  I remember one day he said to me, "I know you always say you'd like to meet and mentor other patients like you but I've never found anyone with your upbeat personality and outlook on life. Jen, I finally found someone for you to meet...her name is Dani and she embraces the life just the way you do."

We hit it off from day one.  Sharing annoying stories about hair loss, chemotherapy regimens and about annoying side effects.  Often the only good thing about going to the chemo clinic or to our oncologist's office was seeing Dani there.  She battled a very tough type of sarcoma situated in a very delicate place in her body but she never gave up and never wanted to be treated like a victim or pitied.  She was a beautiful role model in how people can handle the disease with grace.

I remember telling her about Cycle for Survival in the early days and she immediately and passionately said, "I'm in!" No less than two weeks later she had raised over $40K and motivated her large network of friends and family to show up in force to ride and support "Team Dani"

I was supposed to be her mentor yet she was the one teaching me how to live and thrive in the face of adversity.

Dani shared with me a few months ago that our Doctors had no other options for her.  She knew that death was imminent but she handled this horrible news with great resolve and a determination to make the most of her final days.

I remember when I asked her the question, "Dani, really, what can I do for you?"  Her answer was quite simple yet quite powerful. "Jen, please keep on doing what you have started with Cycle for Survival.  It may not help me but it can help so many that follow after me.  I am so thankful that you started this charity.  It has given me a purpose these past few years and has really kept me going. Please don't stop continuing your efforts."

While it was totally appropriate and understandable for Dani to be thinking about herself during the past few months, she always was thinking of others.  When she heard about my recent battle a few months ago, she emailed me and said:

Keep fighting the good fight, and I know that bastard tumor will lose against you, just like the others have.There is no other way to say it other than this  sucks, and I am pissed for you. And damn it may you fight this tumor quickly and have it be the last!After all, how about Cycle in Miami, Boston, LA, Texas, next year? I say we at least try someplace warm!

Dani and I were both in the hospital about a month ago. I was told by her family that her health was quickly deteriorating and that I should consider this my goodbye.  I spent long moments talking with her and laughing with her. No matter what, she was always the joker.  She was released to hospice care and yet she survived another 5 weeks...long enough to make sure her mother's health wasn't in jeopardy after a recent mastectomy.  That's my Dani, selfless until the end.

Dani emailed me about 3 days before she passed while I was still in the hospital recovering from my surgery. She apologized profusely for not visiting me in the hospital...she wasn't feeling very well.  I feel like she knew this might be our last email exchange. She wrote,

Jen, I hope this is it. Let's get that sucker out of you. Just keep kicking butt like you always have and you will come out on top. I know it! Sending you strength and positive thoughts. You are, as always, a truly amazing person. I am lucky to be able to call you my friend and I know our friendship will last throughout our  lives.

I miss Dani dearly but I will carry her lessons and her wish in my heart as I continue to help make Cycle for Survival an even stronger force in the fight against cancer.  Please honor Dani's wishes and continue to participate, donate and spread the word. 

Dani, you have made a big difference in my life and I will never forget you.