The below post was written by Jim Chapdelaine, featured in this photo as well. The words could not be more perfect to describe such an amazing and inspirational woman.
Yesterday, the news came. News that I was expecting but stopped me in my tracks.
Everything about it was wrong. Our friend, a founder and the giddy up in our go, was gone.
There was a flurry of pictures and beautiful comments about this amazing woman on social media. I remained preoccupied with Lauren Skop Ryan’s passing until I couldn’t hold it in any more. I wept. I wept for her and her husband, Matt and “her babies”. I thought about all of the lives she managed to change or affect by doing something amazing.
Lauren, from her high school photos and some conversations, seemed like, at one time, may have been an ordinary person. I never met that person. I never saw “the hair”. The person I met was, by all accounts, metrics and time spent, an extraordinary person. We read about them or see them in movies. She was an ordinary person whose life was turned upside down, in the most adversarial way, by Angiosarcoma, and rather than go about her business quietly, became extraordinary. Adversity can do that and I see it in many members.
This is a disease I am familiar with and am a long term survivor. Lauren and a few others with AS, decided they would not take this lying down. Lauren would not become a statistic but would organize and collect people along the way, who could help find a cure for this merciless thing. I cannot describe what she built. Pridefully and willfully, she confronted the darkness and brought her light to organize a community of like minded people. She did something miraculous. AS cuts a wide, indiscriminate path. While a rare cancer, it does not care about race, creed, religions, hobbies or belief systems. When I first stumbled into the group, I was welcomed with open arms. It is a caring community with a shared goal.
Because AS is indiscriminate as to who hosts it, we have a group with wide ranging opinions on politics, religion and other important life decisions. But here’s the thing that I marvel at. It is a model society. A place where convictions are welcomed without judgement, beliefs are not judged or argued about. How? Why? Our country is paralyzed by these very issues. Here, they are tabled.
Lauren knew that we all have a common, over arching goal that renders those things irrelevant to the group. We all want to live. More importantly, we all want each other to live. Scientists offer science. People with similar presentations compare notes. And always with great affection and love. What may have started as a simple support group is becoming an unstoppable force, populated with more extraordinary people.
Lauren accomplished what a government cannot. She found the common goal amongst a commonly afflicted group of folks and created an environment that extracted the best from each of them. This, alone, is astonishing. She was devilishly funny, raised money and got things done. And she raised her babies with her husband Matt. This “ordinary” person did that!
And she did while being assaulted unmercifully by this very disease that she set out to destroy.
One day, a fearful young mom will be diagnosed with AS. That mom might be cured because of the collaborative efforts set in place by Lauren Skop Ryan. That mom will get to raise her babies. Lauren would want that for anyone because she was so full of love.
I hope she is given a royal send off because she was a Queen.
After that, I hope we honor her incredible achievements by doubling our efforts to fight this stuff.
By continuing to love each other and share treatment stories and support each other.
If you’re a member, do what Lauren was so good at – use your talents and bring them to bear to vanquish this beast. And do it with a heart full of love and a few laughs in your pocket.
I raise my glass to a heroic human, to Lauren Skop Ryan, whose legacy begins now.
To you, Sista.