Wednesday, October 13, 2010

National Breast Cancer Month: A Tribute to Renee

“There are things that we don’t want to happen but have to accept,
things we don’t want to know but have to learn,
and people we can’t live without but have to let go.”

I have spent today and part of Monday writing a grant for partial funding of the writing and publishing of Renee's Book of Love. If you happen to be unfamiliar with Renee, you'll find the background below, part of an attachment I just finished so that the grant reviewers can better understand why Renee's story should be written.
This is a fitting privilege for me during National Breast Cancer Month. Because I will be required to be accountable to the grant administators (I'm requesting $ 2200.00)I know that if this money is awarded, I will write this book in a form worthy of Renee and her family.
I will include Renee's beloved illustrations and art, her family's favorites of her posts, her thoughts and observations about cancer and living and dying, and love letters from us, her blogging friends, who learned from her how to say 'I love you!" outloud and for real.
I had planned to direct you to Yahoo Shine!, where there is an article on twenty wonderful purchases you can make that will also contribute to breast cancer awareness and research. Please find your way there if you have the means and ability to do so.
But mostly today, I want this to be about my friend Renee. I haven't written my own love letter to her yet; I've tried and it's been too hard, but I'm glad I could write this background.
When I need guidance or a special favor these days, I ask my Father and I ask Renee. She called me one time when I was grieving my own loss, and she told me none of it was my fault. I'll never forget that.
In her third year of a very terminal illness, Renee Khan of Winnipeg started a blog.

She was determined to leave her voice behind for her family and for the grandchildren she feared would not remember her. Almost daily, she would write stories about them on their birthdays and anniversaries; share her ‘Then and Now’ journals about cancer and dying and marriage and angels and goddesses and ‘those fucking bats’ that refused to leave her stomach alone. Once a week she would select and offer up three paintings or illustrations, calling them “Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner’, and she would encourage her visitors to interpret them. Periodically she would print rules from a 1950’s book called How to be a Good Housewife, and she would delight in demonstrating how she failed in every single catagory.

It was not unusual that Renee would receive a hundred or more comments on the blog posts she wrote. But was unusual is that so many of her commenters literally and completely fell in love with her. In some amazing way, her legacy is that she taught them how to love, and how not to be afraid to say so.

Renee did not know when she started her blog that it would be followed and embraced by several hundred blog-friends throughout the world, and in her irrepressible and loving way she would befriend each one of them, individually, through back and forth blog comments, emails, letters, cards and little gifts. She also did not know that she would give and receive such comfort and astonishment in the relationships she formed.

Renee also did not know that in the fifteen months from the day she began her blog to the day the fucking bats took her down for a final time, her twenty-five year old nephew would develop and die from a rare form of stomach cancer; his Mother Jacquie, who was Renee’s sister, would days later be diagnosed with and paralyzed by inoperable brain cancer; and, weeks before Renee agreed to go into the hospital for the last time, their Mother would be dying and die, all this while Renee and Jacquie were knee deep in their own illnesses.

For all this unfathomable tragedy to happen to one family was almost beyond belief. Still, Renee never stopped talking about living and loving. All of it, every test, every crisis, every moment of temporary reprieve was followed and felt by a blogging community that came to love this woman named Renee Khan in ways clearly magical if not logical.

Renee’s remarkable story and spirit is embedded in the pages of her blog; in the comments and letters to and from her to hundreds of genuine friends, and through her children. Hers is a story that is too rich and too real to not be shared.


  1. Oh KJ I really hope you can make this work dear!
    You are such a sweetheart!
    Wow how nice would it be you can make this happen and this particular month!
    I wish you all the luck and will keep my fingers crossed!

    Love you

  2. She was a rare treasure that's to be sure.

  3. marianne, i have a good feeling about it. thanks for your good wishes. you are a sweetheart too. ♥

    hells! hello! i still can't quite believe renee is gone. she is so alive when i read her blog and emails. i saw your transportation shots. i love how you are putting themes together. you KNOW how i love paris. i can't wait to go back. plus i want three months writing overlooking a little plaza in italy.

  4. little weepy tears - but of joy that you are doing this.


  5. I'm with Mim, it made me a little weepy, too. A good weepy, a grateful weepy. But missing her! I hope this book comes out! Won't that be amazing? xox!! Pam

  6. I wonder how and why I missed Renee's blog? Your sharing of it here, her story is incredible. I can only imagine how all of you her followers/friends were deeply touched by knowing her in this way.
    Thank you for bringing it to my attention now. Maybe I knew towards the end, seeing her name and candle on other's blogs...but felt like an intruder at that point peeking in. Your idea of a book to be shared by the world is awesome. I hope it comes to pass.

  7. As Baino said, Renee was (and still is) a rare treasure. Those of us who "met" her....even a "newbie" like me, were given her gift of love and life. She changed our lives. Without Renee.....I would not have any of you in my life.... I think of her daily....

    Now, thanks to you, dear KJ, more people will share Renee's life -
    Reading her story will inspire people to fight to live, to live fully and with courage and to be able to love honestly and openly....

    We are still together strong!


    ♥ Robin ♥

  8. beautifully written and so moving a story. good luck as you pursue its publication. So many tragedies all at once. so much love and kindness left behind.

  9. Hello my dear, out for a bit visiting, I am so tired that I think I will fall on my face shortly. Tomorrow is the 5th of 8th. So far no shrinkage of any kind but neither any growing which means that stasis in this case is progress. At least I think of it that way.

    I have not yet been able to write my letter either. I will wait until the infusions are over and what that may bring. Right now it is not a good time. I am so glad you had a good time with the peeps the past weekend.

    Much love and take care. The Universe is abundant and prone to give gifts that multiply. Such as a book where a beloved friend can reach to those who need her but who don't know it yet.

  10. dear kj,

    when i think of renee i feel happysad.
    when i think of cancer i feel mad.

    we are all behind you on this, renee's book of love, i wish though that there were some way to be of more help.

    i am on the same page with breast cancer awareness and donating towards research, i've got a link in my post right now. as you know, my mom and sister are both breast cancer survivors, but my prayer is to find a cure once and for all, for everyone.

    and kj,
    i love you.

  11. I did not know Renee and did not follow her blog...what little I learned has been from you...but, a special lady she must have been to have so many friends who remember her and her outlook on life...we can all learn so much. I will think of her when I walk this coming Sunday in the Making Strides Walk here in Prospect Park, Brooklyn because no one should know from any type of cancer..

  12. Sweetie, thank you so much for doing all this work to get this done. You are a treasure too. I know Renee is smiling and that this grant will get approved. How can it not? xoxo

  13. mim, these are tears on the horizon....

    pam, i can now SEE the book in my mind's eye....

    lynn, you may this this is foolish, but go back to renee's blog starting early in 2009, and just read. you will come to know her from that, and from her comments. i think you will find it a remarkable experience. xo

    yes, robin, together strong. ♥

    suki, so much love, so much tragedy indeed...

    allegra, you have written poetry to renee that i hope you will allow to be included in this book. and anything else you want, dear friend. no rush, i will let you know when i NEED it, but there is ample time. i'm glad to hear you are past the half way mark. take good care of yourself ♥

    lori, thank you, i love you too, dearest friend. you can take that to the bank forever more...♥

    robyn, the pleasure is mine xoxo

    bb, thank you for thinking of this special senior angel. she will like that.

    annie, i will be VERY disappointed if the grant is not approved. i am hopeful, that's for sure. xoxo

  14. Beautifully written kj. Good luck! x

  15. "When I need guidance or a special favor these days, I ask my Father and I ask Renee."

    We keep people alive in our hearts don't we? I think of Renee often and like Lori am happysad.

    I am glad that the kind of frienships she forged are so solid that even death is not strong enough to diminish them.

    In this way Renee teaches me something new. Even now.

    Lots of love to you KJ, thank you so much for doing this. xx Jos

  16. I ditto everyone.

    Renee would say "Holy shit KJ!!"

    I think you have one of the biggest hearts in the universe;)


  17. You are Truly a Beautiful person KJ. I'm really excited about the book. Renee was & is such an inspiration to so many people, just as you are KJ. Thank you sooo much for doing this. Love to all of you dear people. By the way loved the pix of your cupcakes with Robin. The yart was just another one of your great ideas.

  18. It still brings tears to my eyes whenever I think about, or read anything about, our dear, wise and generous friend Renee. She was a special gift to so many.

  19. This is so nice!! I will be back later.
    Just saying Hey!!
    Love and hugs dear one.

  20. Oh KJ, you are wonderful! I hop eyou get the grant, I know you will!

    I loved Renee. SO much tragedy so much.... and yet so much love from her....

    Silence is all I can conjure....

    Thank you fo being so special!

  21. Hia KJ thanks for leaving a message on my blog. That is the email address I used but was refused as spam.

  22. Reading the letters and what Renee wrote herself, introduces me in a wonderful way to Renee and her beautiful spirit that lives on. Thanks for doing this, bless you and all Renee's friends. What a lovely lady she was; her gift for touching lives continues.