The art of remembering

One of the very few good things about having breast cancer is the privilege of getting to know other women with breast cancer who inspire me.  And one of the terrible things is how many of those women are no  longer here.

This is about two of them—who never knew each other but who continue to inspire after their deaths —and I’m honored  to be part of creating tributes that will remain as a reminder of the beauty of their lives.

When I was first diagnosed 18 years ago, living in a new community,  I was desperate for friends.  That’s how I first met Carol Hatton.

A few years later,  Carol was diagnosed with breast cancer, too.  Meanwhile I had discovered that painting ceramics brought me comfort and healing, helping me escape from the stress and fear of cancer.  So when Carol had a recurrence, I brought her to the little shop where I painted.  She loved it too; it was one of the few ways she was fully able to relax, and maybe to forget.  We painted often, even in the last weeks before she died, 3 years ago this month.


As a tribute to all that Carol did to bring the latest diagnostic equipment to our local breast center, it was renamed for her in a ceremony last fall.

I thought how perfect it would be if the people in Carol’s life could do something she loved, and create a tribute that would be in the building that bears her name.  So on the day of the dedication, everyone painted.

Carol’s family and friends all painted tiles, there’s even a handprint from her granddaughter Hazel who was born just before Carol died.

The tiles were assembled into a planter which stands in the lobby of the Carol Hatton Breast Center, a permanent piece of love made by people who loved her.


I knew Susan Niebur through our participation on the American Cancer Society Blogger Advisory Council.  Susan lived in Washington, DC, and was only 39 when she died a few months ago.   Still she had accomplished so much in her life—as a rocket scientist, mom, wife, friend and inspiration to people all over the world who followed her breast cancer journey on her blog.

I met Susan for the first time at the first BlogHer conference I attended.  She was admired and adored by the BlogHer community; so it seems appropriate that another BlogHer conference provides an opportunity to honor her.   This week during BlogHer in New York, thanks to the American Cancer Society,  a group of Susan’s friends will gather at the Hope Lodge  to paint individual tiles which I’ll assemble afterwards into a piece in her memory.

Not that either of these remarkable women would ever be forgotten.


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  1. Cynthia Samuels says

    What a wonderfully tribute to these two brave women and all their sisters and to you for this beautiful idea. Miss being there w/you all!

  2. Amy says

    These are such beautiful tributes to two remarkable women. Thank you so much D for everything you are doing and have done for so many people. You are the best!

  3. Kelly Joos says

    What an absolutely amazing tribute to both these incredible women. I worked with Carol for years at the Foundation and she truly was a very brave woman. When my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, Carol was right there, giving my mom, who she didn’t know, support, comfort and beautiful scarfs to wear on her head. She was an absolute blessing to her during that time. I wasn’t able to attend her funeral but to see the beautiful tiles that were made in her honor and displayed in the Breast Care Center for everyone to see along with naming the Breast Care Center after her is the most wonderful tribute. Thank you so much for sharing your very beautiful story:)

  4. says

    I love this idea. My mother died of breast cancer 20 years ago. Maybe I’ll invite family members to remember this way. I still have her houseplants. They are lovingly tended by my husband, who is a master gardener. One of them is a miniature orange tree that is 40 years old. It would be nice to make a planter for that!

  5. says

    Thanks so much, Cynthia and sorry it took me so long to respond. Missed seeing you this year; and of course everyone missed Susan. The event honoring her was wonderful; and the finished piece will be a beautiful tribute to her. So appreciate your comment and wish you’d been there; see you in Chicago.

  6. says

    You know, Amy, I adore you for all that you do—and honestly I feel so lucky to be able to do something like this in memory of these amazing women. I guess partly I feel so blessed and grateful to be here, which I know you understand; so this is just something I can do. I think any way we can remember people who are gone is worthwhile. Thank you! xxxoo

  7. says

    Thank you, Kelly; and I’m not surprised at all to hear this anecdote about Carol. No one was more brave, or more unselfish—even while fighting Stage IV cancer, she did so much so many people, those she knew and many she didn’t know, like your mom—and she really was one of those rare people who thought so much about what she could do for others. Her legacy is a huge contribution for the women in our community, and I know how shocked and humbled she would be about how she has been honored. No one deserved it more. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

  8. says

    How perfect to make a planter for her tree–I know you would all treasure it. It’s a beautiful way to keep her memory alive; I hope you’ll let me know if you do it. Thanks so much!

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