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Tijuana sunsets

An email shows up in my inbox from a name I don't recognize. Nikki explains she got my name from a woman she chatted with at the airport on her way to Tijuana. Nikki wants help writing her book. 

A week later, during our first call, Nikki tells me she has a rare form of cancer, stage 4. Her personality is big and vivacious, defiant. She has refused traditional chemotherapy, opting instead for natural treatments. Nikki is responding so well she's been playing pickleball twice a week for months. 

We schedule a couple months of weekly coaching sessions, and I help her gather her life stories that are scattered across handwritten notepads, journals, and the occasional cocktail napkin. Hoisting messy piles of paper to show me on our video calls, she proudly proclaims, "It's all here!"

I feel a sense of urgency to move as quickly as she is able, but she does not share that urgency. Nikki is defiant, she has no intention of "exiting" before her book is done. Her energy seems to come from an otherworldly place. She wants to incorporate the theme of Tijuana sunsets into the book to frame her unique perspective.

We make good progress, creating a table of contents that quickly goes off the rails, brimming with snippets of even more stories. She goes off on story tangents during our time together, and I let her. In just a few weeks, we grow close. It's a part of my work that I truly love. 

She talks and cries. I listen, sometimes I cry with her, but her tearful moments never last for long. I have fallen in love with her hell-bent focus on sharing her journey, with her quirkiness, with her defiance, with my new friend Nikki.

Her confidence begins to infect me, and I become as sure as she is about kicking this cancer.

Another email from Nikki, "I gotta go back to Tijuana for more treatments. Can we postpone?" I shuffle the schedule and wish her luck. I'd been following her Caring Bridge page and Instagram account since we started working together. She would write all the updates herself, another means to chronicle her amazing journey. 

But a few weeks after, another name appears on her page, posting on her behalf, and a knot forms in my stomach. I comment on the update, "You're not going anywhere, woman! We've got a book to write!" I hope my lame attempt at humor makes her smile.

Then one afternoon, I see it. The update from her page that I can't bring myself to read. And yes, I cry for the loss of my new friend, Nikki. I cry for the loss of her story, of her journey of bold defiance. Nikki had just turned 51.

I never cease to be amazed by the raw power of stories that draw us in, move us to tears, and move us to action. Our stories are the juice that fuels this life. 

Rest in sweet, pain-free love and peace, my friend. 

"Stop acting like there is infinite time. This—the way you are living right now—is your one life." James Clear


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