Flipping the Switch

27 Oct

Jerry Sorkin, a great friend and mentor to Chip, died yesterday after living with Stage IV lung cancer for nine years. Nine years!

I first wrote of Jerry in November of 2013 in the post I’m a Survivor (What?) after Chip participated in his first Breathe Deep DC 5K Walk on the Mall. After Jerry’s diagnosis in 2007, he became involved with LUNGevity in 2009 and organized the first fundraising walk for lung cancer on the National Mall that same year. His wife, Lisa, named the event Breathe Deep, which has now been adopted by all LUNGevity fundraising walks around the country.

After that first walk, Chip reached out to the LUNGevity Foundation to see how he could get involved. Chip met with LUNGevity President Andrea Ferris, who then connected Chip with Jerry. Jerry worked at Corporate Executive Board in Rosslyn just a couple of blocks away from Chip’s office at Raytheon, so they became lunch buddies. I think those lunches with Jerry became a huge part of Chip’s treatment, because they always provided him with such hope–hope that prognoses could be beaten and hope that we had not yet run out of treatment options, as Jerry was always in the know of what was coming down the pike in terms of new scientific developments and drugs.

Chip and I once had a double date with Jerry and Lisa in the cafeteria at Johns Hopkins. Woop woop!! I think Jerry was there for scans that day, and Chip and I were in-between labs and the infusion suite while we waited for the pharmacy to mix his chemo. We all laughed at what our social lives had come to, attending cancer galas and meeting up in hospitals for “fun.” On that particular day, the four of us mainly discussed our kids and how to talk to them about cancer. Their two girls, Emma and Claire, were seven and five at the time he was diagnosed, so quite young, but significantly older than Joe and Crosby, so their level of understanding was much greater. Chip and I so appreciated their counsel that day.

Ironically, or maybe not at all, yesterday was also the four-year anniversary of Chip’s Stage IV lung cancer diagnosis. October 26th has been a real “kick in the dick” (as Chip would say) day for us, for me for the last four years. October 26th represents that line in the sand. It’s the before and after. Obviously the day we were served that Shit Sandwich was unfathomable. I chronicled how searing that first year post-diagnosis was in An Anniversary of Sorts and the poignancy of year two in We’ve STILL Got This. Last year was the first anniversary without Chip being here, which also coincided with the golf tournament, and it was all just so hard in every single way.

The lead up to this year’s anniversary was no different. For weeks, I have relived all of this trauma and experienced much anticipatory grief and anxiety, but yesterday, I woke up determined to flip the switch on how I felt about this day, because as long as I am privileged to live on this earth, there will always be an October 26th. It took me going back and re-reading my own blog posts to realize that yesterday was not just the day Chip was diagnosed with cancer. Yesterday was the day Chip taught us “We’ve got this!” He showed us what strength and courage look like. He taught us that we may not be able to control our circumstances, but we can control how we respond to them. He showed us how to keep moving forward. He taught us about relentless positivity and how to come together as a team. He taught us what really matters in life and how to let the anger go, because anger only robs you of joy and from being present in your life. He taught us that anyone can die but it takes courage to live! To have the courage to live.

Jerry was a courageous man, and he had the courage to live and to make a difference in so many lives. The loss of Chip and Jerry and Monica Barlow are so great, but what they left us behind are even greater. Cancer did not define any of them, but their responses to it did, and I give such deep thanks for each of their great lives.

I learned Jerry had died yesterday right before going to bed, and I went right back to hating on October 26th again. HATED it. My heart just ached for Lisa, Emma and Claire and for all those who mourn him.

This morning after dropping the kids off at school, I came back to the house, was cleaning up the kitchen after breakfast, and I stepped outside to take out the trash. As I walked out the back door, this fluffy, white feather came flittering down and landed right before my feet. As I reached down to pick it up, I obviously started sobbing but also felt such joy and peace, because I knew it was Chip telling me Jerry was there with him.

I know I might sound crazy to some right now, but I don’t even care, because it’s a real thing. Google it. After Reilly Lewis died, I asked Chip to let me know once he had connected with him, and I asked Chip to please explain to Reilly why I never could write him that thank you note and to let him know how much we both loved and appreciated him. A few days later, Chip sent me a little fluffy, white feather. After my Grandmother Boyd died this summer, I asked Chip to please let me know once he met up with her and to let her know what a good Grandmomma she had been to me. A few days later, Chip sent me a fluffy, white feather. I guess Chip is in Jerry’s inner circle, because he sent me one right away this morning. I think Chip was also trying to hit me over the head and tell me to stop hating as it’s really all ok, because “We’ve still got this.” We really, truly do.

May you enjoy your rest in eternal peace, dear Jerry.


Jerry and Lisa at Breathe Deep DC (via LUNGevity

You can read more about Jerry on the LUNGevity website: LUNGevity Foundation mourns the loss of beloved friend, advocate, and Vice Chairman of the Board Jerry Sorkin | Nine-year lung cancer survivor worked tirelessly on behalf of people diagnosed with lung cancer.



One Response to “Flipping the Switch”

  1. Jackie And Paul Olson October 27, 2016 at 5:21 PM #

    Thank you for sharing.
    We will always remember Chip and his courage

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