This I Believe

Robyn - Long Beach, California
Entered on May 8, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: death
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I Believe You Can Turn Anguish to Action

In the early morning hours of April 16, 2001, I received a phone call that changed my life. I learned that my beloved sister Cathy was dead. Cathy had entered the hospital four days earlier to fulfill her lifelong dream of “being skinny.” Cathy died as the result of a botched gastric bypass operation.

Before her death, Cathy was living the American dream. Married for fifteen years, Cathy was mother to four beautiful children, lived in a safe suburban home and operated a successful childcare business. Cathy was surrounded by a large extended clan and a number of closer-than-family friends. On the outside Cathy was content and ambitious. But, on the inside Cathy was tormented by her weight and what she looked like to the outside world and hungry for relief.

After Cathy’s death, I posed millions of questions that will remain unanswered; what forces compelled my sister to take such a risk? Why does society say thin is beautiful and desirable while full-figured is not? How many other families will suffer because a loved one through eating disorders, depression or surgery will literally die trying to be thin? How many Cathys are out there?

I spent years feeling lost and angry, sleep walking through life, afraid to answer the phone, believing that another shoe was sure to drop with the deaths of either one or both of my parents, another sister, my brother, a distant family member, or a friend near and dear to my heart.

I believe that when sudden death happens, the blow presents two choices: drown in guilty what-ifs, why’s and how-comes. Or, use your grief as a catalyst for personal and social change. I believe to validate another’s struggle, even when the enemy is something benign as food opens the door to acceptance for us all. I believe in the power of selfless acts to open the door to individual healing.

I have written a book about my sister Cathy and am happy to say I have brought hope and help to literally hundreds of women and men who feel less than, use food to medicate and suffer from weight gain or depression as a result.

Someone once asked me if my new mission has given me a measure of closure regarding what happened to Cathy. I believe as long as we live in a society that judges us by outer accidents of birth, that pummels us with airbrushed representations of beauty and is brutal and unforgiving for anyone carrying extra weight on their bodies and in their hearts, the elusiveness of closure and acceptance will always remain just beyond my grasp.