I can still see her smile.

Still hear her voice.

But cancer is cruel. And it took her life so quickly, it’s hard to believe she is gone

Her name was Sharon Zastowny – my fourth friend to battle breast cancer this year.

Sharon Zastowny

I met Sharon many years ago when our kids were in elementary school. It was hard not to like her. She was kind-hearted, strong, dearly loved her daughters and had an optimism that was infectious.

I’m not sure how the time slipped away, but it had been almost a year since "the school moms" went for dinner. We talked and laughed and promised we would get together again soon. I wish we had.

This past April, on the day my first blog was posted about my journey with breast cancer, Sharon messaged me from the hospital where she had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. She said hers had spread to her liver. She later told me it was Stage 4.

Both struggling with the effects of chemo, we’d message each other and talk on the phone. We compared our shaved heads via Facetime and talked about all the things we would do to celebrate when our treatment was done. Even in our visits, we never talked about dying, only about beating this awful illness. She was so determined. Despite all she was going through, she always encouraged me and our friendship grew deeper.

At first, Sharon told me doctors felt the chemo was working. Then she stopped doing chemo. I knew she had been so terribly sick from it but was worried about it not continuing. And she wasn’t having surgery to remove the cancer. Initially, I wasn’t quite sure why.

It turned out her cancer was very aggressive. It had spread too far.

Little more than two months after being diagnosed, she had lost her battle.

Sharon deserved more time with her family. She deserved happiness. Cancer robbed this beautiful woman of that and so much more.

The 3,800 Club

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, nearly one in two Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime. One in two. Think about that. And the CCS says one in four people in this country is expected to die from this ruthless disease.

The statistics are astonishing. And heartbreaking.

We have to find a cure.

If you are a woman who has been holding off on booking a mammogram, don’t wait.  Don’t think you are too busy or that breast cancer couldn’t happen to you. It could happen to any of us. It happened to me. It happened to Sharon.

Just days before cancer took her, Sharon was still smiling and talking about the future. On that final day, she was surrounded by the love of family and friends.

Sharon’s oldest daughter wrote of her mom: "You were the strongest, most loving and caring person I have ever known and will ever know…you were my best friend."

Rest in peace, Sharon. You are so terribly missed.

Sharon Zastowny