Tory Ward! At raft 4 Life!! I felt like a little girl about to meet a pen pal that I'd had for years when I found out I was going to meet her in person. For months she's been updating us with the trials (literally) and tribulations of battling stage IV angiosarcoma.
Tory came to the river to leave all of that behind, she came to be with friends, to paddle through the rapids, to let the thrill of adventure wash away everything that doesn't belong in the life of a 28 year old woman. If you looked at the pictures of the waves crashing over her, you'd be hard pressed not to smile, regardless of knowing who she was or what she was going through. If you looked at them with eyes that have watched too many people struggle with this disease, you'd be hard pressed not to let your chin fall right to the ground in disbelief that someone could be so strong in the face of adversity. Aside from being totally impressed that she could and would take that river on from the front of the boat, I was also caught up in the fact that she has never let cancer rob her of the ability to smile.
We had a long heartfelt talk after the trip. We laughed and cried about life with angiosarcoma. We hugged and walked away from each other with warm hearts and red eyes.
Tory had a serious setback yesterday and is in a medically induced coma fighting for her life. I can't seem to replace the memories I just made, so fresh, of her smiling, with the stark reality of her current situation. So I won't. I'll have to be strong now and smile while thinking of Tory, the little warrior with the big giant heart.