Many called her legendary Ellie because she did what most could not: Create a full and colorful life with Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer. We simply reaped the benefits by listening to the doctors month after month say, “and the miracle continues.” I often told her that if Oprah got wind of her miracle of life, she would probably host a show just so others could be inspired by her courage, strength and will to live smiling in vibrant orange.
They gave her 3 months to live, with the catch phrase ‘but everyone is different’ attached to the diagnosis. She took that catch phrase seriously and lived 2.5 years. And I do mean LIVED. So yeah, she was an icon. She represented life and the premise that life was for the living and being present was truly about being fully aware of each and every moment.
She was an icon for how to be a mother.
She was not just Legendary Ellie, though; She was my mom. And what I remember most about my life with her was her ability to listen in a way that made me feel safe in sharing all of my stories. She didn’t share her opinions, or judgments when I spoke. She would just listen. I didn’t realize how amazing of a feat that was, until I became a mother as well.
Cancer and the way she survived it was not what made her a legend. She was a legend way before she came face to face with Cancer.
She was an icon for how to make something out of nothing.
Ellie had 2 years of community college under her belt, a job as a hostess and 2 small daughters, when she found the courage to leave her marriage and begin her search for authentic happiness. She had a pocket full of food stamps, a beautiful smile and a yearning to make it work.
She coined the phrase: Failure is not an option.
She reunited with an old HS flame, had a heart filled with love, and became even more inspired to make this work. Whatever this was. She moved into an inside sales job that involved hundreds of phone calls a day selling hospital supplies. I don’t remember her ever complaining. I recall her coming home around 6pm and being too tired to talk much and being annoyed at the question: What’s for dinner, before both feet even entered the house, but nothing more than that.
As a matter of fact, I don’t recall hearing a word about her job at all, but know she must have done really well, because she then moved up and out to an outside sales job. That would have been a perfect fit if she didn’t have to sell since she was hard wired to organize. She sold organizational systems to pharmaceutical companies and chose commission only, so that she could decide her fate. Her biggest complaint was that she hated cold calling.
Now one might assume that if you hate cold calling, and the entire job was based on that, then in fact this might be a tough place to find success. Unless you’re Legendary Ellie. She was committed to her success and wasn’t about to stop until she found it. In fact, she became the number one international sales rep…the world champ, in fact!
Ellie was an icon for the words: Never give up.
We didn’t need those stats to know she was a champ, an icon, legend or any of that though. We just knew. Even when cancer found her 2 years into enjoying retirement, she continued to live as heartfelt as she had before. Maybe even more so as she spent her days inhaling the gift of life and all it had to offer. Even her last 18 days of life in the hospital were with great intention as each morning she would call every human she could think of, to let them know that she was at the end…sharing just the way that they had touched her life and thanking them for who they were.
She felt blessed to have life and her people on any given day. We were blessed to have her in ours.
Ellie didn’t become a legend because of how she fought cancer, but by the way she lived: She gave 110%, believed she could, dug deep when she couldn’t and lived knowing that even when life was hard, seemed way out of reach, and no one had ever done it before… any at-bat was the possibility for a home run. No matter how it seemed.