Giving My Birthday Away to a Terminally Ill Friend

One of my dearest friends, Charlotte, is dying of cancer. Her doctors are not promising her any more birthdays, so I've decided to give her mine: September 29.
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One of my dearest friends, Charlotte, is dying of cancer. Her doctors are not promising her any more birthdays, so I've decided to give her mine: September 29.

When I got the news from Charlotte I didn't know what to do. She, like me, is a parent advocate for families facing eating disorders. She is admired and loved by families around the world for her fierce and direct support during the worst of times. She is known to spend all night writing letters to get treatment for children she's never met. She will ring, Skype, email, Facebook, or invite over a frightened parent to give them support, strong words, and no nonsense: lives are at stake. Charlotte's cancer is stealing someone unimaginably precious to so many people. We can't spare her and yet, eventually, we must.

She has been a trusted friend, advisor, and truth-teller to me and many others these past years. She calls me a 'daft moo' in affection and refuses to let me cry about anything -- even this. Her blog, going strong even as she's lost hair and energy, is the most honest, funny and unsparingly direct bit of writing I've ever known. She teaches me about living and dying daily, as well as everyone from elected officials and faraway medical directors to her sister-in-law down the lane and her postmaster.

I am one of many who will need something positive and meaningful to channel our distress. The result is Charlotte's Helix, a somewhat crazy bet that we could raise enough money and volunteers to bring something called the AN25K challenge to Charlotte's country: the UK. It is a project that matters to her and to many of us. It holds the promise of changing the future for families facing eating disorders and, really, for all mental health. This is medical history being made.

Instead of a presents, I hope for donations to Charlotte's Helix. This is crowdsourcing at its best: individuals coming together to make research happen because it matters to us.

This year instead of "liking" me on Facebook, I am asking my friends to like the Charlotte's Helix page. And "share" it. And forward it and link it and blog it and tweet it and make sure the world sees it. Make the Helix go viral.

Don't call me on my birthday: call and get information on enrolling in the study, or call a journalist to tell them about this project. Make the Helix matter. We cannot let Charlotte down.

Instead of sending me a birthday greeting send YOUR birthday to Charlotte, too. Support her by becoming part of the Helix coalition. Contact me and we'll find a way:

I'm angry at hell at cancer at the moment. Yet I'm hopeful as can be about the prospects for curing eating disorders with the help of good research. I've resolved to cry less and laugh more because if Charlotte can talk about the "the upsides of dying young" the least any of us can do is try to make this one dream come true NOW.

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