It was the last day of 2013 and I had the urge to be outside. A friend of mine suggested I enjoy the beautiful day. Taking her advice, I drove to a familiar spot - Avenue C in Redondo Beach. I wanted to sweat the unknown amount of the holiday sweets that had accumulated as well as reflect on my recent trip to visit my best friend in the Bay Area.
I only went up and down the hill five times and swore to get back to 10 or more for the New Year. I knew sunset would be there quickly so I waited and walked toward the water. I snapped this shot of the sun ending its long journey across the sky. One of the shadows in the photo was a woman named Carolina. I noticed her while I was waiting as she was the only other person out on the beach alone, aside from myself. She walked toward me and asked if I could take her photo. She was bright, effervescent, brimming with joy. Her white hair in a short, chic cut showed off her strong beautiful eyes and nose. She told me that this was the first time in almost a year that she was out on the beach. She was a breast cancer survivor, finally completing her chemo treatment. It was also her 42nd birthday.
Her doctor advised her not to go into the water until her treatment was completed - she was an avid paddle boarder so this was a true loss for her. She was so thankful that the doctors found her cancer, as she had no family history of the disease. I shared with her my own story that I had a lumpectomy last year and my mother had a mastectomy earlier in the year. She shared that she was going through with reconstructive surgery for her breast in a few weeks. She shared it without pity, without sadness, without embarrassment. It was matter of fact, merely next step to recovery. She invited me to join the breast cancer survivor network that was held at the Redondo Beach pier. The group, with different ages of women, helped her get through the time. She said that at this point she felt like she should have PhD in breast cancer. She gave me a hug after we shared each other's stories.
"We were meant to meet!” she said.
Our conversation ended with her asking a teenage boy walking by to take our photo. She took my number and invited me to go out paddling with her and her friends. She would send me our photo as well.
She never sent me the photo, and I haven't heard from her since that day. But, I think the point was for us to meet that day, at that moment. I took several photos of her with the sun’s golden light. Meeting her reminded me I should always seek out the joy in life and cherish it. Sometimes those singular moments have a way of being constant reminders – the best kind of reminders.