"Run Isa, run!"
"I greet each new experience with greater gratitude, with less fear, and with a hunger for more."
We huddled together in a circle with Isabel Stenzel Byrnes, sheltered from the hazardous smoky air outside that made it hard to breathe, and giving us some sense of her lifelong focus on her breath as a survivor of cystic fibrosis. She spoke of how she had spent her college years like them, at Stanford in the dorm that we could see from where we sat. Unlike them, she battled a deadly disease daily. But just like them she was primarily a student, engaged in the same pressures, dreams, concerns that they were. The beauty of our time together was the intimate sense of togethernesss, as Isa shared what it was like to grow up knowing that she was dying because the reminders were constant and powerful. Her vulnerability and authenticity encouraged us to share what it was like for us to live with loss. Isa rejected comparison of losses and fostered a sense of connectedness in our reality of living and dying.
In the Afterword to her 2007 memoir, The Power of Two, authored with twin Ana, she wrote:
"With each passing year, I learn more about myself, other people, what matters most, and how to handle adversity a little better. What a privilege! If I had died at 32, I would have missed out on so many stages of growth and awareness."
Joining us after running a half marathon in Las Vegas, I remember what she wrote about facing the imminent loss of Ana:
"So if I can breathe I intend to venture out to the mountains, to swim, to bagpipe, to soak in the world and to advocate for others and do everything I can, in Ana's memory. I will still live. I will still find joy. "The power of two," can become "The power of one." Only then will I be a true survivor."
This is how Isa is now living and bringing "the power of one" to the lives of others.