#TheMandiList

This post keeps breaking my website, so I thought I would post it here. (TL;DR Skip to video at the end.)

This week has been a difficult one for me. I lost a dear friend to Breast Cancer. She was an incredible and supportive friend, and a fellow content strategist and digital brand marketer. More than any of these labels, however, she was a fierce advocate for Metastatic Breast Cancer, also called Stage IV Breast Cancer, research.

In her last blog entry (published posthumously), Mandi pleads for research support:

Mothers, fathers, daughters, cousins — we are all still dying. Don’t let the media fool you by coating everything in pink. Please consider donating to METAvivor.

— Mandi Hudson
Mandi pulling a face on the day we met, top-center. Me with the bangs, bottom-left.

I met Mandi on the day she was diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer. I remember being so nervous to go to this dinner as the new person when all the existing friends already knew Mandi. I mean what do you say:

“Nice to meet you, and sorry about your diagnosis?”

None of that mattered. Once I sat down, a few seats away from Mandi, we became great friends. It was never awkward and I tried my best to — more than anything — just be a good friend. And that’s what happened. We became good, loyal, do-anything-for-you friends.

She forged the most gorgeous necklace for me as a going-away gift when I moved away. She helped me through my divorce, through the passing of my father. She gave me advice when I started my Marketing consulting company. I traveled back to Utah to help her realize her dream of an epic, all-girl posh pajama party in the mountains of Park City, and I helped throw her an incredible New Year’s Eve/birthday bash.

She was never “my friend with cancer.” All of her other accomplishments overshadowed this aspect of her life by a mile. If she were going to speak at a conference or to win an award for her blog Darn Good Lemonade, we talked about what outfits she was taking, not the reason behind her creating the blog in the first place.

Of course there were tears sometimes — I mean our book club only reads wine labels, so no matter the situation someone usually cried at some point — but Mandi was a tremendously vivacious person. And in true Mandi-fashion, she decided after she was diagnosed to create #TheMandiList.

Not so much a bucket list, this list is about living while I am alive, not what I want to do before I die.
I may have an incurable form of breast cancer (Stage IV metastatic breast cancer), but I am going to see the world, enjoy the little things (and BIG things).
— Mandi Hudson, Darn Good Lemonade

Reading through the list was (is) tough, but it was encouraging because for quite a stretch, she was able to remain active. She did a grand tour with her lovely husband and did a LOT of living in between to cross numerous items from the list.

After she passed away this week, I went back to read it and noticed number 29: Write a poem. My heart sank. Why hadn’t I helped her with this one?! This month I’m participating in #NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) for crying out loud! Ugh! To be fair, it doesn’t take much to send me reeling right now, but I felt a lot of regret for not helping with that one.

When I got the news, I was in Romania, so there wasn’t much I felt like I could achieve in the way of physically comforting friends — who also feel the huge loss of Mandi from their lives. They all gathered and baked. They said that they could cross another item off of #TheMandiList for her: 165. Bake a homemade cake, without a mix.

That’s when I got an idea. Maybe I could use Mandi’s list to create a poem that she’d essentially written herself. I could move a few lines around using the entries she’d already added to her list and then, in a way, I could help Mandi cross off another item …

Another item on her list that was all about LIVING and not at all about dying.

Here is 29. Write a poem (Video version at the end.)


If you were moved by Mandi’s words, or by Mandi and the beautiful way in which she lived her life (“Make it so my husband smiles non stop all day”), please donate to METAvivor.org. 100% of your donations go directly to research (not overhead) to find a cure for Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer.

Please share this with someone who you think lives a vivacious life, or with someone who you think will be moved by Mandi’s story. Every donation helps fund research to find a cure.

If they serve champagne in Heaven, I know you’ve found it by now. Here’s to you, dearest Mandi.


Michelle Sander travels the world as a writer and brand positioning strategist. She tells beautiful stories and helps her clients do the same. If it weren’t for #TheMandiList, she wouldn’t be looking out over the jagged rooftops of Belgrade, feeling heavy sorrow and immense gratitude as she types this. Please consider a donation to METAvivor.org today.

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