Every time I go to the grocery store, the metiche (nosy person) comes out in me. From the time I was four, I would sit in line in the carrito (shopping cart) and read about the alien babies
in the tabloids, asking my mom for days after what would happen to them. Fast forward 25 years later. August 2014. I painstakingly tap my fingers as the people in front of me debate between full and medium pulp orange juice. Amongst the reports of Bruce Jenner’s new plastic surgeries, various Kardashians who have made the ridiculists and various celebrity breakup and makeup exclusives, a small corner of People Magazine drew my attention not due to morbid curiosity or revulsion but to a bald irreverent woman with a twinkle in her eye.
At first glance, the featured woman, Diem Brown of MTV’s the Real World fame and I have very little in common. Diem, an athletic, platinum blonde tan reality TV star and me, a pale swarthy book lover who last played a team sport, albeit haphazardly, in 7th grade one would think might not have a whole lot to talk about at a party.
Yet as I read more about her outside of the limited reaches of the tabloids, Diem’s willingness to talk very openly about her decade long struggle with chronic cancer and its effects on her personal and professional life is unrivaled by anyone else in public eye. In a world where celebrities are handled by starched and sanitized P.R. firms, most times instead of sharing in the struggle of someone in the public eye, we don’t even realize many celebrities have a serious disease until you tragically hear of their passing on CNN while waiting on a flight.
As I started to read her blog, I realized what bravery it took to break with the ranks of Hollywood and speak the real and sometimes painfully raw truth.
I baptized Diem my spirit animal. Although she did do prescribed photo-shoots, press releases, and posed with the stars, she opened the doors of her life. From talking about the disappointment of losing her career, to her excruciating depression when her cancer returned for the second and then third time, to her desire to have a partner in life. Despite these challenges, her sincere will to keep fighting and stay genuine to herself, in my humble opinion, separated her from the crowd of patients made into brands for fundraising.
In particular, her post defending her desire to become a mother struck a chord with me. My desire for my own family very much parallels Diem’s journey: We wanted to be fully developed people in order to throw ourselves into our families by our late 20s. During this journey however, Diem lost her ability to be able to give birth to a child but eloquently defended, and rightfully so, her readiness to start a family.
Although I cannot claim to know the pain of Diem’s infertility, many young women with disabilities deal with the grief of secondary infertility. Whether it is due to inability to be able to physically or financially care for a child or missing out on a great part of their youth due to hospitalizations, the loss is often there.
Motherhood and family in general is the staple of Mexican culture. Ironically, unlike most of my gringa friends who started looking for a mate in college, I flagrantly ignored cultural pressure in my early 20s to marry two men for marriage and motherhood sake. While I don’t for one moment regret my decisions, as we approach the celebration of the Virgen of Guadalupe once again, I am reminded of how much family has played a part in supporting me, fighting for me when I cannot and never letting me make excuses.
The stunning southern belle reality TV star and this nerdy grad student with a lifetime pass to Euro Wax might have made fabulous Friday night tequila friends.
My spirit animal, the fabulous Miss Diem Brown, left this world on November 14th. In Diem’s name, join me in a challenge to find a way, however unorthodox it may be, to bring positive change and joy to your life.