Cathy Chester | An Empowered Spirit

The Princess Who Taught Me How To Live Again

The most important lesson I learned from the late, great Carrie Fisher is that life unfolds in weird and unimaginable ways. No matter what’s on our plates we have two choices. We can let life lead us into a downward spiral of dysfunction, or we can find humor in the deepest corners of sorrow.

The latter gave birth to a modern O’Henry, a woman who turned the darkness of life into side-splitting tales.


In Carrie’s book and one-woman show “Wishful Drinking,” the audience learns how she frequently walked a tightrope between tragedy and comedy.

I didn’t grow up on Rodeo Drive and my mother wasn’t publicly humiliated after my father abandoned her for his best friend’s widow. I’m not bipolar and I don’t suffer from mental illness. But I identified with Carrie’s wisdom that was born out of adversity.

I wish I was as witty as Carrie, spinning tales to make you laugh at the insanity and absurdities of life.

But 2016 truly sucked. That’s not lovely prose, just my crude opinion of the past twelve months. I’ve felt despair, disillusion and sadness about my illness. The election wasn’t much help for my ailing immune system.

I spent time reading how others also wanted 2016 to be over. Knowing that doesn’t help me feel better. It just makes me realize that shit happens to even the best of people.

Not everyone thought 2016 was a bad year. They found joy among the ruins. A sincere hooray for them. They are the lucky ones. And honestly, I’m green with envy.

When you live with a chronic illness, and a disobedient body, you miss out on a lot of life so you see things through a different lens. The minute your illness flares your life changes on a dime.

The last quarter of 2016 I spent long hours at home. Reading about the wonderful lives of others made my heart happy for them, but not for me.

I became a homebody out of need and that simply isn’t who I am.

After awhile the telephone stopped ringing. People don’t know what to say or they’re frightened by illness. Some are too busy or they believe you must be better by now.

But I’m also blessed with loved ones who support me. It can’t be easy, yet they remain resolute in their caring ways. I am eternally grateful to each of them.

Yet, in the end, illness is a lonely proposition.

When I watched “Wishful Drinking” I had an epiphany. Somehow Carrie saved a part of me that I was slowly losing. She showed me that despite the absurdity of life we must dig deep into our souls to find the inner strength (we all have) to pull ourselves out of the darkness and back into the light.

For self-preservation, we must rely on ourselves.

I won’t allow illness to redefine who I am. That’d be unfair to me and those I love. I won’t give into the madness that’s MS.

At 28 it was easier to shake off my illness. At 57 it takes longer, but it’ll be worth the wait.

One last note: The Women’s March being held around the country, the day after inauguration, will have to go on without me. My feet aren’t physically ready to walk those important steps.

As much as I’m sad about missing the march I learned from Carrie that I can still do my part. I’ll use my voice through my words. My good deeds will speak for themselves.

ACLU. NARAL. Planned Parenthood. Southern Poverty Law Center. NAACP. Lambda Legal. CAIR. RAINN. Al Justice. SRLP. 

Along with my beautiful like-minded sisters I’ll continue to make a difference to create good in the world and support those who have been marginalized.

So Princess Leia, wherever you are, mastering new horizons with that unsinkable mother of yours, I thank you for shining a light my way. As your character said, “You came in that thing? You’re braver than I thought.”

Thank you. I’m trying.





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25 thoughts on “The Princess Who Taught Me How To Live Again

  1. Helene Cohen Bludman

    You are strong like Carrie, my friend. You have been to hell and back, but you are still whole. I pray that 2017 will be a better year for you although the challenges will not go away, I know. Sending love and strength. xoxo

    1. Post author

      Thanks, Helene. You have been in my corner since Day 1 of friendship and for that I thank you. I’ve had to cancel on you so many times and I have guilt attached to that. You always have a smile on your face and in your heart. I was lucky to meet you that fateful day in NYC. Thanks for being YOU my friend. You’re inspiring. xo


    Cathy I always see you as so upbeat and on top of things. I hadn’t realized that 2017 had been so tough for you and I’m really sorry to hear about it. I’m so glad you’re choosing to continue to stay on top of things and I really hope that 2017 brings many blessings (and a good run with your health) x

  3. Barbara

    Chronic illness is such a difficult thing to deal with, I’m sure, but you handle it with such grace and I admire that, Cathy. We all can learn a thing or two from Carrie’s work and, I think we’re going to need that kind of stubbornness going forward into this year. Wishing you all the best for 2017!

  4. Miriam Hendeles

    Cathy, I always look forward to reading your posts which are full of warmth, emotion and honesty. Never mind Carrie Fisher, Shmisher. Yes, she was terrific and strong and talented and all those things. But Cathy – that’s you and more!!! You are a voice and an inspiration for all of us women who struggle with our daily “Pekel” and yet move forward.

    I always remember when I had a problem with one of my sons having an auto-immune illness and you gave me such incredible encouragement.

    May you continue to bring so much joy to others — and to yourself —through your writing, your wit and your model of strength. I see all that in you and more!

    Keep on keeping on! Fondly, Miriam
    Miriam Hendeles recently posted…Shalom and Good-bye to 2016 and Hanukkah and some Book ReviewsMy Profile

    1. Post author

      Thank you for your glowing words. I’m so glad I was there to help you with your son, Miriam. I am overwhelmed at your response, and hope that going forward I can continue to help others by, as Elizabeth Lesser says, breaking myself open with the difficult truths about struggles with autoimmune disease.So many of us are struggling. There is always hope, help and community.

  5. Linda

    What a great closing quote, but I suspect you’re even braver than that! I’m sure whatever contribution you make to the Women’s Marches will be important and I hope it includes your writing. Thanks for a great post. Best wishes!

  6. Marcy

    You ARE a strong women and I admire you for all your amazing blogs from the heart! Wishing you as always an wonderful healthy 2017!

  7. Roxanne Jones

    You don’t merely try, Cathy–you succeed. You have brought inspiration and hope to more people than you know. I’m so grateful to know you, if only virtually (at the moment, anyway–I’m still hoping we’ll have the opportunity to meet IRL, perhaps here in Maine!).

    1. Post author

      Thanks so much, Roxanne. Yes, when we had to cancel vacation plans this past summer I was disappointed at the chance to meet you. But don’t you worry. We want to come to Maine – we love it there. Except what you said your governor said…hmm.

      Thanks so much for your kind words,

  8. Cathy Lawdanski

    Cathy – I’m sorry your illness has had you down these last few months. Thanks for forging on in spite of it all using your gift of writing to help others. You are an inspiration. Thanks for the reminder that “everybody’s got something” and we can choose to let it define us or not. Blessings to you.

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