Sharon Bush • A Courageous Candle in a Turbulent Wind

In Loving Memory

Posted In: Culture, Community Profiles,   From Issue 823   By: Robert E Martin

25th February, 2016     0

As I write these words it is a beautiful sunny Saturday morning in late February, with the temperature already at 45 degrees. It is also the day of the Memorial Service for my dear friend, Sharon Bush, who passed away on January 29th, encircled by her loving family at the age of 62, finally succumbing to the ravages of a complicated 30-year journey of cancer survival that served as a blueprint of incomprehensible courage, strength, and an inexplicable optimism that always wagered heavy upon the ability of the human spirit to soar above whatever ravages arise to diminish our ability to flourish and rise to the pinnacle of our dreams.

And so it is entirely fitting that it indeed is sunny, warm & bright on what is traditionally one of the coldest and forlorn calendar days of the year; because Sharon’s specialty was serving as the alpha to any negative omega force that nullified the beauty of existence – she taught by example, which is something we can all learn some pivotal life-lessons from.

Sharon was one of the strongest & most remarkable woman, friend, confidant, and spirit that I have ever known. She was misdiagnosed by Saginaw Dr. Paul Dake back in 1986 and developed cervical cancer; and despite developing numerous complications over the years, managed to survive & overcome incomprehensible personal & physical struggles for nearly half her life with a courage that made the gates of hell recede; and a generous zest to embrace the brilliance of life that was as awe-inspiring as it was a privilege to be included within the circle of her graciousness.

Sharon led a life filled with purpose & hope when for many those words are simple platitudes. Sharon was working as both a salesperson & fashion collaborator with me in the early days of The Review; and I was in the room with her when she received that fateful phone call at the age of 33 that she had developed cancer; and despite the many hardships Sharon endured that would make men twice her size grovel, as was her inherent nature - something significant & positive emerged from the suffering inflicted by her ordeal, when she finally won a landmark lawsuit against Group Health Services and the HMO gatekeeper system that led to her illness; and which today hopefully assures that nobody else will fall victim to practices that attacked her at such a vital stage of her life.

In the years that followed, Sharon remained committed to family, was able to witness her children grow into equally remarkable human beings, enjoyed basking in the sunshine by her swimming pool, and never once stopped trying to make a difference in this world - beyond the realm of the self-involved.

Two years ago I approached Sharon about writing a portrait not only about her unique & lengthy experiences with the contemporary health care system; but about the spiritual tenacity & drive that she possessed to embrace life that was so infectious; and I am honored to say, she shared some of her personal diaries with me that she kept over this period.

A few entries from those journals I feel compelled to share here, because in my estimation they not only capture the beauty of Sharon’s soul; but the effortless loft of airless beauty that was the bedrock of her vision.

Anybody that knew Sharon also knew that nobody on the planet could dance as well as she could. There may be better 'professional' dancers, but none that I've seen who could cut a rug so uniquely as Sharon Bush. She had a style of rock 'n roll ballet that stood alone. Even in the last years of her life you could find her down at White's spinning her wheelchair around on the dance floor with an aplomb that would send Iggy scurrying for the sidelines.

This following entry describes perfectly the way Sharon danced:

How to dance like a HIPPIE

'It is best to dance like a hippie outdoors on soft ground. If you get dizzy and fall, it will hurt less if you do not fall on concrete. This dance is most effective if you are wearing a long flowing skirt.




4. Extend your arms straight out from your sides.


6. Repeat as Necessary

Such was the nature of Sharon’s levity. Yet, on a more opposite and profound note, in reading through the memories of her 30-year ordeal, what is most striking to me now, is how in the moments when she is most ‘alone’ – laying in a hospital bed out west and wondering if she will even open her eyes to see a newer day tomorrow; it is her words captured within these moments reveal a focus of creative visualization completely transformative:

."Open your heart to love. First start with the most difficult - really love yourself. Realize your uniqueness and your right to life. Accept love from all people. Most important, focus on loving every thing in or on our planet - every beautiful flower, every unique person who walks into your life. Give love. And never stop being yourself."

“Doctors are people, too. No different than you or me. They need love just like we do. When you care for them they are often shocked or surprised. I am an open book for them. My body is in their hands, sometimes without my mind there. I have to trust them. Unfortunately, I did not know this when I became sick, but I have learned it through experience.”

In closing, I wish to share this letter Sharon wrote to me on June 20, 2014. It will eternally remain one of my most prized possessions.  Good-bye, my fond friend. I hope you are experiencing and absorbing all the brilliance & light that the unseen world of heaven has to offer.


Dear Bob;

We don’t get to choose the situations that we often find ourselves in, but we do have many choices to make about how we experience ourselves through those choices. We have everything we need but we have to work to make the right choices. My first choice was to ask everyone to help me. It was the smartest thing I ever did. You, Bob, were there at the exact minute I received the phone call from Dr. Hill, a man I’d never met, telling me I had cancer at a stage way beyond what they were currently able to handle in 1986.

I visited my special doctors in Omaha, Nebraska, last September. John and I always make a good trip into a vacation, so we had plans to go from there to Yellowstone National Park. A very short visit to the bowel specialists and then the cardiologist and surgeon. My heart is bleeding. I have two pig-valves and I’ve had them five years. I hope they will last another five years.

I just want to say that if you think asking for help is taking the easy way out you are wrong. I had to believe and I do believe that people like me are gifts in that we provide a way for you to fulfill that angel within you.  BALANCE. It really does take a community like Saginaw to cure cancer. Was it worth it? 

I’ve taken the darkness already. This pain of mine cried out to be put in balance by the joy of helping others. My knowledge comes from 28 years of experience as a patient. I’ve had to learn what I never wanted to know.  What I do know is so many who are willing and ready to take action for others. So far everyone I’ve ever asked for help has said yes. Let’s get this party off the ground because to celebrate LIFE is the work to be done TOGETHER.

Love always, Sharon


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