85: Fort

85: Fort

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Time to Thrive


If we are ever to enjoy life, now is the time — not tomorrow, nor next year, nor in some future life after we have died.

Today should always be our most wonderful day!

~Thomas Dreier

Her nickname was Fort. She was my cousin’s daughter, she was in her late twenties, and she had stage IV breast cancer. If there was ever a case to be filed in the “Life Isn’t Fair” folder, this was it.

As Melissa (her real name), battled cancer, her nickname seemed most appropriate. She was a fort indeed. She seemed strong, impenetrable and she held up during the battle of overcoming cancer. Like all forts, she was a little battered after the wars, but somehow she remained standing. She fought that cancer for five years before it finally beat her.

Those around Fort were consumed with grief, anger and frustration. How could someone so young and vibrant be taken away so early? Many people around Fort seemed to question why such a horrible thing could happen. They felt sorry for Fort. They felt sorry for themselves. No one seemed to handle Melissa’s cancer or death very well. No one, that is, except Melissa herself.

Melissa “Fort” Fortener tackled both her cancer and impending death with an amazing attitude. She appreciated each day she had in her last five years. Though she understood that her life could be shortened, she lived it to the fullest. Each day, she kept a big smile on her face and a wicked sense of humor by her side. Fort even started a daily blog, so she could chronicle her battle with cancer and inspire others. Guess what? That blog worked!

Fort shared her wit and her wisdom. She shared the pain of chemotherapy and the battles she endured with health insurance companies. On her blog, she also showed everyone how much fun life could be. The theme of her blog seemed to be “live each day to the fullest, because it can be your last.”

Fort shared her feelings about every topic and she did it because she didn’t want to regret leaving something behind.

Her blog, which was filled with humorous and articulate revelations, inspired me. I realized if I kept putting my dreams off until tomorrow, my tomorrow might never come. So six months prior to turning fifty, I told myself to “start writing.” I vowed to have no regrets. I wrote story after story. I wrote short poems and long poems. I wrote short stories, some real and some fictional. Some of my writing was sad; some was funny. Some of what I wrote was deep and introspective and some was just plain dumb and nonsensical. There were days when I didn’t want to write, but then I thought of Fort. She wrote when she was in pain and near death. If she could write in that condition, then I could certainly make the effort.

Finally, I took another page from Fort’s playbook. I gained courage! After all, she had shown plenty of it. I had written lots of stories and it was time to share them. Writing is very personal, so sharing what you’ve written is sometimes difficult. But I shared. First I shared stories with family and friends. Then I shared with colleagues and acquaintances. Finally I gained the courage to send some stories to magazines and publishers.

Now, three years later, I’ve had articles published in national magazines. I have short stories in best-selling inspirational books and I have also published a children’s book that has been released worldwide. I’m not stating this to brag, I’m stating this because I’m thankful. If Fort had not inspired me, I might have never attempted to be a published author. I always loved writing and always dreamed of being a published writer, but two things always stopped me: fear and procrastination. I learned from Fort that you have to tackle life without fear. I also learned from Fort that life can be too short. I could not let my procrastination keep me from my destination.

I wish I could thank Fort for inspiring me. Her words and her attitude were fantastic even at the darkest time in her short life. Thankfully, those words and that positive attitude rubbed off on me. It made me start writing and motivated me to chase my unfulfilled dream. Now when the time comes for my life to end, I can go with no regrets. Just like Fort did!

~David Warren

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