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Laurel Zien

May 6, 1947- December 24, 2020

Laurel with poppet

Our friend and NorCal CarciNET Community Board's Secretary Laurel passed from complications from Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), a disease that she was diagnosed with just two months prior to her passing.

Laurel has been part of NorCal CarciNET Community since 2013 and was much more than a valued board contributor she was the person who greeted all first-time visitors to our meetings and made them feel welcomed. During 2020 when the pandemic forced us to go from in-person to virtual meetings, Laurel was there greeting all who attended, reassuring those that were newly diagnosed that we would offer them education, hope, and community in their journey.

Her passion to educate and comfort others on their cancer journey ran deep and in 2017 she published a book to help others who found the cancer journey overwhelming, "You Have Cancer: Moving from Fear to Hope" was often provided at no charge during our annual NorCal CarciNET Community events. 

Laurel has done so much for so many in our NET Community, we will continue to work from the bedrock that you provided us, to welcome and comfort all and to be the voice that helps the newly diagnosed move from fear to hope. Thank you for all you have done for us.

In addition to being active in the NorCal CarciNET Community, laurel was active with her temple and with her singing group.

To donate to NorCal CarciNET in celebration of Laurel's life, click here.


Laurel's life in pictures 

Please feel free to leave your thoughts below.

Laurel's reading of her work Ethical Will (How to Nurture a Joyful Heart)
To download the words click here

A Poem for Laurel 
Hedy Straus

Please send a poem through me
Let it spring onto the page
fully formed
Lines that distill her essence
her Laurelness

Let me express what it was like
to lie back in my recliner
settle in for a leisurely phone visit
Laurel is who I’d call when I faltered
lost confidence in myself
Laurel is who reminded me
that I could do it,
whatever it was
Laurel is who I wanted to share the joy with
the triuimphs,
even the pain, the unutterable pain

So many times I’d find her
grieving, bereft
She made friends with others
who struggled as she did
people with cancer,
exhausted caregivers
those ravaged by grief
She opened herself to each one,
right from the start
She didn’t protect her vulnerable heart
and each time it broke
she mourned fully
the way she did everything
All in, she planted herself firmly
in the midst of her life,
in the lives of strangers and friends, new and old
her beloveds

Please let me give myself over
the way Laurel did
to her enthusiasms, her causes,
her curiosity, her passions

Let me live the no-holds-barred life
the only life we have
Let me nurture my Laurelness
in memory of her
in celebration of who she was
of how she still lives
in each one of us

If They Ever Go Back Inside

Prompt: If they chop open my body - Julia Alter

If they ever go back inside me they'll probably find more cancer. I think they'll also find ideas, hope, confidence and fear. This time I'm sure they'll be surprised by other things, too.

If they go back inside me they might find mom's white Camaro convertible. In the back seat three inner tubes, a big sand pail and shovel, a blanket, a full picnic basket and a telescope. A passport to adventure.

Both of my dogs. Past and present. All my favorite CDs and books. Rice Krispie treats and Nutella.

If they went back inside me again, they'll find a heart, mended with big and small stitches of delicate silken floss, rope, twine. Some rusted barbed wire. Wounds remain in the pulsing red muscle. Tragedies are in progress.

They'll also find art supplies, favorite pens and just the right notebooks.

Inside me there surely will be a beach on the ocean with waves crashing under the fishing pier, or a cabin on a calm lake amidst pines with soft winds blowing.

I hope they find my crew. Nurses, doctors, dietitians, all of the wonderful healing experts and staff who care, and are ready and waiting for me. It took many years to assemble my team and surrounding them will be a mound of gratitude and favorite beverages.

When they open me they'll also find my family, friends, my Warriors. Not tons of folks, no, but those who hold a special puzzle piece. We may have to look for a while to see how we fit together but once the pieces fit, the connection lasts for a lifetime. Softening their space: mutual support, permanent hugs, with a little light getting through where the cardboard doesn't fit perfectly.

Of course there has to be room for the sun and the moon and stars. And a moon calendar to track the number of full moons since my mom's death. My birth full moon seems less important but maybe not.

They'll find a boat (actually a rowing machine). My yet unnamed vessel that moves smoothly through time and space on carpeting, or imagined water. She is gently propelled by my energy and has the capability of taking me anywhere and everywhere.

Perhaps there will be a direct line to the White House. Where I can express my opposition. And a big vacuum cleaner to inhale all of the political crap to be dumped off the edge of the Earth. But I digress.

And of course when they open me, they will find a waterfall. A glacier, a lake, a river. Sunshine, blue sky and warm, soft breezes.Everyone I have ever loved. So many are here no more. And just there, tucked in a corner, my good deeds and love. To prove my time here was acceptable. That I tried.


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