Ryan Ahern

The first time I ever met Rachel was over beer and fried pickles in a random Fargo bar called Geckos! I was nervous to meet Christina’s childhood best friend. Rachel instantly disarmed me with her warmth, her smile, and most of all her laugh. To be honest, I can’t remember what we talked about, but I do remember feeling welcomed and accepted. And most of all, I remember her yelling DOOLS DOOLS DOOLS repeatedly followed by her infectious laugh. To this day, I have no clue what that silly saying meant, but I still find myself whispering it to myself every now and then, and I smile and laugh.


The last time I was with Rachel in person, I remember telling her the story from Geckos and she smiled and laughed behind the high flow oxygen mask on her face. It was clear that her body had been through the ringer but that she was mentally more clear than ever. Despite being the one sitting in the hospital bed, she peppered me with questions about my life. I told her how I was thinking of switching jobs, moving from a secure corporate job to a more innovative start-up. I told her that I really thought that this start-up could have a positive impact in healthcare and get me back closer to the thing that motivated me to go to medical school over a decade ago. She asked what was holding me back and I gave her my long list of reasons about the risk involved and my anxiety about being successful in a new role. She calmly looked back at me and said, “all those reasons are fear-based … you can’t live your life motivated by fear … there is so much more that matters”. She called me out and she was right. She gave me the perspective and the courage to take this leap and I will be eternally grateful to her for doing so.


When it was just the two of us that day in MSKCC, she told me that she was worried for her family and her friends. She said she didn’t want them to be sad for her, but rather to live for her. In that spirit, she will undoubtedly live on in our lives. For me, she will live on when I think about fear holding me back from an important decision. When I lose perspective, she will redirect me to the things in life that matter most. And she most certainly will live on when I whisper DOOLS DOOLS DOOLS to myself and laugh.