Friday, August 22, 2014

My friend.

My friend died last night.
That's really the weight of it. She died. She was here, we talked almost every day for a year and a half. She disappeared from all of us about a month ago, shut off communication at the news of stage 4, went into the hospital this past weekend and is now gone.
We sat in a virtual waiting room yesterday, waiting for news, sharing pictures, stories, laughing, crying...many of us strangers to each other, but connected by this one person. Holding hands and passing tissues and clinking glasses in salute over hundreds or thousands of miles. It was...surreal.
How do you mourn someone you've never physically met but were closer to than some people you've known for years? How do you forgive someone for shutting you (and most everyone else) out in the last month even though you completely 100% understand why? How do you forgive someone for leaving you when they were not supposed to, when you were both, having such very similar circumstances, supposed to beat this together?
I make friends neither quickly nor easily. Now I have one less here with me.
Sue was the inspiration behind this blog post. I ask that in her honor, you take a trip, you laugh a little louder, you try a different food, you celebrate this Halloween in an especially big way, you live a little bigger, and you make a friend out of a stranger. This is for Sue.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How Facebook has changed the process of birth and death...

Pre-cancer, I was never one to shy away from death. I wouldn't necessarily say I was morbid, but I wasn't afraid either, at least not of the concept. In another life, I think I would have loved to be some sort of forensic scientist, among many other things. I went to my first funeral when I was four, when my great Pop-Pop, whom I loved dearly, died at 92. Then again the next year when my nana died, and so on and so forth. Needless to say, I've been to many funerals over the years and am quite shocked that there seem to be many people like my husband who had been to only one funeral in his entire life before my uncle's 9 years ago. I've taken care of some severely sick people, and watched a few people close to transitioning.


The beginning of this post has been sitting for months. I've come back to it often but just haven't been able to attempt it. But now it seems more appropriate then ever because of the juxtaposition of the last few days.

Last night my sister-in-law posted that my niece was in labor. I woke up this morning to pictures of a beautiful healthy new baby. This is, as most would agree I'm sure, pretty much the norm these days. What you used to hear on the phone after the fact, maybe even passed through a telephone tree or god forbid, in person, is now transported in a matter of seconds with shares and likes and comments. And who doesn't want to see a new baby, know that everything went fine?

But I also woke up to a horrible, heart-wrenching post.

I have a good fb friend, one of the girls in my group. We are the same age (ok, she would emphasize that she's a year younger), we were diagnosed around the same time, same stage, same surgery, almost same treatment plan...same same same. Same smart-assedness. We would often message each other, check in on each other, commiserate and snarkily comment on the bounty of stupidity in the world...her cancer was slightly different and made a reappearance shortly after she was done with radiation, around the same time I was. We got burned together, across country from each other. She started back up on a different chemo, and get this - didn't tell her mother or her boyfriend because she didn't want to upset them. So she's been on chemo for the past year now and we were chatting the day she got her scan results back...everything was clear. Sooo happy. A couple days later I realized I hadn't heard from her and started messaging her. This went on until I asked a fellow group member if she had heard from her - she had not. After some digging we discovered she was in the hospital "having many tests done but would get back to us soon". This week we found out that she had a stroke and had mets to her spinal fluid. The doctors had given her a year. I was devastated. We kept it quiet, from our group, because we knew that's what she was requesting. Early last week, my husband found out the guy he has golfed with every week for the past 7 years or so has terminal kidney cancer. Then Robin Williams died, which was a communal sadness. Then I found out about my friend. Last week was not good.

As I said, I was devastated, and was planning something Halloween themed to send her, as we both also share a strong love of the holiday. This morning, after seeing the new baby, I saw this post - " in the hospital in critical condition, unresponsive, intubated, seizure activity..." I'm angry. I'm angry and sad and heartbroken. Some of her friends started a private fb page tonight so people could finally be updated on what's going on, for all intents and purposes it is a virtual waiting room, and 21st century parlour. But instead of what used to be immediate family, or close (at least in proximity) neighbors and friends, everyone who has an internet connection can "watch" someone pass. This is not the first time, I've seen it often. I've seen people, even spouses, give status updates of those dying.  I have been, at least tangentially, privy to the passing of people I don't even know. I still am unsure how I feel about this, it's something difficult to process.  I do know that I am sad. I know that I will pray, which she probably would not appreciate. I know that I will "watch", from 3000 miles away, a friend pass way way too soon. I know that no matter how technology has changed the way in which we receive or share information, it will in no way change the feeling of joy at seeing a new life or feeling of your heart breaking.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Some observations in light of the Robin Williams tragedy

I, like 99.8% of the population, am so saddened, heartbroken, and upset by the suicide of Robin Williams yesterday. I can't say I'm shocked, knowing the man has fought demons for years, but wholeheartedly saddened nonetheless. As I have stated before, my getting sick has given me a huge empathy (and yes, I emphasize empathy, not sympathy - I can directly relate to dealing with a life-threatening disease) that those who have not gone through this can never have. That I did not have before. Admittedly, before I got sick, I may have sympathized with those who suffered mental illness/depression, but I honestly didn't comprehend the magnitude. I do now.

What I've noticed, though, in many of the articles I've read, is something akin to this sentence used often when talking about mental illness - "People chastise and attack people with mental illness. You would never attack someone with an illness like cancer." The sad thing is, we do get attacked. People attack and chastise people with cancer ALL THE TIME. Even if your friends or family don't speak it to your face, there are thoughts of "what you could have done differently, what you could have done to prevent it...I do this, this and this and this is why I DON'T HAVE IT AND YOU DO." Have you ever looked at the comment board on any cancer site, or worse yet, a "natural" healing site? Did you know that all you had to do to avoid cancer was - be vegan, be vegetarian, run 5 miles a day, take cannabis oil, drink goji juice, dance under the moonlight, have been raised in a hyperbaric chamber, eat meat, don't eat meat, be a man, be a woman, meditate hourly, not smoked that cigarette in your 20s, had children early, not had children early enough, not had children at all, eaten organic since birth, been breastfed for 5 years, and eat almonds? Did you know that if you have cancer all you have to do to cure it is take cannabis oil, go to the rainforest naked, don't eat sugar, meditate hourly while eating almonds, drink goji juice and think good thoughts? Did you know that it was your fault for getting a mammogram, not getting a mammogram, not having acupuncture, not using coconut oil?

In fact, you're even told some of the same things as people fighting depression and mental illness - stop using this for attention, be thankful for what you have, be happy you're alive, other people have it worse, what do you have to feel sad about, stop complaining, get over it.

This is what you go through, what you read when you are fighting a disease, when you are fighting cancer. So yes, people with cancer get attacked all the time for having an illness. How about we stop attacking anyone when you haven't walked in their shoes. Period.

 RIP Captain. I'm so so very sorry for what you endured. The world is a dimmer place for you leaving. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.