human nature and in memoriam

Human nature is a funny thing.  And soon I will be a year out since my official breast cancer diagnosis, and I keep rediscovering we as human beings are curious creatures indeed. Especially when it comes to this disease in women.

There are, for example, some people whom I told I had breast cancer whom I have literally never, ever heard from again.  One person in particular comes to mind.  We used to work together.  For years we were tight as ticks.  We did things together, spoke on the phone often even after we no longer worked together.  I always was available as a friendly ear when she was going through her divorce and even when she was having problems at work.  But when I told her I had breast cancer, it was like *poof* and she was gone. 

Oh well.  That kind of hurt my feelings, but hey, some relationships aren’t meant to be forever, and a lot of people can’t handle the big C word.  Also a lot of people are only comfortable when you can be a comfort to them – they are down right terrified if they might have to reciprocate.

Then there are the people who were depressed for me.  Good intentioned, well-meaning people I had to put at arm’s length while I went through surgery and treatment.  I couldn’t handle the downer vibe, literally.  I know, I know I sound like a selfish bitch, but there were some days that were a lot harder than I ever let on and I had my limits of what I could handle.

When you get a breast cancer diagnosis, people are all over the map.  And some just disappear like they could catch it from you or something.

And then there are the people who say helpful things to those who know someone touched with breast cancer like “that’s too bad.”  That happened to one of my dear friends recently.  She recounted the story of telling a man we both know (her father) how I had breast cancer.  So truthfully, I am not quite a stranger. 

But all my friend got from this man (her father) was a “that’s too bad” or “that’s a shame” and some recitation of something which happened to him one time when he was ill – not breast cancer mind you.  Now I am somewhat used to the oddness of response in people, but I felt badly for my friend because of the reaction she got. I would not expect this man or his wife to contact me as there is no connection any longer except maybe a wave across the aisle in the grocery store.   I mean if I was somehow useful to this man’s wife, I would have gotten some Jesus loves you note most probably, but I digress.  

And life goes on.  And people are just odd about life and illness.  There are a lot of people I have just never heard from.  People I used to connect with regularly.  Lives get busy, so I just kind of let it all go.    I have bigger fish to fry and worry about.  People are either in your life or they aren’t.

Now a few months post everything, some days on Tamoxifen are just a struggle.  I seem to feel things emotionally more acutely for lack of a better description. Some days are extremely difficult as a result.

Today, which started rather well is one of those days.   A woman I knew from the time we were little girls together died a couple of weeks ago from breast cancer.  I had only recently reconnected with her on Facebook, but hadn’t done any catch-up.  And face it, sometimes breast cancer is not the conversation starter we want as survivors.

Anyway, I do not know why I thought of her, but I did today.  So I went to her Facebook page, and seriously, for a minute I thought the air was being sucked out of the room. 

Joanna had breast cancer. Joanna and I were the same age.   Joanna died a couple of weeks ago.

Requiescat in pace Joanna Putney Durdle

This in an odd way has hit me very hard.   It’s the first breast cancer death to touch me personally since my own diagnosis, and it is someone out of my childhood.

Lordy.  I remember playing with her as a little girl.  I am talking elementary school little.

I knew Joanna as a little girl and in high school .   I am sometimes oblivious to how many women who have touched my life who have had breast cancer. I had no idea  she was of the group, and had no idea she passed away.  I sound so darn stupid right now, and I sincerely apologize, but I am trying really hard not to cry (and failing miserably)- I have this memory of her as a little girl stuck in my head from Society Hill.

I am sorry I did not really have the opportunity to know her again as an adult, but I bet she was as lovely as she was as a child.  She was just nice.  In fact, judging from what I read on her page, I know that she must have been the same nice person as an adult.  She  was my age.  We played on the same playgrounds as kids and went to high school together too.

Wow life is short.  How many times is that going to hit me in the face with regard to breast cancer? 

I am going to past Joanna’s obituary below.  To her friends, husband, children, and family I send simple, heartfelt condolences.  

Breast cancer, you sure are a bitch on who you take – not that you discriminate.

Joanna Putney Durdle 

 Joanna Putney Durdle, 47, of Moreland Hills, died Monday, Jan. 9, 2012, at her home after a courageous two-year battle with breast cancer.
Joanna was born Sept. 3, 1964, in Boston, Mass., to the late Paul W. Putney and Joan (High) Putney of Rydal, Pa. She married Brian P. Durdle July, 8, 2007, who survives her.
Joanna attended Valley Lutheran Church in Chagrin Falls. She graduated from The Shipley School in Bryn Mewr, Pa., the College of Wooster receiving her B.A. in English; and received her M.A.T. in English from Kent State University.
Joanna was a member of The Country Club in Pepper Pike. She was a loving daughter, sister, wife, mother, aunt and devoted friend to so many.
She was employed as Director of Pre-Primary Admissions at Laurel School in Shaker Heights.
She is survived by her son and three daughters, Chase P. Pavlik, Taylor K. Pavlik, Ellie M. Durdle and Grace L. Durdle all at home; brother, Andrew Emmerson (Marguerite) Putney of Manchester, Vt.; father and mother-in-law, Patrick and Linda (Jordan) Durdle of Ontario; and sisters-in-law, Chris (Rick) Wright of Galion and Miki (Matt) Graban of Shaker Heights. She also leaves behind her pets, Lilie, Sunny, Benny and Toffee.
A memorial service will be held 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012, at the Laurel School, 1 Lyman Circle, Shaker Heights. The Rev. Daniel Esala will officiate the service.
The family will receive friends at a reception that will immediately follow the service. A private family burial will be held at the Iberia Cemetery in Iberia.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Joanna’s name to Laurel School’s Scholarship Fund, Development Office, 1 Lyman Circle, Shaker Heights, OH 44122.
The Mark A. Schneider Funeral Home in Galion is honored to have assisted the family of Joanna Putney Durdle.
Online condolences may be made to the family at
Published in on January 11, 2012

About carla

Writer, blogger, photographer, breast cancer survivor. I write about whatever strikes my fancy as I meander through life.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to human nature and in memoriam

  1. Outstanding post. You are so right about the various reactions we get when people “find out.” I’m sorry about your friend. It is too bad you didn’t get to reconnect more with her as an adult. It does feel really strange when people we know, people our age start dying from cancer, as well as other things. Like you said, life is short. And cancer is a bitch for sure.

  2. Losing friends ( even from a long time ago) never gets easier but remembering them as they were in life is a blessing – that doesn’t sound right….but I think you can understand what I’m trying to say.

  3. Beth says:

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend … I’m a fellow club member (almost 3 years out) and recently lost a friend I met in a support group and it has hit me in very much the same way in the sense that it is the first BC death I’ve known personally since my own diagnosis.

    You are so on point the way you categorized the wide range of reactions (or lack thereof) that you get from people when you are diagnosed. I’m no longer ashamed to admit that I have family members (first cousins of my same age and with whom I share mutual friends) that I have not heard from to this day. Their parents (aunts and uncles) swept their rude behavior under the carpet and the “kids” have had the audacity to send me birth announcements of their children. They’re the ones that should be ashamed for their behavior, not me. But it really does help weed people out of your life and I’ve been appalled at how others minimize things (“but look at your fabulous new breasts” — Really?! And what was wrong with the ones I had??) and others that think it’s helpful to tell you how their friend’s mother died from what you had.

    Anyway … it just made me feel better knowing that I’m not the only one to experience any of this. Glad I found your blog! : )

  4. “And life goes on. And people are just odd about life and illness.” So very, very true! I have had similar experiences with my own friends and family, which is why it is so important to me, that I am now connected to an online community of women who really get what it’s like to have a cancer diagnosis, and all the associated emotions and feelings that go with it.

  5. Pingback: Weekly Round-Up « Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

  6. jelebelle says:

    It is an interesting journey to watch how others relate to illness in general, let alone this one. I, too, have had similar reactions. (from my father no less, and a supposed close girlfriend) I have realized the only way to move forward through cancer is with positivity and positive people surrounding and helping you. There is no room for negativity, or those who simply do not know how to move through the difficulties.
    So sorry for the loss of your friend. hang in there…I’ve heard the tamoxifen gets easier.
    You are right about cancer..a bitch, though my close friend calls BC an f’in whore 😉

  7. Pingback: eight months | ihavebreastcancerblog

  8. Pingback: moments in life | ihavebreastcancerblog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s