I have been chewing on this a few days, a woman who was a new friend that I had met not long ago by accident died of stage 4 breast cancer recently. She was diagnosed with stage 4 and found it valiantly for a few years.
Maybe it is not rational to mourn the loss of someone I did not know very well, but I do. She was kind of amazing. She was a poet and an artist. She was also just so damn nice. I am a little sad today about it. It’s distracting me so that is my signal I need to write it out.
How we met was completely by accident. A neighbor and friend had connected with her over an abandoned churchyard and graveyard that none of us have any ties to but are drawn to. We met for coffee. There we were three women sitting in a Wegmans’ cafe talking about a graveyard that housed none of our dead. And then there it was: that weird recognition women with or who have been treated for breast cancer have.
We all stayed in touch the three of us, but after mid December, I did not really hear much. I knew she was undergoing treatment that was new and she was tired from all of the insurance stuff, scheduling of home health nurses and so on. But she was always upbeat.
Metastatic Cancer is what she lived with. She is not my only friend who lives with it. I live in terror of that and they are all so brave. So here I am coming up on five years. I am here, and another wonderful woman is gone. That is hard to comprehend. It’s not being negative, it is just not a fun place to be. Some call it survivor’s guilt. I get it. But for every amazing woman this crappy disease takes, it makes me as a survivor want to live the best life possible even more.
I wrote about her in the fall when she asked all of us to share something she had written about living with breast cancer.
Here is what she wrote then:
Well, it’s “Pinktober”/ National Breast Cancer Awareness Month & I am emboldened (see photo). This is part of what Stage 4 breast cancer looks like for me.
I write now from my weekly chemotherapy chair and in half an hour I travel down to Philly for my daily cutting-edge radiation treatment at Penn. At some point I will likely experience brain, liver, and further bone metastases, along with the pain I contend with. I will be in treatment for the rest of my life, however long that may be…. I hate October.
As a mother, sister, aunt, cousin, sister-in-law, daughter-in-law, friend, I would URGE you all to support research into PREVENTION this month vs. finding a pink ribbon “cure.”
We are doing something terribly, terribly wrong: 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.
Let’s work on the CAUSE end of things.
Of the 596 current breast cancer studies, only 22 are looking into PREVENTION.
And of course clinical trials are looking to drugs to treat the disease & extend life. Beneath the shawl in the photo is an area of aggressive skin metastases and a mastectomy scar which I will not share.
PLEASE help to keep my daughter, my nieces, my sister, sisters-in-law, cousins, friends from struggling through this devastating disease. This month I will be looking for and suggesting to you places to donate toward research into PREVENTION.
Please give generously and honor the future of those women and young women closest to my heart.
Thank you so.
On April 7, 2016 she was gone. It showed up on her Facebook page. I had reached out to her in March, but never had heard back. Now I knew why. So damn unfair.
Heaven has another angel. Rest in peace, Ann.
The spinal cord blossoms
like bright, bruised magnolia
into the brainstem.
And already the heart
in its depth — who could assail it?
Bathed in my voice, all branching
and dreaming. The flowering
and fading — said the poet —
come to us both at once.
Here is your best self,
and the least, two sparrows
alight in the one tree
of your body.
A.V. Christie / The Housing