My laptop is currently in the computer hospital, I have had little opportunity to blog, just a comment here and there on other’s sites. I have been reading them, but writing a post is way too challenging. Right now, I have a few minutes at the PC.
On Monday, I received an email telling me that my friend’s husband is in his “end days”. It was just over a month ago that he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He will be dying soon, almost exactly one year from the date of my friend’s dad’s death. Yet she is remarkably strong. I am not sure where that is coming from, but I do expect that she will eventually crash. I can only hope that there is someone there to catch her when the crash comes. She is not one to ask for help.
In the days since I learned of his imminent death, my mind has been filled with a list of people who have touched the circle of my life who have died from cancer. The list is longer than I had realized. I feel fortunate in that there are no children on that list. But each of those on my list of cancer losses still had much life to live when the disease took them.
The first time that I heard the word cancer was when there were whispers about my best friend’s mom. The adults tried to keep the information from the kids. We were just 13 years old when Sue’s mom Dorothy was diagnosed with breast cancer. We knew it was bad. I don’t think I truly recognized that she would die. There were very few treatment options back in the late 1960’s. I remember that she went far away from home for some experimental treatments. She was ill for a long time. My family moved away near the end of her life. My mom returned to help out with her care at the very end. Some 40 years later, my friend Sue still mourns her mom’s death.
Over the years there have been many others passing through my life whom I have lost to cancer. My mother-in-law Marjorie-the sweetest woman you can imagine-her cancer returned nearly 30 years after it had originally been vanquished. We were lucky enough to have a celebration of her 75th birthday while she was in remission. She died just a few months later.
My stepmother, Anne, died of lung cancer just a few months after her diagnosis. She was not able to even start her chemo treatments. She was my father’s third wife. His true soul mate. He was never the same. They were married only 5 years before her death.
My husband’s Aunt Grace, a “maiden aunt” who had spent the best years of her life caring for her mother, had just seemed to be coming into her own. She lived in a hoarder home, and it had just been cleaned out a year or so before her death. The doctors had not been able to identify her illness over many months. They finally did an exploratory surgery and found that her colon cancer was so advanced that there was nothing to be done. They didn’t even use stitches to close her incision. She died just a few days later.
My friend Jan had a brain tumor. Technically, it was not called cancer, but the tumor grew and grew. The surgeons removed as much of it as they could, but the tumor returned. The tumor took away her judgment and control. Her actions were like a two-year old child. When she died in a nursing home just before her 50th birthday, she weighed over 500 pounds after eating any and all candy she could find.
My husband’s family has been particularly hard hit by this disease. His mom and aunt, as noted above, his uncle Clint, his aunt Pat, his cousin’s husband Bill, and his sister-in-law’s father Bill all died of cancer, each of a different variety.
My former office mate, Harold died of cancer as well. His son had just graduated from law school. Harold asked me several months before his death, “Do you think my boy will be okay working as a lawyer in this town?”. Yes, he did just fine, Harold. His son is now a judge.
Harold’s secretary, Arlene, also died of lung cancer. Again, she died fairly shortly after her diagnosis. I don’t remember for sure, but I think she had only a few chemo treatments before she was so weak that they had to stop.
My former secretary’s husband, Paul also died very quickly after his diagnosis. They had divorced several months earlier. She decided to remarry him before his death. It was a bittersweet wedding. Everyone knew that he was dying. It was more of a practical matter than romantic. It provided her with more financial stability after his death than it would have been had they been divorced at his death.
One of the local judges was also a victim. He was not particularly well-liked by most of the attorneys in the area. But he didn’t deserve to die like that-it was a particularly virulent cancer which ended his life within the year after his diagnosis. He never returned to work.
A social worker for the county was able to return to work, at least for a short while. I remember her long, thick, wild hair. She was of Italian heritage, with the stereotypical fiery, hot personality. She was a great social worker, who fought for her clients. She also handled some of the toughest jobs-that of mediation for separating parents fighting over the custody of their children. Somehow, she helped them reach resolution in almost all of her cases.
And now, Larry. My friend’s husband is soon to be added to my list. Even though they have been married for 36 years, I have really never known him well. They have 5 adult children. She parented on her own for most of their marriage. He never really found a job that fit him. He had his own businesses, several of which closed down. She stuck by him through it all. She went back to college and graduated at age 50, and she became the primary income. When he could not work due to dementia, she was the sole wage earner. She sold their home close to her work and moved him back to the lake home he loved. Now he is dying in that home. It will likely be today, maybe tomorrow.