Posts Tagged With: multiple myeloma

I Missed Celebrating an Important Birthday

Photo by Joey Gannon from Pittsburgh, PA (Candles) [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Joey Gannon from Pittsburgh, PA (Candles) [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

I missed celebrating an Important Birthday!

Actually, I didn’t really miss it. I thought about it all that day.

I just avoided acknowledging it out loud.

Today I spent time with the birthday girl’s daughter-in-law. We talked about life with Kathy. It felt good and more than okay to say her name; the twinge I usually get when I talk about her out loud didn’t pinch quite so much. Not sure why.

Anyway, that bit of conversation knocked open a closed door. Which makes it possible to share this song that gut-punched me a year ago.

By that I mean the song spoke right to my heart, my head, my spirit.

Yeah, I’ve kept it to myself for a while now. Well, I did share it with MSH, cuz he already gets it. If no one else gets it, that’s okay.

I had decided long before birthday time that I’d share this on her day. And then I couldn’t. Didn’t. Refused to. Which, looking back, seems selfish. So I’ve included this gem by Sarah McLachlan from Toy Story 2. Listen with your ears and with your heart and you’ll get a glimpse of friendship at its most real.

The relationship Kathy and I had changed me. What a gift she was and continues to be for me. She taught me to love myself, to embrace the weird wonderfulness of me. It doesn’t get much better than what we had. What a blessing!

Happy Belated Birthday Kathy, my friend. No regrets! Love ya!

“How many slams in an old screen door? Depends how loud you shut it. How many slices in a bread? Depends how thin you cut it. How much good inside a day? Depends how good you live ’em. How much love inside a friend? Depends how much you give ’em.” ~ Shel Silverstein

“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” ~ Elbert Hubbard

Categories: Friendship | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Missing Words and Missing People

It’s Gratituesday. Today I feel profound gratitude for the five years I enjoyed with my best friend Kathy. She passed away early on Friday.

A Lincoln rose, Kathy's favorite.

A Lincoln rose, Kathy’s favorite.

She was ready for it.  For her, death arrived with relief and peace and hope.

We had talked openly and frequently about death during her war years with cancer. Turns out that theory and talk didn’t prepare me for this reality.

I’ve never seen anyone with such a capacity for honesty and directness. Never one to beat around a bush, Kathy simply says what she thinks. And somehow, through charm or charisma, or that cutesy high-pitched teenage voice, she gets away with it. In fact, I’ve found myself emulating her straightforward ways and am all the better for it.

Spunky, gutsy, and get ‘er done doesn’t quite do her justice. If she set her mind to something you’d better get out of the way or pick up a hammer and get to work beside her. Determination resonates as her middle name.

Hand in hand with such spunk is her fearlessness which still dazzles me. My breath catches when I think of the countless number of times she faced a new chemo treatment, another experimental drug, another bone biopsy. Courage of astounding proportions resided in that heart of hers.

She wrapped her all around her children and her husband. Family first, family always. We talked more about her family than any other topics combined. She loves that bunch of people with every bit of herself. Literally and figuratively.

Her fierce capacity for love, listening, acceptance and caring radiated and warmed so many.

Whatever I come up with to express gratitude for her sounds so inadequate. The right words seem caught on the jagged edges of this crater left in my heart by her passing.

Unlike Kathy, I find myself woefully unprepared for her death.

This surprising onslaught of grief seems equally weighted against the laughter, joy and beauty she brought into my life for which I will be forever grateful.

Categories: Cancer, Death, Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Taking One Day at a Time

It’s Gratituesday! I’m grateful for time with my best friend today. It felt like a “normal” day, not a month or so away from dying kind of day. We talked like it was any old kind of day, well, except for everything we talked about that isn’t like any other kind of conversation most friends get to have.

good day sunshine

good day sunshine (Photo credit: eye of einstein)

But really, it felt wonderful. It felt almost normal. She had more energy than usual. We were in sync, the world’s machinery ran smoothly for us, we laughed, we dodged crying, we felt like a couple of teenagers getting away with something.

We snuck out of the house and got some early lunch before the germ filled crowds showed up. We went to a matinée movie, sitting in a theater completely empty except for the two of us. The place as bacteria free as a person can get out in public. Her immune system appreciated it. We even talked out loud during the movie which made the day even better. No shushing involved.

I think we must have looked like two old sisters spending time together toddling about town leaning on each other, holding each other up.

I often wonder who is helping who in this relationship. Actually, there’s no wonder involved. I’m pretty certain I’m the one getting helped, being served, feeling loved and learning how to be real.

Yup, today felt great.

I’m thankful for every day I can get in with my bestie.

Categories: Cancer, Fun, Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

More Words I’d Rather Not Need to Know

Hospice

Hospice (Photo credit: ellenmac11)

Hospice.

My sweet friend called to let me know she had begun hospice care. She sounded relieved, happy, almost excited.

I was baffled and confused.

To me that word meant end of life. Period. And a near immediate one at that. Period.  How could she be so positive about this?  I thought of hospice as a kind of throwing one’s hands up in the air, oh well, now we’re done fighting kind of attitude. That’s not typical of my friend. After all, less than a month ago she was a patient aggressively fighting a fiercely unrelenting disease.

I’ve had it all wrong for a long time now. I’m glad I looked into it more.

So what is it? Here’s a definition I found from a place called Hope Hospice.

“Hospice is not a place. It is a special kind of healthcare focused on keeping the patient comfortable once the patient and physician have decided that the underlying disease can no longer be treated or cured. Hospice helps the patient, their families, and other caregivers and hospice care can occur in a variety of settings. It neither hastens nor postpones death and is focused on the belief that quality of life is as important as length of life. Hospice staff members help manage pain and symptoms and provide emotional and spiritual support so patients can make the most of each day.”

Here’s another new word: Palliation. It means easing the severity of a pain or a disease without removing the cause.

That word helps me understand Wickipedia’s explanation of hospice.

Hospice care is a type and philosophy of care that focuses on the palliation of a terminally ill or seriously ill patient’s pain and symptoms, and attending to their emotional and spiritual needs. The concept of hospice has been evolving since the 11th century. Then, and for centuries thereafter, hospices were places of hospitality for the sick, wounded, or dying, as well as those for travelers and pilgrims. The modern concept of hospice includes palliative care for the incurably ill given in such institutions as hospitals or nursing homes, but also care provided to those who would rather spend their last months and days of life in their own homes.”

No more visits to a clinic or hospital sounds wonderful to someone who has spent the past five years staying in or visiting both on a daily, biweekly or weekly basis. To be cared for in one’s own home by nurses and healthcare providers relieves anxiety and frustration and improves communication. Increasing pain gets addressed quickly, logistics and questions receive almost immediate action, concern for all involved increases.

To work with professionals trained specifically for treating those with less than six months life expectancy changes the focus to comfort and communication and caring.

hospice spiralI get it now. I understand why she feels relieved and happy about being in hospice care.

She isn’t dying so much as she is living. Now that she’s isn’t battling the effects of the chemotherapy and other treatments along with the myeloma, she has an opportunity to spend better quality time with her family, make a few more wonderful memories, cherish every minute.

She’d love to take her kids to a hockey game, go to a symphony with her husband, see a few plays, spend time with extended family, eat well, laugh as much as possible, and live as long as she can. Anything anyone can do to help make any of that happen is welcome to extend a helping hand.

My hand will be held out to her as long as she needs it. And then some. I’m glad so many other hands have now joined in her care.

Categories: Death, Love | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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