Monday, June 22, 2009

Grace and Dignity

Summer is in full swing here and we are busily making up for the lost summer of 2008. We just got back from a fantastic week on South Padre Island on the Gulf coast of Texas. Good times!

I've noticed subtle changes in Linda's attitude over the past year. From trying new food at a restaurant to attempting to dive to the bottom of a pool to taking charge in situations where should would normally of laid back, she is in charge of her life and enjoying it, really enjoying it, moreso than ever. I am so proud of her. Physically, I don't think there are any long lasting symptoms of surgery and/or chemo. Emotionally, I think she is (we are) well on her way to recovery, however reminders of how fragile all this is are never too far away...

It seems like an eternity, yet it was only 18 months ago. January 2nd 2008 was Linda's first chemo, only 3 weeks after the shock of her diagnosis. We had scoured the internet and read every horror story regarding side-effects of chemo. We had gone through chemo "training" at Texas Oncology. We had signed every liability waiver known to mankind. Linda sat in the chemo chair and I was huddled by her side listening intently to the infusion nurse tell us what to expect. Only Linda knows how she felt, but I can tell you, my fear and apprehension was overwhelming. I was scared shitless. Across from us sat a young lady, about Linda's age, who was dressed very well. She had brownish-red hair, pretty make-up and a pleasant smile. She busied herself working on a laptop while the chemo rushed through her veins. She never knew it, but she became an incredible source of courage for us that day. I knew we would be okay.

Over time, Linda and her became friends. She attended the same young survivor support group. A strange thing about "cancer friends" is that you tend to identify them by their disease. "You know Linda, she's triple negative, stage IIB, node positive and Karen, she's E+P+, stage I, no nodes". I *know* these women are so much more than that, but human nature is to identify with that which you have in common. She was Becky, Her2neu+, stage IV. It turns out her beautiful hair was a wig and she was battling a very aggressive form of breast cancer with the newest drugs available, some still in the clinical trials stages. To look at her you'd never know.

I was in Seattle a couple weeks ago on business and got an early morning call from Linda. Becky had passed away. The news came out of nowhere and messed me up. I still tear up as I type this. Becky is the only woman I have ever known to lose her fight and it brought back a whole bunch of emotions I had conveniently tucked away out of mind. Linda doesn't talk about it much but I know it bothers her. She wears her emotions differently than me.

Becky, the grace and dignity you showed in the face of such adversity will stay with me forever. You made the world a lot less scarier for us and for that I am eternally grateful.

Thank you and God bless,


Renee said...

John (and Linda),

What a nice picture of you two! Looks like you had a good time on the island.

I remember when I stumbled upon your blog almost one year ago - shortly after my diagnosis. I glommed onto it like a life line. I needed to know what was physically happening to Linda . . could I survive the treatment?

But your blog gave so much more - the partner's side of the journey. It helped to see how a partner was feeling and thinking. It also helped me to open the conversation door with the hubby - the one who doesn't talk feelings.

So sorry to hear about Becky. Just so sad to lose someone to the evil C. It does bring out the emotions and fears that we sort of put on hold as we move on with our lives.

Thanks so much for your honesty and sharing your journey with us through this blog.


Jude said...

God bless Becky, and all others who have lost the fight with that damn disease. I feel for both you and Linda, I can understand how Becky's passing must affect you.

I LOVE this shot of you and Linda, you both look so relaxed and healthy! Linda, my sister Brenda is doing fine after her mastectomy and her life is carrying on. I have 2 other lady friends battling breast cancer right now too. One has the aggressive type, it's been about a year and we're not so sure she's going to make it. The other just found out about a month ago and has just finished radiation. She starts chemo soon.

I'm still keeping you in my prayers, girl. For a loooong, health life ahead!

John, thank you for the update and for your side of it all. You and Linda deserve the very best.