Society for the Prevention of Pants
The Fund for Pants Awareness
Pants Across America
The Right to Pants Association
Friends of Pants
This week’s Monday Mission solicits donations in the form of posts about a charity, real or imagined, serious or humorous. (Wow, I just started to type “humourous.” I think it’s a side effect of reading so many blogs by Canadians.) With so many options, it’s hard to narrow down. How can I pick a favorite? Usually, I take every opportunity for silliness. But with things going on in my personal life right now, I’m moved to actually write a serious post, and mention a real charity.
My friend Elizabeth was a beautiful person. It hurts me to write about her in the past tense. But there it is. She died on Friday after a 2-year valiant fight against cancer.
I saw Elizabeth on Tuesday at the hospital. She was still herself, in many ways. Quieter. It was an effort for her to talk. But she still had her sense of humor intact. A close friend of hers flew in from out of state, who I got to meet for the first time. We sat around talking, then reading questions from Trivial Pursuit. Elizabeth and her husband and parents, who had spent much time in hospital rooms with her, had devised a variation of the game. They’d gotten rid of the board ages ago. Instead, they’d read and answer all 6 questions on 6 sequential cards, and total the score out of 36. When an awkward silence started to creep over the room, Elizabeth called for a round of questions. “With three smart women like us, we ought to be able to beat the high score.”
When it was time for me to go catch my train home, I hugged her and told her that I would see her again once she was back home, but I didn’t want to be a pest. I told her she should tell me if I was being a pest. And I hugged her husband, and told him that he should tell me if I was being a pest. And then I turned to the friend, and said “I just met you, so you don’t get to tell me if I’m being a pest.” And we all laughed. Elizabeth, too. I said my good-byes and left. I didn’t dream that it was the last time I would ever see or speak to Elizabeth. I worked on a letter to her that night, determined to share things with her about how much her friendship has meant to me.
She did get to go home. I called on Friday, hoping to make plans to see her over the weekend. When I got the answering machine, I was worried that perhaps she was still in the hospital, that there had been more complications. But then her husband called me back a bit later with the news. Elizabeth had died that morning. It was a huge shock to me, and I dissolved into a blubbering wreck on the phone. “I’m sorry. You don’t need this from me,” I apologized to my friend’s husband through my sobs. But maybe that’s what I’d want in his shoes. To know that my grief and pain were shared.
I’ve had a bit of a rough few days. I’ve had to share the news with our mutual friends, most of whom were not in regular contact with Elizabeth. Some of whom had not even known she was sick. This was a new job for me. I can only imagine what my friend’s husband is going through. He has so many things to take care of. I am so sad for him. And their little girls. And the rest of her family.
I’m still in shock that this has happened. My friend was 35 years old.
She underwent 2 years of procedures and treatments, including chemo, radiation and multiple surgeries. She showed an incredible amount of strength through it all, even as her body became weaker. She didn’t give up hope. She kept living. Kept being a wonderful mother to her 2 beautiful little girls. She was wife, sister, daughter, aunt, friend. And she played all these roles amazingly well.
Time after time, she got bad news from the tests. She would share the news with me at times. The cancer was spreading. The chemo drugs weren’t working. Then the next chemo drugs weren’t working. That she had basically maxed out for radiation. Two weeks ago she told me that they had reached the end of the FDA-approved treatments. She still had hope for the experimental treatments. It turned out she didn’t qualify. Just last Monday, she was told that the next step was hospice.
I found myself very angry that she couldn’t get those experimental treatments. I find myself thinking that things didn’t have to be this way. Science is making great strides in determining causes of cancers. Strides are being made towards the prevention of certain types of cancer. Treatments are much more effective than they were even 10 or 20 years ago. Or 30 years ago.
My own father died of cancer 30 years ago. And I’ve lost others to cancer, too. My much loved grandmother, who was a powerful force in my life. The father of a close friend, who treated me like family and called me “daughter.” A dear stepfather, who I only knew a short time. Even my beloved dog. With my new grief for my friend, I revisit the past grief. I think especially of the loss of my father, how I not only miss him, but missed getting to know him since I was so young when he died. And I think of how Elizabeth’s daughters will miss out on getting to know Elizabeth as the friend that I knew and loved. Cancer robs us of people that we love, of their contributions to our lives and our world.
And I find myself thinking that things could have been different. That with more research, things will be different.
So I end this with a nod to the American Cancer Society.
The American Cancer Society is the nationwide community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service.