Tired of writing tributes
I went to bed a couple of nights ago with the news that my dear friend Darlene Gant passed away. I met Darlene back in 2009 at the Annie Appleseed conference, which covered alternative and integrative cancer therapies. Darlene spoke and shared how she was living with no evidence of disease without doing conventional treatment. In 2012, Darlene’s cancer came back with a vengeance and she entered hospice, but miraculously cheated death by getting approval to use the then-experimental drug Perjeta.
Darlene and I have grown very close over the years, having long talks on the phone on how wonderful it is to be here for our teen kids. Her son Cam is 14; my daughter Chrissy is 16. We talked about helping others and taking vacations together, and she consulted with me whenever I received a questionable scan. Like my friend, Krysti, she knew more than many doctors on some things. I feel fortunate we were able to visit with her during spring break when, upon her recommendation, we went to Florida for a beach vacation. I’m grateful I went down there again last month to be there with her in the hospital. I feel blessed to have her as a friend.
But I’m sick of writing tributes. I’m sick of losing friends. I’m sick of cancer taking away the lives of young mothers. I can’t seem to find a way to put a positive spin on this. Two very close friends of mine, both with teen children, gone in a matter of three weeks. Both were very strong, smart, determined, positive loving women who helped so many people. Darlene even set up an organization called H.O.P.E. to advocate for other survivors. The wake of this awful disease is beyond comprehension. It rocks everyone in its path, it devastates families and friends. It sucks big time.
Even so, I felt a sense of relief for Darlene and her family that she was done with her suffering. I saw firsthand how sick she was and how she could not hold down food or water. I received just a glimpse of what she was feeling this week with a stomach bug and thought of her with every cramp and wave of nausea. Darlene is at peace now.
My discomfort went away, and yesterday I was well enough to get my second round of treatment for my clinical trial. I didn’t cry when I heard the news last night but ended up crying at the mention of Darlene during my visit with the nurse practitioner and when I sat down in the recliner for my treatment. It just bubbled up after reading some kind words from friends about my loss. Kindness does that to me every time.
OK, I lied. I can come up with some positives. Because I’m no good at being a curmudgeon, I turn to gratitude. I’m grateful Darlene had three extra years to be with her family that she would not have had. She was able to see Cam graduate from middle school, grow taller than her and even sport facial hair. I’m grateful I received three extra years to be her friend, a beautiful friendship I will always treasure.
For me, I’m grateful that my vomiting and pain were just symptoms of a stomach bug; not about the cancer. Funny how we can be grateful for run-of-the-mill illnesses! I’m grateful for the love and support of my wonderful husband, Mike, who has really stepped up during this time. He has come with me to every treatment and came home from work early to get my prescription when I was feeling at my worst. I’m grateful for my friends who have sent me loving messages and prayers. I am grateful that I live to see another day as Chrissy blossoms into a wonderful young woman. She just received her driver’s license and next month will be starting her junior year. And I’m grateful to you, my readers, who continue to read and comment on my blog despite my crappy news I’ve been sharing lately.
I’ll close with a clip a local Tampa station did on Darlene. I think they were a bit self-congratulating about their role in getting Darlene on her life-saving treatment three years ago. Darlene had an army of friends and family helping to make that happen, and she certainly led the way. Click HERE to see the clip.