Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I Still Hate Kanswer

Kanswer sucks. Don't let my quietness on this topic of late lead you to believe that I'm not still pissed off about having gone through that journey. I'm doing great. I'm feeling great. I still love my short hair. I'm loving the fact that I will never have to wear a bra or undergo a mammogram ever again. That is a beautiful thing.

Life is good right now.
But kanswer still sucks.

I still hear way too many stories about this dreadful disease.
Stage 4 pancreatic kanswer diagnosed in a friend's husband.
A missed breast kanswer diagnosis, late treatment, rapid advancement, and the far-too-quick death of a dear friend's mother.
Breast and uterine kanswer in a very young friend of mine.
Skin kanswer removed. Several times.
I hate it, hate it, hate it.

But even in the midst of it, even in the worst of it, I hear stories of strength and courage, beauty and honor, dignity and love abounding even in the midst of the suffering. Stories of life well lived even while facing down the demon of disease. Stories of stopping treatment in the interest of peace and a gentle end. Stories of being surrounded by friends and family to the very end. Stories where the very end was postponed after treatment, surgery, and a whole lot of prayer.

Recently I read an article about black women and kanswer - how often we are diagnosed late, not offered curative care, and for those and other reasons, black women in the country tend to die at a higher rate than white women with similar diagnoses. Here is a link to the article I read. Powerful stuff. Beautiful women. Sad stories.

Speaking of beautiful black women and sad stories about kanswer...

Flipping through a photo album a month or so ago, I was reminded of a trip I took to Portland, Oregon, more than ten years ago to see my best friend from college. She was dying of colon kanswer that had returned and spread to her brain. She was a medical doctor, so she knew what was happening to her and had a pretty good idea of how her story was going to end. Soon.

She spent most of her adult life as a vegetarian, then a vegan, then she and her husband stopped eating food out of pots that had ever cooked meat. They were serious about eating well. How does someone who lives like that get colon kanswer?

I sat with her for two and a half days. I read to her. I told her stories. I held her hand. I offered her food. I watched her sleep. I prayed with her and for her. I cried. A lot. She wasn't yet 40 years old, and she was dying.

On my last full day there, she asked for something to eat.
One of her Portland buddies and I knelt down beside her to listen closely.
"What do you want? Anything you want, we will get it for you."
Her voice was weak. Her eyes were closed.
But she spoke clearly - "I want barbecue ribs and Pepsi."
Then she named the place she wanted the food from.
"No problem. We will be right back."
Her husband was not as agreeable - "She can't eat that. It will make her sick."
"Sick? She's dying of kanswer. If she wants ribs, she can have ribs."
"If she wants Pepsi, Pepsi it is."
He said NO. We said YES.
We left. We bought it. We brought it back.
She ate two or three bites of the ribs and took two or three sips of the Pepsi.
That was all she needed before slipping back into a morphine induced slumber.

Before leaving her house to return to my hotel later that evening, I leaned over her, kissed her smooth forehead, and told her I was going. She opened her eyes, thanked me for coming to see her, and told me to travel safely.
I told her to do the same - I wished her traveling mercies on her final journey.
I left for home the following morning.
She moved into a hospice center a few days later, and then she left for her eternal home very soon thereafter.

Kanswer sucks!

Back in January, my Spanish mother died. One of the kindest, most generous, loving, family-oriented, God-loving people I have ever known passed away. The breast kanswer didn't kill her. The pneumonia didn't kill her. But they both seriously complicated her life. Her daughter and I are sisters of the heart. Whenever I go to Spain, I stay with her and her husband and their two sons. Whenever I face a challenge, she supports me from afar. And I try to do the same for her. After watching her mother die, after watching one of her dearest friends die of bone kanswer not long before that, my friend sent me a message today reminding me of what I try to remind myself of daily, hourly - Life is meant to be lived. So live it fully. Live it well. No holding back. No second guessing. Be grateful. Be grace-full. Be joy-full.

I still hate kanswer, but I am grateful that because of its attempt on my life,
I have learned to cherish each day as the gift that it is.

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