The Ongoing Adventures of Naked Girl

The story of my quest to look good naked -- really good.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Hey, None of Us Are Getting Out Alive

I got some bad news yesterday. My mom's best friend, Nancy, has been given 3 - 4 months to live. Nancy and my mom met when I was 2 and Nancy's daughter was also 2 -- we're actually only 3 weeks apart in age. My brother was 6 months and Jackie's brother was 3 months, so you can see our families were very similar.

Our families used to do summer vacations together. Even though as we grew up, Jackie and I kind of went our different ways, we remaind friends. I was there for Jackie Nancy was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was there for her when her aunt had a radical masectomy. I was there when Jackie discovered a lump in her breast. This has not been a lucky family. One of Jackie's aunts died of ovarian cancer. Jackie lost her second child, a 3 week old boy, to SIDS in 2001. Nancy survived breast cancer only to find that some of the cancer cells settled in her liver and bones.

I had been relying on my mom for information about Nancy, not wanted to bother Nancy. I had left a message for Jackie a few weeks ago and she finally called last week and we had about a 2 hour talk. At this time, no doctor had answered the question, "How much time?" Jackie had come to terms about her mom's impending death, sort of. She admitted she knew it was going to happen, and knew it was going to be sooner than later, but I don't really think she realized that we were talking soon, real soon. My mom, in total denial, still thinks that Nancy can beat this, that she has a year. After a very long phone conversation with her last night, I think I was finally able to get her to acknowledge that Nancy will probably be gone before the end of summer.

Death is not something I'm comforable with. I was not exposed to it a lot -- when my 4 grandparents passes, my parents opted for no ceremonies. I think my first memorial service was when I was in junior high and one of my friend's brother died in a hiking accident. I hadn't even been to a funeral (with a body in the same room) until 7 years ago when my friend Shoba died in a plane crash. Even then, it was a closed casket because of the nature of the accident. My first open casket funeral was in 2000 when a friend's wife died of cancer (didn't handle that well at all -- I ended up having a panic attack). Needless to say, it's not a topic I like discussing, writing about or even thinking about.

Having said that, death is inevitable for all of us. The person who served you your latte this morning? He's going to die. Your co-worker? Boss? Workout partner? Yep -- we just don't know when or how most of the time. In Nancy's case, she does know. Most cancer victims die of liver failure due to a drug overdose. Ironic -- the drugs they give you to relieve the pain is what essentially kills you. Not the cancer, but the drugs. She even knows, for the most part, how much time she has. She doesn't have the strength to take the trip to Europe she's always wanted to do, but she does have the chance to gather those she loves and tell them that. I guess in a way, that's one of the benefits of knowing.

So, how am I going to handle this? This is the first time that I've really known anyone who has been given a time limit. I know my role is going to be supporting my mom and Jackie. I also know I am going to have to go and see Nancy within the next few weeks, no matter how hard it is for me.

The upside of this is the open discussions I was able to have with my dad. my mom and Don. These aren't easy conversations, and there were some tears, but they are important, and I do encourage you all to have them with those you love.

Anyway, not to put a damper on everyone's Friday, but I wanted to get this down before I let it fade to the background like I do on all uncomfortable topics.

"You can't choose how you are going to die, or when. You can only choose how you are going to live, now."


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