What is your legacy?

I wrote this blog about three weeks ago-

When Mike and I became involved I made it a point to immerse myself in researching treatment options, and became heavily involved in the world of cancer. Whether it was talking to the lady next to me at Mikes chemo appointment, or perusing one of the many online support groups I joined, I came into contact with many people who had cancer, or were cancer caregivers.

I’ve been fortunate that i have had many people reach out to me through this blog, or by email, or facebook. Sometimes they just want to know what they can expect, or they have questions about treatment, and sometimes they just need to talk to someone who understands.

The last year Mike was alive, i was very active in a cholangiocarcinoma support group. A beautiful, vivacious woman in the group reached out to me to ask me some questions about immunotherapy. She had bile duct cancer, and had tried the few treatment options available including gem/cisplatin. There really aren’t many treatment options available if you aren’t a candidate for surgery, and very few people are candidates. Very little money is raised for cholangiocarcinoma research, it isn’t one of the sexy cancers that get a lot of support, and treatment options are limited. Combining the difficulty of treating this cancer because of where it is located, and lack of available treatment options together makes this a particularly deadly cancer.

This particular woman had read my whole blog, beginning to end. It is interesting when you put it all out there in a blog, people think they know you, and quickly skip all the superficial getting to know you stuff that we do when meeting a new friend.

She and I started conversing daily through facebook, and i knew from the things she would tell me that her treatment wasn’t going well. She ultimately tried immunotherapy which didn’t work for her, and some other treatments which didn’t do much except make her miserable and in pain.

There came a point when Mike went into the hospital that last time, and she cried with me through facebook. I tried to shield her from the reality of the situation, but she knew. It was very hard to try to keep a positive outlook, and be good support to each other when we were both facing such dire circumstances.

We tried.

She worried about her daughter, and her precious husband that she loved so much, and her sister who had been by her side throughout the battle. She told me stories of her family, and we talked a lot about the things that a stage 4 cancer patient, and someone who loves a cancer patient talk about.

Relationships tend to get very close, and very intense quickly when you are dealing with a terminal diagnosis.

She was traveling back and forth to Houston, and MD Anderson where Dr. Javle is the man in the cholangiocarcinoma world. Our contact became more sporadic as she got weaker and the cancer progressed, but i was still able to keep in touch.

Until the day came that she didn’t respond to my messages. With a heavy heart, I logged into facebook, and saw that she was gone.

This was just a few short months before we lost Mike. I didn’t want to burden him with this news. He had enough to deal with, and i kept her death to myself. I was crying all the time then anyhow, in the shower, in my car, and for some reason almost every time i went to the grocery store.

I cried for her. I cried for her husband who had lost his life partner, her daughter who had lost her mother, her sister who had lost her closest friend, and the many, many people who’s life she impacted.

I cried for me.

I remember seeing the outpouring of love, and condolences on facebook for her, and i knew that it was a foreshadowing of what i would soon experience, although i didn’t know when.

Patty and I had a very short, intense relationship based on a shared cancer diagnosis. She impacted my life in so many ways. The example she set in this world of how to live every day. We never met in person, never even talked on the phone. Yet i will never forget her.

This is her legacy to me. Her example of how to live your life, if you will. She dealt with the cruelty of a brutal cancer and its treatment with grace, an offer of friendship, and continued making meaningful connections right up until the very end.

What would have been her birthday is only a few days away, and i woke up in the middle of the night thinking of her. In fact, i am writing this post at 3am.

Happy Birthday Patty.