Wednesday, August 3, 2011
goodbye my friend
today is a really tough day. my friend jim, who put up a hell of a fight against melanoma, passed away yesterday.
jim and i met through my friend kristina. kris knew jim and his wife from their son's baseball teams, and so she had put us in touch not long after my diagnosis last year. jim was also doing interferon treatments at that time, and so we found that we had an instant bond and many things in common....how the smell of the alcohol wipes used for doing our shots made our stomachs turn every time, we felt like we could smell the biohazard containers we had to put our needles in from a mile away, we hated doing our shots, food tasted weird, something sounding good for dinner but by the time dinner time came around we didn't want to eat a bite, work (i went back, he didn't), problems with insurance, fighting the cancer with everything we had, etc. i remember jim telling me once that he knew he was feeling really tough when even ice cream didn't sound good which was his favorite food. i told him i knew that feeling because when hot tamales, my favorite candy, don't sound good to me i am feeling pretty tough. jim was my real time kindred spirit and he made me feel less alone in dealing with the treatment and all that comes along with it.
jim's melanoma continued to spread and he spent much of the time in the last couple of months in and out of the hospital for blood transfusions and treatments. on june 12th, i did a walk with family and friends to raise funds for immunotherapy (interferon is a type of immunotherapy drug) research for fred hutchinson. i told jim that i was dedicating my walk to him, and wore a patch that day with jim's name on it - the picture above was taken right before the walk started (for those of you that haven't seen a recent pic, i lost most of my hair due to treatment so my long blonde curls are long gone). i sent the pic to jim on facebook on the day of the walk, he was in the hospital on that day, and his feedback that he liked the picture would be the last one on one communication we would ever have. i continued to receive updates on jim's status daily from a friend of his that created a facebook group for friends and family to get updates. i take comfort in knowing that jim was surrounded by friends and family yesterday because i know that he loved them, and was loved by them, fiercely.
jim's passing brings many emotions. overwhelming sadness. anger. anxiety. fear. though our stories after diagnosis weren't the same up until now, it doesn't mean my story won't change and that scares the hell out of me. it angers me because it shouldn't have had to be jim's story either. i hate seeing his life taken from him, and seeing him taken from his friends and his family - including his wife and their three children. it is all so cruel and unfair.
jim was featured recently in his local news for a trip that he got to take by ambulance to see his son play baseball. the video is at http://www.kgw.com/home/Sick-Washougal-man-gets-memorable-opportunity-125613003.html and the news article is at http://www.columbian.com/news/2011/jul/14/inspirational-coach-stays-in-game/.
when barrett and i attended a cancer survivor clinic last month, one of people presenting at a session talked about how the deaths of friends with the same type of cancer can be one of the hardest parts of being a survivor. he was right. death of a friend or loved one is never easy, losing a friend to the same cancer that you have makes the grief even tougher.
i had to go in this morning for bloodwork and my monthly oncologist appointment. we will do my next round of scans in the beginning of september after my treatment is complete. if those scans show no change in my neck/collarbone area, no increase in the spot on my lung, and nothing new shows up, i will move into a 6 month scan/appointment rotation with my oncologist unless i notice something is wrong (i.e., feel a growth, etc) or my dermatology appointments indicate there is a problem. 6 months is a hell of a long time and that absolutely terrifies me. tumors can grow and spread in 6 months. a lot can change inside my body within 6 months. i will have to find a way to live with that fear, because i also don't want to live in constant anxiety. somehow i will find my way because i have to. what i do know is that life will never go back to "normal" when treatment ends - physically or emotionally. i stopped having a "normal" on july 16th last year. i will take on finding a new normal, not sure how that is going to look for me yet, but with time i will figure it out.
if you send out good thoughts, or prayers, or you take a moment of silence - however you send your energy out into the world, please do so today for jim and his family.
jim...rest in peace my friend, i will - and already do - miss you dearly but will forever be thankful you came in to my life and that i was one of the lucky ones that got to call you friend. i will continue my fight against melanoma with everything i have in your honor.