Saturday, May 30, 2009

Life this month

The month started with Cameron losing his job as an engineer at Honeywell Turbo Charging Systems in Torrance. Not a great start... But he has a wonderful severance package that takes us through most of September. I'll think it's great until it runs out, but we hope to have him gainfully employed long before then.

Next up? A quick trip to San Francisco to have dim sum with our dear friend Victor and his partner, in from Switzerland. Everyone should be able to hop on a plane at a moment's notice to see an old friend. That's why I work in the biz, afterall.

Next? A great visit from Nathalie, Laurie and Amelia Blavin-Kakone during which baby birds hatched in a nest outside our kitchen window.

Mother's Day brought most of the clan together and we made a point of seeing Vern, grieving for Ruth as we all are.

A last minute trip out to the desert to meet up with Robbie over Memorial Day turned into a delightful and memorable weekend as we met up with some the most interesting and entertaining people at her sister's home in Palm Springs. Artists, poets, scholars, sales folks and us. Followed by a fabulous meal with Jo, Horst and Marilyn the next morning in Indio.

Vern has made up his mind to move into assisted living pretty quickly. That's a blessing for him to realize he can't keep up Ruth's house alone and he's choosing his own place without any cajoling from us or Karen.

Underlying all this month, though, since May 16th, is the decline of my dear friend Nancy. Nancy and I went to Westminster High together until I moved out to Villa Park half way through 9th grade. That summer her family moved to Villa Park, too, and we became dearest friends. Somewhere in college we lost touch, and didn't reconnect until just after our 20th VPHS reunion when Laura was kind enough to search Nancy out for me. We've not lost touch since.

Nancy first had cancer markers show up in November 2006. She was diagnosed with lung cancer in January 2007. She never smoked, ever. I was with her the day she went to get her head shaved in April 2007. She responded well to the chemo for awhile and then the cancer moved to her brain. More chemo and radiation seemed to keep the cancer at bay for a year. We celebrated her 50th birthday in August 2007, we met regularly for lunch or breakfast.

Nancy found an acupunturist who promised he could cure her. Nancy believed, with all her heart, that God and the acupuncturist (and some help from the doctors) would absolutely cure her. She had no fear. She knew God was with her.

In July 2008 the cancer was found in her bones and she began to slow down a bit. She also struggled with pneumonia. On April 1 this year - just last month - she sent a note out to a group of friends on email and let us know that the latest scan had shown the cancer in her liver. She was determined that the acupuncture would work, that she wouldn't need the chemo the doctor wanted her to start on April 14. She ended the note stating "It will all be okay. I will get through this."

She told me in a phone conversation just under two weeks later than she was going to do the chemo, as the acupuncturist told her she should. It broke my heart when she said "That's when I realized I'm very sick." I could no longer deny that she was very sick, either.

This round of chemo was very rough on Nancy. She had to have her lungs drained, she was incredibly weak and even had to have an ambulance come and take her from the chemo room across the street to the hospital. Her telling of that story to us (Friend of Nancy - FON) in an email on April 15th was full of hope, and great humor. I will post it here one day.

I last spoke with Nancy on the phone the May 5th or 6th. I called her at work and her out of office message hadn't been changed in a few day. I worried. I called her at home and she answered. She'd just finished another difficult round of chemo, having her lungs drained yet again, and was with her mom, getting comfortable and planning on a nap. I said I would call her later in the week.

I didn't.

Her husband Doug called me on May 16th to tell me that he was bringing her home from the hospital for hospice care. WTF?! Hospital? She was in the hospital??!! Hospice care? She was just working full time. I was calling to set up our next breakfast. No, no, no...hospice care is for people who are dying. Nancy assured me she isn't dying..... She assured me God would cure her. She promised me!

I have been to see Nancy four times since then. Each time there is less and less of her in that shell that lies in the bed. My first visit, May 18th, she was lucid and talking, some garbled speech, but she knew me and called out to me as I walked in the room. That was the last she was able to speak with me. I did get the smallest movement of a raised eyebrow yesterday, but she can no longer see or speak. She weighs nothing, she looks more like a 100 year old bald man than the vibrant 51 year old she should be. She isn't Nancy.

The FON email circle was born from the last email Nancy sent her friends on April 15th. One of the women sent a note to all of us and now we all keep each other updated with the tiniest sliver of news. Doug sends text updates to a few throught the day and one updates the rest of us. Anyone who goes to visit reports back. We've shared stories, both somber and funny - mostly funny, and we are lifting her up together.

It's amazing that she has been home for two weeks without any sustenance and yet still she is with us. We dread hearing she is gone, we pray for her quick release.

Life this month has been about living. And life this month has been about living beyond this lifetime. I miss my friend Nancy.

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