I find myself sitting here and typing a few words....then holding down the "delete" key. I make another attempt to start a new sentence, and once again, erase it. Struggling to find the right words is simply a reflection of the struggle I am experiencing in my mind and heart lately.
It has been an extremely difficult week for me. I was absolutely stunned last Saturday when I learned that my friend, Genevieve unexpectedly passed away. I met Gen at the Conference for Young Women with Breast Cancer last year in New Orleans, during a time when I was feeling so desperate to meet any other young women that had Stage IV disease. Meeting Gen and her mom at the conference was a complete Godsend for me. Mike and I spent much of the weekend with them and it felt like I finally found someone that knew exactly how I felt. We were not only traveling this Stage IV metastatic disease road together, but we felt the same about being as positive and optimistic as we could be, eating as healthy as we could and trying to continue to enjoy our lives to the fullest. After meeting Gen at the conference, I wrote about her on the blog which you can read here.
Gen had been having a rough few months since she experienced a recurrence of her disease and she was traveling back and forth to various doctors seeking the best care possible. Although I knew she was having a hard time, she was still so full of life and joy. We talked on the phone and over facebook messages and she sounded upbeat and ready to do anything she had to in order to be in remission. She was also busy being an amazing wife and a mother to her two young daughters and even took some time to do the things that she always dreamed of doing, like hiking the Grand Canyon with her husband, and going on an amazing kayaking trip for cancer survivors.
Saturday afternoon I was absolutely shook to my core when I received an email notifying me that Gen died suddenly and unexpectedly after her organs started to shut down and she ended up with a pulmonary embolism after receiving a blood transfusion in the ER. It was so fast - so sudden - so unexpected. It still doesn't feel real. I completely lost it and wept so hard not only for the loss of my sweet friend and for the heartache her family was going through, but I also wept for myself - for Mike and my family. Each time I lose a friend, it feels as though I am looking into a crystal ball at what is going to happen to me at some point along this journey. It is devastating, terrifying, and makes me want to scream one second and sob the next.
As I tried to put wrap my brain around this news, I just wanted to talk to my friend Lorri. She is my closest friend with Stage IV breast cancer and I introduced to her Genevieve so that we could all support each other. (I know I have wrote about Lorri before and how we instantly bonded after our first 3 hour phone conversation. I just can't find the post right now while I struggle to even get these words out). Lorri and Gen both have young children and I know they had a special bond because of that. I wanted to call Lorri but all I could do was write her an email because she too has been going through a very tough time with her latest recurrence. She decided to seek alternative care in Mexico since she was no longer responding to the chemo from her medical team in the states. Thankfully, once Lorri saw my email, she called me back from Mexico last Saturday so we could both grieve the loss of Gen together.
Although we were still in shock after hearing of Gen's passing, of course I wanted to see how Lorri was doing. She had been in communication via text and facebook with me, Gen and four other amazing young women with Stage IV disease that we have now formed a wonderful little support group with -but it was wonderful to hear her voice. She was filled with hope and optimism and beyond thankful that she had made the decision to seek care there. She was dealing with growth of liver metastases and was pretty uncomfortable with her distended abdomen but her medical team was doing all they could to help address that. After catching up for awhile, I told her I loved her and was thinking of her and couldn't wait until she started to feel better.
Well, things couldn't feel more different now - just a week later. Over the last week, my beautiful and brave friend has experienced a rapid decline in her health. Each day our group of friends sends countless texts back and forth to get an update and support each other and each day seems to be worse than the one before. Lorri has been on my heart and in my mind every minute of the day over the last week. I desperately want to see a positive update on my phone, but then I am terrified to even look at all the messages I have while I am treating a patient at work, for fear of what I might read. I try to put on a happy face and be my "normal" self when all I can think of is if my friend is going to make it through this.
Yesterday, Lorri texted us to say that they were leaving Mexico and headed to a treatment center in San Diego, as her condition was now an emergency that required additional care. She is in liver failure, not eating, having difficulty breathing. Our hearts sank.
I woke up this morning at 3:40am with a terrible feeling in my stomach. I checked my phone but didn't have any updates. As I laid my head back on the pillow, my phone vibrated that I had an email. Sure enough, it was an update from Lorri's husband. It wasn't good. She has suffered a heart attack, her platelets are too to do anything about the heart attack, she is at a severe risk of bleeding, she is having trouble breathing, her liver is failing. Her family and children are flying in. They are devastated.
I feel sick - numb - angry - terrified. How is this happening? How am I going to lose my two closest friends in such a short time? And it feels so damn fast. Lorri was just sky diving a few months ago, while Gen was hiking the Grand Canyon. I just don't understand this. I am heartbroken for their families and friends. I am saddened for our group of friends that is reeling from this news, while one of them is recovering from brain surgery due to mets, another is trying like crazy to save her life through a clinical trial, and another is also caring for her husband with Stage IV lung cancer while she is living with her own Stage IV disease. It's all just too much.
How do I try to stay positive, optimistic and hopeful about my disease, while my friends are dying from the exact same thing? I know all of our situations are different, but it is terrifying nonetheless. How do I read a message from Gen's husband about how much he already misses he best friend and beautiful bride, and not think of Mike writing a similar message at some point down the road. How do I live with such gratitude that I am doing so well, while at the same time feeling such survivor's guilt while my friends struggle to hang on and while I am terrified that the good news won't last long enough for me.
How do you live like this? With these thoughts running through your mind and weighing on your heart constantly. I do my best to take it minute by minute but right now I am just so sad - and angry. I have never gone through that angry stage before but I'm getting there now. I am angry that people act like we are making such strides against this disease, while I watch my friends die. I am angry that their sweet babies won't be able to grow up with their incredible and selfless mommas. I am angry that they had so much more living to do. I am angry that despite doing everything humanly possible and seeking the best medical treatment available, this disease is still robbing the world of these wonderful women.
I am asking for your prayers for my dear friend, Lorri. Please pray that she is not suffering - that she is able to rest her weary body and have some moments of peace with her husband and children. Please pray for Gen's family too as they try to move forward and deal with a life without her Earthly presence.
And please pray for Mike and I as we struggle to get through this. I know I have said before that this is a rollercoaster, and I know there will be highs and lows. This is one of the deepest lows I have experienced yet, and I am struggling to get through it. I am so terrified at how fast this happened to my friends and it's impossible to not let my mind go there about my own situation. Please pray for our hearts to be comforted, our minds to be eased, and that we will continue to do our best to live in the moment.
Lastly, please don't tell me that I "will be fine" or that I need to "stay positive" and that "none of us know when it will be our time." If you know me at all, you know I am positive and optimistic. But if you know this disease at all, you know that it is very real, very deadly, and very unpredictable. I am not "fine", nor will I ever be "fine". Every day presents some sort of emotional or physical struggle that I do my best to get through. I live in the face of death each day, although I may look very alive and seem like I am doing just fine. I am beyond thankful for doing well right now and that is why I harbor so much guilt even sharing these thoughts, but I need to be able to release them somewhere. I am grateful that I am living life to the fullest, that I can go to work, that I can spend time with family and friends, that I can renovate our new home with Mike - but that doesn't mean that these thoughts and fears aren't on my mind every single day - especially during such difficult times when my friends are suffering so much.
Thank you for supporting me not only during the good time, but especially during the hard times when I need it the most.
ps - I cannot thank my Beauts enough for being the best friends that I could ever hope for. We had our annual girls weekend away this past weekend and it was exactly what I needed. Although I found myself constantly checking my phone to see if there were any updates from Lorri, I was able to spend true quality time with the friends that have been there for me since I was in the 7th grade - laughing so hard it hurt and loving each other the way only true friends do. You all mean the world to me.
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