Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Kelly Shannon

I don't have the words to describe how I felt last night and how I'm still feeling this morning.  About a year in, I learned what it felt like to lose someone that was so close to this damn disease.  Shermaine Lee, I'll never forget you girl.

Since then, it's kept going.  Every time it gets harder because we get closer.  We get each other.  Nicole was spitfire.  She got me.  I miss her ever day.

Last night, at 9:47 pm, my soul sister Kelly gained her wings.  That girl was a fighter, till the very end.  She wasn't going to let cancer stop her from saying goodbyes to her loved ones.

I met Kelly a few years ago while doing a project for lung cancer awareness month.  We were given a list and asked to choose 2 people to write about.  I chose Kelly.  I'm so glad I picked her.  Our friendship flourished from there.  If you go back in my blog and do a search, you'll find the one I wrote about her.

Kelly was so understanding and always there for me, night or day.  When you have cancer, it's like your world stops...but in reality it doesn't.  You see friends and family having fun and moving on without you.  And the longer you have it, they begin to forget that you are living beyond the statistics, but that could change in an instant.  Kelly never made me feel left out, and when I was down, she could always pick me back up.

I really can't begin to describe the optimistic way she handled this illness.  She was always full of beauty and grace.  She we would be barely able to breathe...but worried about me.

I was supposed to go see her a while ago.  I drove to Atlanta for my flight, but unfortunately got strep throat.  I didn't want to expose her so I made the long trip back to St. Simons.  That is the day she would go to the hospital for the last time.  That is the day I was supposed to be leaving New York and giving her hugs goodbye.  Her oxygen levels dropped and they could barely get them back up.  She was soon admitted.

For the past year she's been in and out of the hospital.  Always bouncing back.  Not letting cancer win.  And it didn't, it died when she left us.  It's dead and it can no longer cause her pain and heartbreak.

There's so many stories I have, it's too much to write.  I'll forever keep them in my memory and try hard as hell to remember her voice.  She said she always wanted a sister.  Then she asked, "can we be soul sisters?  I always wanted one".  Of course!  That's when she started calling me sissy.  Such a term of endearment, my heart is shattered into a billion pieces.  Not only does her leaving hurt so much, but it makes one wonder who is next.

The cancer community understands, both patients and caregivers.  I guess that's why over half of my friends on fb have cancer.  This life is short and unpredictable.  Tell the people you love that you love them every day.  You never know when it could be the last chance you get.  I've included the last thing she read from me and the last things we said to each other.  Also, "Hey Soul Sister" by Train ironically came on when I spoke to her friend Tiffany, who told me at that moment they were asking for family only to be in the room.  I feel like it was some sort of sign from her.

Kelly, I know where you are.  Yes, we will find each other in heaven.  You will always be a huge chunk of my heart (what an understatement).  I really don't know what I'm going to do without you.  You came into my life with your rainbows and butterflies and unicorns and lifted me up.  You always lifted me up.  This is the worst post I've ever written because it doesn't begin to do you justice.  You were, and still are, our unicorn.  I can't wait to see you again, free from the doctors, hospitals, machines, and the havoc this disease caused in general.  I love you to the moon and back and no one will ever replace you in my heart.  It's not goodbye.  I'll see you later, and I'll bring snapchat.  We can make silly videos.  Save me a seat sissy.  I'm going to miss you so much until then.

Thank you all for your prayers.  I usually "like" each individual one.  I'm just not up to social media.  Please pray for her father Tom, I can't imagine the pain of losing his only girl so young.  A parent should never have to bury his child.  Also, please pray for her two young boys and the rest of her friends and family to have peace and strength during this difficult time.  Thank you Tiffany for constantly keeping me up to date because I know Tom couldn't.   And thank you Chris for the pep talk.  This is a huge blow to our entire lung cancer community.

Sorry if I made any grammar or spelling mistakes.  I'm sure my little sister will message me after she reads this, she's like my editor that I don't have to pay.  Love you Kelly, to the moon and back...

You rocked it so much better than me

Rest in paradise sweet friends

My most favorite picture of you.  So cute!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Today - A letter to Roy

I listened to this song again today.  It reminded me of that day.

"I'm open, you're closed
Where I follow, you'll go
I worry I won't see your face
Light up again

Even the best fall down sometimes" - Howie Day

Although I know, I will see your face light up again, but I'm not sure when.  Two years and one hour ago today was the last time I saw that smile.  It wasn't the best one, because I know you were in pain and we were all angry they didn't admit you.  If I could go back in time Roy, I would.  We all would.  Had we known that you were going to leave us that day, we would go back in a heartbeat. 

You were so stubborn.  And you made us laugh constantly.  The things that came out of your mouth...just had me laughing forever.  Those are the things I chose to remember about you 99% of the time.  The other 1% is the thought that we should have done more, we just didn't know.

I would have definitely bought you something better than Wendy's. 

Today will forever be a day of mourning for me.  It was the last time I saw your smile, held you and told you it would be okay, helped the paramedics because one couldn't stand the smell of vomit.  How can you be a paramedic and not handle that?   Today is the last day I was able to help you in any way.  By the time the evening arrived, it was too late.

I kept telling you it was going to be okay.  Amp was so worried you would be mad if we called 911.  I never really cared when you got mad at me...which was a few times.  I just wanted you here.  You were my cancer buddy, my friend that understood, my neighbor, my co-worker.  You have no idea how much you meant.

I know you were in so much pain that day.  You were so strong, always.  But I know you hated the cancer life.  You hated depending on anyone for help.  You wanted to help everyone else.  Always.

I'm so thankful the last words we ever said to each other were that we loved each other.  When you have cancer, you never know.  Today, my heart is aching.  I was so wrong.  I was selfish to want you here.  You didn't want to have cancer forever.

I think about you laying across the street, with no one there to help you.  You made it to the bathroom.  I'm so glad Amp stopped by.  Although it didn't save you, you know you weren't alone.  You opened those eyes.  You knew we were there.  I still believe you're watching over all of your family and friends.  You are unforgettable.  One of a kind.  Never to be replaced.

They took you off life support the next day.  We all knew, there was no coming back.  I never thought you would go before me.  I was wrong again.  I miss you so much.  I am forever making this day my mourning day for you whether you like it or not because you can't argue with me and I can be selfish on this day.  I want to just remember you.  The good and bad times.  The time you made me so mad when I was in NC I threw my phone at the wall (thank God it didn't break).  We didn't speak for weeks!  It was so stupid, so stupid.  Today should've never happened and I will always and forever blame that hospital.

Roy, I'm sorry I didn't check on you more.  I'm sorry for not being the friend I should have been.

This is a hard week for Roy's family and friends.  Please pray for them peace and strength.  Anniversaries are always hard.  God bless you all and Roy, I love you my friend.  I'll see you on the other side.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Blank White

My entire life, I've occasionally had the same dream, whether sleeping or daydreaming about my future.  It's white. It's blank, warm and bright white.  It doesn't make me happy or sad, it just is.  I guess that's why I didn't know what to major in while in college.  I just chose a degree that would be the easiest with my classes and went with it.  I had a passion for law and I loved math.  But the white, it always gave me an uneasy feeling.  I never really imagined having a family, or a successful job, or anything.  Just white.

So, when I found out I was pregnant with Karley, I had been accepted into the graduate program at Georgia State.  I never thought I could do both.  I chose Karley.  Not because I wanted the white to go away, it didn't bother me.  Maybe it's normal.  I chose Karley because I loved her before I knew her.  I still see the white when I think about my future.  I never saw Karley coming, so it could mean nothing.  But, I still see the white.

Almost two months before I was diagnosed with lung cancer via a brain tumor, I was taking a break with a co-worker.  I had been so tired and consistently late.  I was in charge, so it didn't matter I guess.  But, as we were talking, back in 2012 when that Mayan calendar ran out and people were rumoring the world would end in December of 2012, I almost believed it.  I sat talking to him, late September or early October, and as we were talking, I said, "I really believe I'm dying or the world is coming to an end in December.  It's one or the other, but either way, I don't see my future and I can feel it".  Of course he laughed it off, we both did.  Then, things just got worse.

I turned 33 on October 31st that year.  John and I always took turns watching Karley for our birthdays so we could go out with friends.  This year was different.  My company, and plenty of bars, were having Halloween parties and it was FL/GA weekend.  So much fun to be had.  But, I didn't want to do anything.  I went home and slept after we took her trick-or-treating.  I was exhausted.

Less than a month later, the pain from the brain tumor became unbearable and after the many misdiagnosis here, I visited my family in Atlanta for Thanksgiving.  That was the week they found the brain tumor, I learned I had stage 4 lung cancer, and I learned that all along, I had been dying a lot more quickly than the average person.  We all die, but somehow, I feel like I've known.

Science is great and God is great and both have kept me around for so long.  Lately I've been experiencing a lot of pain in my legs, so have tried everything from extra water, tonic water, bananas, to potassium and magnesium supplements.  This is my 6th year living with stage 4 lung cancer.  And yes, we are all dying, we just don't know when that will happen.  I could outlive you reading this.  But realistically, there is not cure.   And to know that, it's a bummer...  But I don't think the leg cramps are gonna take me out.

I'm going to visit my regular doctor tomorrow, who will then tell me to go so my oncologist or order a bone scan.  It's the never ending money pit of cancer.  I think it's just one of the many side effects of the targeted therapy I'm on that will come and go. I feel like I do know my body well enough now.

So, maybe all the white is just my lack of motivation, or could it be more?  I guess only time will tell.  I just wonder if any of you out there experience the same thing when thinking of your future or try to imagine it?  It's always been this way for me.  The bible has told of many premonitions throughout history, so I don't not believe it....  I would love the feedback.  And live in the moment, things can always get worse.  Like Josh nearly chopping his finger off...

Thank you all for your continuous prayers and please continue to pray for Kelly and Ray.  Love you all and God Bless.

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Neverending Catch 22

Well, Happy July everyone!  I am officially 5.5 years into this Lung Cancer club.  Don't get me wrong.  The people are amazing.  But this club SUCKS. I was sick practically the entire month of June.  I was falling asleep constantly, not remembering anything, and really making no sense when people tell me what I messaged.  One night I woke up singing a song from "The Little Mermaid".   Ummmm....I don't know.  Really.  Anyway....

So, you get diagnosed and begin to grasp at every long term lung cancer story you can find.   Because you want to survive.  It's natural.  Finally you find those people.  Some are very long term, some are just starting out like you.  With these people, you feel like you are understood.  Finally, someone who knows I look healthy and normal and I'm not just being lazy, but am exhausted from the meds or whatever else is going on at the time.  They get that I chill at home a lot.  They get I'm not supermom or working my butt off somewhere to feed my child.  They get that my goal is to survive to raise my child.  They get it.  Caregivers get it too.  Except sometimes I think it's worse for them as well as close family and friends, because they are the ones left behind when the other shoe drops, which breaks my heart.

But lung cancer patients have that fear too.  They get left behind too.  We develop these close friendships with each other.  Depend on each other for support and understanding, and then, one day, one of us is gone.

I can't begin to tell you how many friends I've lost to this disease or the emotional damage it really has done.  I am at the point where I'm afraid to lose any friends.  Not just to death, but in life.  It's really a mental issue with me now I think.  I'm afraid my friends will forget me because I can't go do all that they can and my lung cancer friends will die.  I can't not be friends with cancer people.  That's not fair to them or me.  They, as well as I, want to be happy and need the support.  At the same time, it is literally gut wrenching to lose a close one.  It's another scar on my heart.

So, what do I do?  I will be alone if I stray from the lung cancer community.  But if I stay, I'll continue to get hurt with the losses.  I'm going to stay.  Because I really believe that each of these people deserve the same love and compassion as anyone else, despite the scars I may acquire.  I love the following quotes:

"Maybe life isn't about avoiding the bruises, maybe it's about collecting the scars to prove we showed up for it' - unknown

Another is by one of the longest lung cancer survivors I know of, I have several of his books.  Greg Anderson - "Cancer opens many doors.  One of the most important is your heart".

So, though I lose people, I'm strong.  It's devastating and each time it takes me a little longer to recover.  But I have faith I will see them again. I have to hold on to that to make it through this.

Thanks for listening, and thank you for your continuous prayers.  Please continue to pray for my friend Kelly, a lc patient, and my soul sister, that is having a hard time right now and my best friend Amanda and her family along with another lc patient friend, Ray.  Wth, pray for us all!  I remember choosing Kelly a few years back to write a blog about during lung cancer awareness month.  I guess that's where our friendship began. I'll try to get a happier post up if I can get my teenage daughter out of the house!  She hates the beach now.  We live on an island....smh.

God bless you all