This was Ellie's second cancer. She survived breast cancer years before me. But she had been sick for the last year with a new cancer. The last time I saw her was just before Christmas. We were playing a concert together. She had been receiving in-patient chemotherapy; she had just finished her final treatment 2 days before. I loved that no matter how tired she was, she was determined to play the concert. Just 2 days out of the hospital and she would not be stopped. As she put it, "What else am I going to do?"
My heart goes out to Alan, her husband, and their whole family - especially their grandchildren to whom she was so wildly devoted!
When I was just starting chemo, Ellie and I were playing some job together (those 3 tenors, or the 3 Irish tenors, or the 3 Mo-town tenors...). We had dinner together. It was the first time I had seen her since my diagnosis. My hair had just begun to fall out. I remember how upset and angry she was when she heard - that was when she told me she, too, was a breast cancer survivor. At the time, it seemed odd to me that she got so upset, that she seemed to take it so very personally.
By now, I understand that. I, too, take it personally. Her death has hit me hard. All the deaths hit me hard. Is it just that I'm now in my mid-40s, so more people I know will be getting sick and dying? Or is it that because I'm part of the cancer community I simply know more people who die? Or just because of my history that I pay more attention?
Maybe this is why I get annoyed sometimes at the feel-good, hard-charging cancer warriors who act as if cancer is just a bump in the road - something you have & you get over & get on with your life! Please know that I truly do appreciate what all those organizations have done and continue to do! I certainly owe a great debt of gratitude to them for making it possible to be an energized, empowered cancer survivor.
But cancer is not always something we just get over. It is not just the flu. Some of us are hugely lucky to become long-term survivors in good health. But even we give up a lot in the process. And we know far too many who are not as lucky as we are. Far too often, cancer is a still a disease that ends lives.
All of this comes at the same time that I have been doing the final editing for the new Life-Cise website (coming soon, I promise)...more information, more services, more stuff. So all of this pensiveness (I choose to think of it as pensiveness rather than plain old negativity) is coloring all of my thoughts about what I'm trying to do.
The thing is, in spite of a completely realistic view of cancer (yes, it does sometimes kill people), I do believe in doing everything possible to live a good life for as long as we can. No one knows how long they'll be around - not us, not the "healthy" folks who have never had cancer, not the old, not the young. None of us knows. But we - those of us who have faced cancer - understand that maybe just a bit better than most. We don't really know what the future holds for us. I don't, even though I'm almost a 10-year survivor now.
So I think it's that much more important to live as well as we can.
- BY Julie Goodale | 02.18.2011
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