One of my dearest and oldest friends is dying. I don’t even know what to say or think. All I really know is that cancer is vicious.
My wonderful friend is 63 years old. At one time, I’d have thought that was really old. Now, not so much. She is a single mother. She raised an amazing son. She is a partner in her own business. She has many friends spanning many years. She is beautiful, smart, witty, loyal, compassionate.
Her journey to death began with a diagnosis of stage IV anal cancer in April 2015. While she was told that it was incurable, she began the horrible process of chemotherapy. Despite all the mouth sores, nausea, vomiting, hair loss, exhaustion and so many other challenges, she managed to hold the cancer at bay. But too soon, she began to lose the battle.
She became too weak, physically, to continue with chemo. She wasn’t able to eat and kept losing weight. She kept trying. Trying different foods. Trying different medicines. Trying to force herself to get better.
Finally, the doctor told her that she wasn’t going to be able to take chemo anymore. It was time to face the final part of her journey. She went into hospice care. That was about six weeks ago. For a while she maintained something of a “normal” life. She continued to work. She talked with friends on the phone. She had a few visitors, although she wasn’t comfortable with having most people see her at this stage. She carried on with her usual determination and spirit.
Now, just in the last week, she is tiring. She no longer wants “visitors”; she’s only comfortable with the people who have walked this journey with her each day. She tries to keep her pain under control. This means a lot more sleeping. She doesn’t bother to eat. She is afraid.
My wonderful, spirited, strong-willed friend is afraid. She’s afraid of the things this cancer is doing to her. She’s afraid of leaving her family and friends. She’s afraid of what death will be like. She’s afraid.
For now, all I can do is hold her hand. Give her her medicine. Try to make her comfortable. Listen when she wants to talk. Try to be supportive to her son and brother. All I can do is be there. I wish, oh, how I wish, I could do more.