My husband lost his college roommate to leukemia this past week. They had not spent a lot of time together since those college days. Life goes on. You begin your career, then you get married and start a family. Before you know it, decades have gone by, but the friendship remains.
Six years ago, Stephanie was diagnosed with leukemia. She fought her disease like a champ. She had three bone marrow transplants, chemotherapy, radiation and tried a host of other therapies when nothing else seemed to rid her body of this disease. She was in and out of hospitals unable to go out in public again because of her weakened (non-existent) immune system. She even spent many, many months in Seattle--separated from her home and children--undergoing cancer treatment.
Stephanie has two beautiful children and her illness prevented her from participating her their school activities. She missed many of her son's waterpolo games and her daughter's dance recitals. Most of their memories from the past 6 years were visiting their mom in the hospital. I can't imagine how she must have felt knowing that her cancer would take her from her children much too soon.
Stephanie used the time she had left to prepare her children for life without her. She had a posse of angels that cared for her throughout her illness. They brought her to and from her doctors' appointments. They cooked for her. They prayed together, laughed together and gave her much needed emotional support. Her faith gave her strength, hope and peace.
Shortly before she died, Stephanie contacted my husband and asked for Kentucky Fried Chicken. We picked up both original recipe and extra crispy and headed over to see her. Although she still had an appetite, it was difficult for her to eat. She was getting around in a wheelchair and wearing a sling (her bones were so brittle from the radiation that her arm had broken in three places), but she was in good spirits. Sporting a ball cap, she asked us if we wanted to see her "mohawk." As she removed the cap, she explained how the recent radiation to her lower jaw knocked out a large section of her hair giving her a half a mohawk. The cancer had taken just about everything from her except her sense of humor!
As we left that day, my husband described her as a wilted rose. Her body was battered and beaten by the cancer. She fought a long and courageous battle, but it took its toll on her. I couldn't help but notice that after all she had been through, she had absolutely no anger or bitterness. She was such a good person and pure of heart. She had accepted her fate so gracefully. All that was left was a calm peace about her. Amazing. It brought to mind a line from the movie "Out of Africa." When Meryl Streep's character is preparing to leave Kenya, she goes to the governor to beg for his help and the governor's wife says to her "I'm sorry I won't know you." I feel that way about Stephanie. We lost a beautiful person the day Stephanie died, but heaven gained an angel. Aloha Stephanie...