October 31, 2011

Last day of Pinktober

I read on Facebook about a woman who uses the last day of October to remember those she's lost to breast cancer. I thought this was a beautiful custom to share.

I remember....

My grandmother, Mary Neuer Cohen, who also had metastatic breast cancer and lymphedema. In the late '60s and early '70s, no one knew how to control lymphedema. She suffered with an arm the size of her leg. My first cousin became an oncologist because of Mema's cancer.

(My other grandmother, Esther Aaronson Poppel, lived for a long time with breast cancer and as far as I know it was not responsible for her death at a ripe age.)

Emily, my dear young friend. We met on an airplane going to a conference on the other coast and talked for the entire time there and back again. We could talk for hours, despite the differences in our ages and backgrounds. She only wanted to live to turn thirty and died soon after her 30th birthday, leaving a husband and two young children.

Dena, who underwent a simple surgical procedure and entered a coma from which she never woke. Dena used to say that with neuropathy, she could wear the fancy shoes. Her feet were so numb from neuropathy that she couldn't feel how uncomfortable the shoes were! Her husband didn't know her wishes regarding hospice care because they hadn't figured out how to talk about it. She left a young child.

The "other" Jill, who I met by accident when I heard her say her name. I was near her house a few months ago and recognized it, almost by accident, as the seeting of our many talks. She left a husband and young child.

Wynne, who I met at a young survivors retreat in Las Vegas. She looked me up on a trip to Seattle and from that point on we became friends. Wynne and her husband had just adopted an infant daughter when her cancer took a turn for the worse. She died before her daughter's first birthday.

And although they didn't have breast cancer, I remember...

Josh, the bravest person I knew, who lost his left hand after a growing sarcoma forced amputation and who with his wife raised three children, worked in his field, volunteered, wrote poetry, and made a movie about his struggles with cancer (My Left Hand). He was a mystic and spiritual person who brought the spark of the divine closer to all.

My beloved friend from high school, Rabbi Charisse Kranes. Although she died from cervical cancer and not breast cancer, she figured hugely in my developing years and helped make me the person I am today.

My father, who suffered from non-Hodgkins lymphoma and whose treatment may have helped him decline from robust man to bed-bound. Still talkative in his last days, he told me he wasn't going to die, even when his quality of life was very poor. On our final visit we reminisced with my mother about childhood days with my sister. Now, as my mom says, there's no one left who remembers when they were all young together.

Zichrono l'vracha, may their memories be for a blessing to all who knew them.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:44 PM

    Beautiful post. What a good way to end October. We never forget those who go before us.