Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Good Bye My Dear Friend, Karen; Another One Gone Too Soon

For the better part of my life, my “friends” were people that I met within the vicinity of where I lived. They were people that I met through common interests; people that I saw at the grocery store, the mailbox, the park or even at the doctor’s office. Today, much of that has changed; because of the internet, I have made friends with common interests, all around the world.

As luck would have it, some of my dearest friends have been become so, by sharing a very rare cancer; chronic myelogenous leukemia. For those of us that have found each other in various groups, this blood cancer doesn't seem all that rare, because all of us have it. Truth be told, there are only approximately 75,000 people in the United States, living with CML; when you compare that to the approximate population in the US of 313.9 million people, we really are a drop in the bucket.

This being said, it is not uncommon for those of us in CML “groups” to experience the death of a friend. The past few months have been particularly brutal in that department; we all have lost quite a few blood buddies. Right now, my heartbreak is from the loss of Karen Hurst Knoxx.  I “met” Karen several years ago,and was immediately drawn to her complete and utter sweetness. This coupled with shared interests brought us closer together as the days passed. I will now forever cherish the recipe card for Jambalaya, that she recently sent to me. I cannot believe that she is gone....

Unfortunately, Karen's CML journey has not been an easy one, and recently rapidly progressed into blast crisis; unfortunately, her optimism, valiant fight and tenacity were no match for CML. She earned her wings quickly and I pray that she flies free.......

Where does this leave us? Her fighting sisters?

It leaves us vulnerable, sad and a bit lost.

It leaves us with an ache in our hearts', a hole in our soul;and that is alright; our hearts should ache for this terrible loss. It is alright to feel sad, it is alright to be angry that Karen's rocky road has led her to our Lord.  It is OK to feel these things, for this is normal; allow the tears to fall, allow yourself to feel sad, but don’t forget to also include laughter to your tears, because Karen would not want us to only be sad. She would want us to remember our shared laughter, hopes and dreams, and she would want us to continue to fight. She would also want us to live our best lives and to spend time with each other, our friends and our families.

And while we suffer for our loss, we must remember Karen's family, for as much as our hearts ache; their loss is immeasurable.  I cannot imagine their pain and I wish that there was some way, to ease their sadness; hopefully knowing how many lives she touched and how many people loved her, will help to ease their pain.

Karen’s dying leaves those of us living with CML, lost, confused and devastated. It leaves another hole in our hearts; another loss and another taken too soon, from this disease. We all have many questions, fears and concerns; but for now, those can wait. Right now all we can do is hold Karen and her family close in our hearts and remember the compassion and support that Karen always gave to us.

This it is a personal story that allows me a snippet of a glimpse, of how I believe that Karen may have felt in her last days.

A decade-ish ago, I had surgery to remove ovarian tumors; I was forewarned that the recovery was going to be brutal, and it was. I developed an infection several days post op and was near death; the hospital staff even had a student nurse in my room around the clock, monitoring my every breath and encouraging me to fight. What I remember from this time was being so sick, that all I wanted was to be left in my own little world; I did not wish to return to the real world.

The world that I had fallen into was a world that engulfed me in a way that sheltered me from my pain; I remember feeling completely at peace and utterly calm, and wished only to exist in that world. I swear that it was either angels or the Heavenly Father Himself, which wrapped their arms around me, and held me tight. I felt no fear and had lost that innate sense of fighting for survival; I was at peace, and was comfortable with dying. I did not have any regrets or any unfulfilled wishes; I was calm, accepting and very much, I believe, this is how Karen may have felt in the end; simply at peace.

I know that this may be difficult to comprehend, as sometimes it is hard for me to even look back and remember, but I truly believe that those of us that will knowingly face our own deaths’ will have nothing to fear. We will be able to face death with the faith, courage, strength and grace that our dear friend is currently, and graciously allowing us to witness.

Karen was a warrior that allowed us to share her journey; the good, the bad and the ugly and I am honored to have been a witness to this incredible, beautiful woman’s life.

Thank you Karen for the laughs, the love and the strength which you have shared; I shall carry your grace and faith with me, all of my days; May God Bless you, and hold you close during your final journey.

You rocked it, sister! I am proud to be your friend!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014; Be Thankful and Mindful

There is no doubt that life is often full of adversity, turmoil, sadness and stress but despite the struggles, I pray that each and every one of you finds something to be thankful for. For those of you with family and friends; take the time to embrace them.

For those of you that have endured a loss, I pray that you find some joy in your memories. I know that the holiday season will be rough, so do the best that you can and be gentle with yourself. For those of us that are in the lives of others that are suffering through the holidays; be kind. Allow them their “moments” and share in their laughter, and their tears.

I have so much to be grateful for that my cup run’eth over; I have an incredible husband, three beautiful children, a wonderful daughter in law and five amazing grandchildren. In addition to my immediate family, I am blessed to still have my dear mother to cherish, my sister and her family, and my brother and his family, a multitude of very dear friends and extended family.

I have friends that I have known most of my life, friends I have met through dancing and my dear CML family; for all of you, I am grateful. I wish you a day full of laughter, thanksgiving and good health!

Be thankful for what you have and mindful of others less fortunate.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

When Someone Close to You Dies

This has been a tough year; one filled with loss. I have endured the loss of my father, CML sisters and brothers, a neighbor, and the loss of my dear, childhood friend. While each and every one of these losses has left a hole in my heart, the death of my childhood friend is intangible. It is a loss that I cannot wrap my mind around, so please excuse the likeliness of a post, which bounces all over the board.

I am not certain why I feel compelled to share this raw emotion with the world, other than to shed light on the importance of relationships, and the harsh reality that life always ends in death; always.  I believe that the ultimate decision is in God’s hands, but that doesn't mean I like it, or understand it.

I am fortunate to have a handful of true friends, you know the kind; the ones that you do not speak to everyday, but are always there in your heart; time and distance meaning nothing, as they are a part of your soul, and that is that. I am grateful for each and every one of you.

My childhood friend was all of that and more; he was the one person that has been in my life, for as long as I can remember. We were nine months apart in age, he being the “oldest”, a fact that he reminded me of constantly, until we hit the age of forty! Lol From that point on, I reminded him that he was the oldest! Lol

As life would have it, we shared ours’; our parents were best friends. We shared birthdays and holidays, school days and skipped school days, we shared our inner most secrets, fears and desires. He and I were together when my seven year old sister tragically died in a car accident; we didn't only share happy times, we shared tragic ones, too. Oddly enough it wasn't always what we said to each other, it was often simply the presence of each other, which mattered.

Losing him is like closing a major book in my life; not a chapter, but a book.  It is the book on the shelf that my entire life has been built upon. It is the book, that no matter which chapter I chose to visit, I could share it with him because he has always been there; always. He helped me write that book and he was the only other person on this planet that knew what was written on those pages; we shared and built our lives, side by side.  He was the spine of that book and I never imagined that he would be taken so soon. He was barely 56 years old and I am having a difficult time accepting the fact that even though I will always have our memories, I will no longer have the option of opening my book and revisiting my life, with the one person in the world that was there while it was developing.

Of course, I am fortunate enough to still have my mother, brother, sister and friends, but having a childhood friend without boundaries is a little different, it is that understanding that is gone and will so be missed. I still have so many questions to ask, and experiences to reminisce and contemplate that I am simply heartbroken; as so often is the case: I want one more day!

On the other side of the coin, I am extremely blessed, grateful and happy. I have a wonderful husband that I admire, love and appreciate more than words can say. We have four remarkable children and five amazing grandchildren. I have friends and family that love and support me, and a life that is sometimes challenging, but always rewarding, full and worth living.

 I am discounting none of this, but despite having it all, I still suffer from sadness, and that is OK. 
Sadness and grief are a part of life; an essential part of life. The only way to avoid heartache is to have not experienced joy; to live in a box and allow no one to penetrate your heart. For me, this is not an option and I realize it is because of the life that we shared, the memories that we made, and the time that we spent together growing up, that I am paying the price; the price of heartache for having the privilege, of having someone so special in my life. Without all of the joy, the pain would not be so severe; and I am honored to have been given the opportunity to have such a great partner in crime, to maneuver through childhood and into adulthood with; our friendship will always be cherished.
The most difficult part of losing my dear friend is the reality that we must all face the world without his bright light; his sense of humor and his unrelenting desire to help others. He was not through living and I know in my heart of hearts that God is probably having a difficult time convincing him that he really is where he is meant to be.

My heart not only breaks for me, it breaks for his devoted wife, his parents, his sister and her kids and a sea of friends that he has left behind.

Some things are just so hard to accept......Live, love and make each moment count.

Bricks for the Brave!!