Saturday, June 7, 2008

Angel on My Shoulder

About ten years ago I met a woman who would become my best friend. Her name was Deborah. I dont make friends easily so this was huge. Up until that time I had only had one other person I would call a best friend. I dont trust easily but I came to trust her with all my secrets, my thoughts and my fears.

I met her at AA. I remember the first time I saw her and I thought- this is a confident, beautiful and happy person. She had a very loud laugh and she was always smiling. Totally different from me. It kind of intimidated me. I held back and didnt even try to meet her. There was no way this person would have anything in common with me, much less even like me. But I was drawn to her confidence and laughter. I wanted this thing she had.

We finally did meet and talk. Over a period of time, seeing her at AA and talking we became friends. We had a lot more in common than I ever would have thought. We loved a lot of the same things, she even shared my love for animals. Her dogs were like her children and that is the way I am. I asked her to be my sponsor or rather she told me she was going to be my sponsor. In AA you have sponsors to guide you through the program and help you deal with not only your alcoholism but also the crap that life throws at you. And life always throws me a lot of crap.

She shared her life with me. I shared mine with her. The closer we grew the more we shared with each other. And she never repeated anything I told her. Pretty soon I think we knew each other better than our own families did. I trusted her with everything that went on in my life. I could call her anytime of the day or night and she would be there for me. We dealt with relationship problems a lot. See my relationship sucked as usual and she was married to a guy and their marriage was not the best. Hers ended in a divorce that was quite ugly. She was devastated. Even though I didnt think much of him, he was the love of her life.

Deborah was diagnosed with colon cancer shortly after her divorce. It was in Stage 4 and the outlook was not good. Deborah had known for a long time something was wrong but she ignored all her symptoms. Had she went to the doctor early, she could have been cured. But she was afraid.

I knew something was terribly wrong with Deborah. Even though the divorce had rocked her world, I knew that something else was going on. But she wouldnt tell me. After days and months of me nagging her she finally did tell me. I went into action and got her the first doctor appointment. The night she called me and told me she had cancer I just about died. I knew it was bad.

The treatment began and Deborah and I went together to every chemo and most every radiation treatment. I was there for every surgery. Her family helped some but not much. Even her ex-husband came back. Not as a husband necessarily, but as someone who would help her and give her some support. I was glad because it made her so happy.

Deborah went through many surgeries. The first was to have her colon removed. She balked at that and even refused completely to have the surgery. In her words she would not become a monster with a bag of shit on her side. Not even if it would save her life. But she didnt have that option and finally accepted this fact. The consequences of not having the surgery far out weighed wearing a bag on your side. Another surgery was done to remove half her liver. There were several smaller surgeries to repair things that resulted from the major surgeries she had.

These were very painful and grueling times. She had tons of pain. Tons. But for the most part she kept on smiling. She wanted the fullest life possible and she wanted to enjoy every minute of it.

I remember that even though Deb was very beautiful, she had the ugliest feet I had ever seen. Callouses galore! She was losing her hair and her looks. It was upsetting to her. I would sit at the end of the couch and hold her feet and talk to her. I would rub lotion all over her feet and we would talk for hours. You know what? As a result of all those long talks and lotion on the feet, she developed some of the prettiest, smoothest feet ever. She was very proud of that. I think it made her feel pretty again. I loved taking care of her.

The colostomy was the worst part for her. She had the colostomy for several months before she would even take care of it. So I took care of it. One day when she had been in the hospital for tests I had to help her with it. She was so embarrassed and she was just crying and gagging because it disgusted her so much. I told her, You know what Deb? This is just shit. That is it. And at the end of the day it washes off. No big deal. Its just plain old shit." That was the first time Ihad acknowledged that having a colostomy meant wearing a bag on your side for your intestines to empty into. She stood perfectly still there in that bathroom with me and stopped crying and started laughing. After that she took care of it herself. I have to hope that my acceptance of that bag helped her accept this terrible situation she was in. I never looked at her in a way that made her ashamed. I never treated her differently. A lot of people did. You could see the pity in their eyes when they looked at her. I was sad she was sick, but I never pitied her. I was proud of her. She was strong and once she decided to take on her cancer, she never lost her strength.

There came a time when the doctors told her that she was not going to live and chemo was not an option any more. The chemo would kill her sooner than the cancer. The surgeries were doing no good. She was covered in cancer and surgery was just chasing one tumor after another. So no more surgery, no more chemo, no more treatments. The only thing left was to make sure she was as comfortable as possible. Hospice was called and the process of dieing with dignity began. Really the only option she had was to accept the fact that she would die.

And she did. She started going back to church. This was very important to her and I supported her in this decision. I was all for anything that would give her comfort. She wanted to seek God to give her strength. And I know he did. I am not much for church but I do believe in God. About a month before Deb died she was baptised. I sat out in the congregation with her family. I watched this woman who was so frail, bald as she could be, stand in that water and smile and tell the preacher when she died she would reside in heaven. And he took her under and brought her up. The whole place was in tears. She never looked more beautiful than she did that day. Her mother had told her she should wear her wig that day. She refused. She wanted to be given to God just as she was. Good choice Deb. Good choice.

Debs cancer and her battle lasted 3 years. Two days before she died we were having some quiet time together. We were talking about her life and the fact that she would die soon. No one would talk to Deb about dieing. They refused, her family said that she had given up. They were wrong, she had not given up, she was just accepting it. She needed to talk about it. I needed to talk about it. So we always talked about it together.

The cancer was in Debs lungs and her breathing was very hard. I asked her if she was afraid to die. She told me no, she was not afraid to die. She just was afraid that she would smother. She wanted to die in her sleep in a peaceful kind of way. I understood that and I promised her that when it came time to die that hospice would make sure she was comfortable. I remember looking at her and asking her, "What will I do when you are gone? I will miss you so much." She gave me that big ass smile and told me that there was no need to miss her, she would be close by--An angel sitting right on my shoulder.

She is always with me. I do miss her sometimes. But I really believe she is always there.


Denise said...

oH lYNN.
This made me cry. You were so very very lucky to have found each other. I love the fact that you took care of her in every way. You my friend rock hard core.

Linda said...

What a beautiful story, what a beautiful testimony to friendship..
You were her angel, and now she is yours. Once in a liftime stuff Lynn, once in a lifetime..

Lynnbug said...

Im so glad ya'll are back!!! Thank for reading--she was a good friend in every way, I was very lucky to have her.