Today, I write with a heavy heart.
On the 28th of December, I got an e-mail from someone at YACC (Young Adult Cancer Canada) and the subject said ‘Open when you have some time and privacy.’ I was in my office, at work, and for some reason, when I heard the ‘ding’ of my phone, I checked it. I didn’t really read the subject and instead just started reading the e-mail. It was an e-mail that informed us ‘YACCers’ that one of our own had died, on Christmas Day.
Back in May, Keith and I went out to Alberta for a YACC Retreat and I was lucky enough to meet Naomi. Naomi was one of about 25 other survivors, caregivers, and healthcare providers at the retreat. We all arrived as strangers and we all left as hugging friends and although it was mentioned (as a form of preparation) that sometimes we lose some of our friends to cancer, I just never really expected it to happen. Although Naomi and I didn’t stay in contact after the retreat, we were united by cancer and by the experience of the retreat.
Reading of her passing was difficult. I was grateful that my office door was closed as I shed a few tears at my desk. I have never asked myself why I got cancer, it really doesn’t matter, and to be honest, I have convinced myself that it’s so my mom, mother-in-law, sister, sister-in-laws, aunts, cousins, and nieces never have to go through it. I do however ask myself why I was spared. Why was I ‘cured’ while others are diagnosed with a more aggressive cancer or a cancer that is farther along? Naomi’s family and new husband don’t hurt any less than my family would, there is no less pain in the world because Naomi died from cancer and I didn’t.
This is the first time that I have experienced someone dying from the same thing that I had and I don’t know how to deal with it. I am having a hard time getting through this blog entry - I’ve wanted to write something for a few days now but I just haven’t found the right words or the strength. I so wanted to go to her wake and I selfishly didn’t because I was too scared. I was afraid that I would sob, loudly, the entire time. I didn’t want to take away from her, I didn’t want anyone consoling me when it wasn’t about me, it was about her. On the 31st, via facebook, it was ‘Wear something Sparkly for Naomi Day’ and I participated; I felt like I was doing something in an otherwise helpless situation.
I feel as though cancer is that one thing you hope your doctor doesn’t say. It’s what we are all afraid of happening. For some reason, cancer didn’t seem as scary to me once I finished treatment as it did before my diagnosis because I knew that I could survive it. I mean the thought of having it again is horrifying but for some reason, it doesn’t scare me in the same way that it once did, that is, up until I found out about Naomi. It’s like her death has really brought everything to the surface again, it makes cancer real, the feelings new, and the pain as fresh as it was on March 11th, 2011.
Up until I had cancer, when I heard about someone who had died, I thought about the family of the deceased and how they were coping and to be honest, I have thought about her family and her husband every day since I found out. But since cancer, when I hear of someone who has died, I have started thinking about what he or she thought about during his or her last day on earth. I think about the way I would be, and if I would be crying because I’d be scared to be alone, I think I’d be scared for what the after-life looks like, I'd think about what I hadn't accomplished and how everyone would deal with my death. Does that make sense? I guess it’s because for the first time in my life, I could picture myself in a hospital bed, surrounded by family…
Although I put a lot of pressure on myself to be the 'old Katie' I know that deep down she is gone and along with 'new Katie' comes new challenges, new heartache, and new loss and although I would like to resign as a cancer survivor and just be me again, I am learning that alongside cancer comes continual struggle well after treatment is over.
I want to dedicate this entry to Naomi. You were a star on earth and now you are a star in the sky. Thank you for brightening my life.