Marion April 2013

I haven’t posted in a long time because there has been nothing on my mind except my sister Marion. She wanted things private, from an online perspective, so I could not write about her, which also meant I couldn’t write about anything else. Because I couldn’t think of anything else. Marion passed away on Wednesday, July 3 at 4:30 pm from breast cancer that had metastasized into her lungs, stomach and liver. It was only 29 days before – four short weeks ago  – that she got the news.

She had been diagnosed with breast cancer in late September of 2008. It was minor, they said. If you have to get breast cancer, this is the best kind. A simple lumpectomy and a little radiation. No chemo. Such a small lump. But, the doctor warned, if it comes back, it won’t be in the breast, and it won’t be curable, but “treatable.”

They started her on Tamoxifen, but she didn’t like the side effects. You’re okay to go off of that, since your cancer is so mild, they told her.

In the beginning, every six months she was monitored. Then it turned into annually. But they monitored her breast. Even though the doctor said it would not return to the breast. Why weren’t they doing cat scans of her liver and lungs, the areas where breast cancer normally metastases? My sunny, optimistic sister was always saying “I’m fine” and she always seemed invincible. We all believed that.

She had a mild cough. We had our sister/cousin reunion planned for April on the east coast – Virginia, Washington DC and North Carolina. In the early morning hours of April 17, we picked her up for our trip to the airport, and she was coughing and clearly had some sort of infection. “I’m fine!” she insisted. On the trip, I picked up her infection first, then Lisa, then our cousin Carolyn’s husband John.

Clearly she had some sort of viral or bacterial infection. She passed it on to us.

Returning home in late April, she had a follow-up appointment with her oncologist. “Your breast is fine!”

At that time, she mentioned the cough, but not the weight loss she was experiencing. About 20 lbs. in two months. They thought the cough might be a side effect of her blood pressure medicine. A couple of weeks later, still no change. Now she was down 25 lbs. Finally, she mentioned the weight loss to the doctor.

Now a chest xray. And they scheduled a cat scan.

I was there on my lunch hour when the doctor called about the lung xray. It shows a “mass” which could be pneumonia or something more serious.

Because of the fact that she had infected all of us with some sort of viral or bacterial infection, it had to be pneumonia. That only made sense.

On Monday, June 3, they did the cat scan. Again, I stopped by on my lunch hour the next day. She said they wouldn’t hear back about the results for two to three days. We had a really nice half-hour visit at her dining room table when the phone rang. Her husband, Whitey, who was watching TV and saw the Cox Cable notice came on about who was calling, said “it’s Kaiser, pick up.”

I could only hear her side of the conversation. “No, I’m not alone, I have my husband and my sister with me. I’m a strong person.” That was a bad omen.

Whitey was looking over her shoulder as she wrote info from the doctor; size of tumors, where, etc. Her eyes got wet. It was terrible news.

When she hung up, she said: “not good news. Stage 4 cancer in my lungs, stomach and liver.” She seemed most surprised about the liver. She was not a drinker, ever. She smoked for some time, but gave it us for her grand kids. But she never even had a glass of wine.

I remember Whitey saying “that’s not a death sentence, right?” She said, “after stage 4 is stage 5, which is death.”

I said that I thought that they needed to be alone and talk, so made my way out. But after a big hug and many “I love you’s” expressed.

Gobsmacked is how we all feel. How could this happen so quickly?.

I loved her dearly and treasure our trips in the last few years. And I treasure the family members she created: those grand kids of hers, whom I all love so much. She loved them more than life itself.

What a legacy of love she left behind.