The circle of life ended for my darling friend, Alison, last Saturday. Her circle was large, she touched the souls of many grateful human beings. Her funeral is today – across the country – and I can’t be there, so am staging my own memorial of sorts right here on this page. At 2pm PDT, her community of friends will gather to remember the life of a woman who loved with no boundaries and gave selflessly to anyone in need. I will be there in spirit to pay homage to a woman I loved like no other.
Her untimely death was at the hands of the beast, the “C” word…cancer. It attacked her little 4’ 10” frame in the form of ovarian cancer.
I am going to tell you a little about what she shared with me of her ordeal – in hopes that it might save the life of even ONE person who reads this…or the friend of someone who reads this.
Alison’s symptoms were stomach bloat, weight gain, nausea and fatigue. She went to her general practitioner thinking it was a stomach issue and, after typical blood tests, was told that she needed to get out from behind her desk and get more exercise. (Alison was a VERY successful real estate agent.) The blood tests revealed nothing out of sorts.
I’m having a bit of a difficult time remembering the exact timing of all the events, but generally, her symptoms began surfacing in early 2012. She went undiagnosed until November or December of 2012. And by then it was too late.
The tumors of ovarian cancer, once mature enough, release a fluid into the woman’s system. When that fluid starts to build up, the woman becomes so distended and uncomfortable that she definitely finds a doctor. And it was at that point that Alison jumped ship with a general practitioner and sought the help of a gynecologist. In this advanced stage, the gynecologist took one look at her and ordered a CA-125 blood test. CA stands for “cancer antigen” and it is a protein that is found at elevated levels in most ovarian cancer cells. CA-125 is produced on the surface of cells and is released into the blood stream. Can you just imagine how quickly those cancer cells spread once the fluid is released into a woman’s body?
My question is this. Why must a woman be showing signs of bloat and distension before this test can be administered? By then, it’s TOO LATE! Why aren’t we all receiving it as a matter of course? I know, I know…it’s a cost thing. But please, ladies – if you have any of the symptoms, don’t take no for an answer. Pursue it! It might just save your life!
I met Alison in the late 1970’s. We became fast friends. Little did I know that this friendship would have such a profound impact on my life. She was already married and a couple of years older than me. I am an only child and it was quickly apparent to me that she was the sister I’d never had. I lived with her (and her husband) for a short time after moving out of my Mom’s house. She let me come home at any hour of the night – and the only question I’d hear the next morning was, “Well, did you have fun?”. We shared all secrets and hopes and dreams. We had special foods that we loved, inside jokes that only WE understood and we had each other’s backs in life’s storms. I even drove Alison to the hospital when she went into labor with her first child. I still recall her calmly running around the house, emptying trash cans before we left for the hospital. I was like an expectant father, freaking out…she was calmly doing her thing. (Dad was meeting us there.)
Time elapsed and life carried on, but then life changed for Alison in a big way. Her young husband was diagnosed with Leukemia and passed away at a very early age, leaving her with, by then, three young children. She found herself re-creating herself in order to provide for her family and play the role of Dad and Mom. Some time later, she had an opportunity to enter the real estate world – and she grabbed it. I always said Alison could sell ice to an Eskimo…and how true that was! Despite a lagging economy, Alison shone in her career and gained respect and high esteem from her colleagues and clients. Miles separated us as I had moved cross country – and she was busy being successful – our communications were less.
Despite the miles and years that were separating us, every once in awhile we would reach out and “touch” each other. Her messages always included the words, “I just love the heck out of you”. Those are words that ring in my head daily now. No matter how small the phrase, repeated over and over, It becomes tradition and stays with people after you’re gone. I feel so blessed to have those words, in her voice...in my head!
Tell me, what is it that you will leave with your friends and loved ones? If you don’t have an answer to that – find something and start planting the seeds…it might just become your legacy.
Alison’s legacies are many. It doesn’t matter what we have /earn /possess in life…once we’re gone, none of that matters…the ONLY thing that matters is how we’ve touched the souls of others. That is, after all, how we are ultimately remembered.
I last saw Alison in late April/early May of this year. Once I learned of the quick progression of the beast within her, I traveled back to California. I wanted to look her in the eye, hold her hands and tell her just how much I loved her. We shared a couple of wonderful visits, despite the fact that she was in quite a bit of pain. All that fluid that had been released from the initial tumors sent cancer cells throughout her body and it blew up and grew everywhere. It took over quickly and no amounts of chemo, no matter how aggressive, could stop it.
So, my blogger friends – the morals of the story are this…hold your friends close to your heart and treasure EVERY minute with them. If you feel something inside of you isn’t right, don’t let the doctor tell you that you need more exercise. And lastly, figure out today – how do you want to be remembered…how do you want to touch the souls of those around you? It might be as simple as the words,
"I just love the heck out of you!"
Alison, I love the heck out of you too! Thank you for all the years we shared. Rest peacefully, sweet girl.