Saturday, January 18, 2014

The most selfish post I'll ever write

These last few days have been the absolute worst days of my life.

My sister has been sick for a while now. That's the "family stuff" and the references to cancer that I've been making. About six years ago... maybe seven. I don't remember- Melanie found out she had ovarian cancer. It was awful. She did the chemo thing and was sick and lost her hair- but after six or so months they declared her good to go. For five years she lived relatively healthily- I mean, she had other health issues- but cancer was not one of them.

We all became very involved in Relay for Life and she did everything she could to raise funds for it. Cancer is a naughty word. Cancer is evil. Cancer needs to die. If cancer had a face, I'd punch it. She was so grateful to be well again that she did everything she could to assist researchers looking for a cure.

About a year and a half ago she started getting pains in her hip. I thought maybe her back was out of whack and told her to go to a chiropractor... really long story short- the cancer had returned and made itself at home in her bones. So radiation started. That didn't work so they went back to the ol' chemo. They did half a round of that and found it wasn't working so they changed her to a different kind of chemo. That meant she was sicker longer- but had a better chance of clearing it up again.

During all this chemo hell she insisted on continuing to work. She had the work ethic of a House Elf. She loooooooved being able to work. So in January when she had a seizure- she was very upset with us all when we told her to take time off work and concentrate on healing her body- THEN she could go back to work. In May-ish she had another seizure. She had to surrender her drivers license which was really hard for her because that took away a big chunk of her independence. Yet through all of this, she continued to work. She went back to work in Juuu---- July I think- maybe late June after our trip to Disneyland.

She was walking with a cane all that time- and some of it was in a wheelchair. When we went to Disneyland she rode in her little motorized cart. It was a Godsend- otherwise she wouldn't have had the strength to make it through a day- let alone the whole trip.

Then we got word that the chemo was working- but not enough. She just had too much cancer. So they gave her three options. 1. Try a different chemo (not really recommended because the body can only take so much, ya know?) 2. Go to Huntsman for clinical trials or 3. do nothing and let nature take its course. She opted for number 2.

Off to Huntsman she went. It was a blessing for me because she had to spend so much time in Salt Lake I got to see her a lot. I'm so grateful for that. She was so determined to beat the demon cancer. And again- through all of this she was working full time. I came home a lot in those weeks. I just wanted to be near her.

Then that terrible, awful, horrible day in November, they told her there was nothing more they could do for her. The trial drug was working on her cancer- but her liver was shutting down. They told her go on disability and apply for hospice. Even then, she told them she'd just do everything she could on her own to get better enough to go back on the study- because she was determined to win.

She refused to go on hospice- and was so ticked off that she couldn't work. We knew what was coming- but I can't lie- I hoped for a miracle. I prayed and prayed and prayed for a miracle- but the worst part of a prayer is the "but if not..." part. I hate the "but if not". I just wanted it MY way.

We had the most amazing Christmas. We were all here. All of us. My little brother and his family came and my sister and her kids came down as well. The picture of us in our Christmas Jammies is our last family picture. But it was so much fun.

After that she began to slowly withdraw. She was never able to go home after that. She stayed at my parent's house. She just wanted to go home- but she couldn't. She'd been sleeping in my bed in the basement, but then the stairs became too much for her and she had to stay upstairs.  I came home every weekend I had off. She was so happy for me when I told her I was going to finally be able to move. She was just sad she wasn't going to be able to help me move. Just this last Monday as I was leaving, I kissed her on the head and told her to just concentrate on feeling better enough to drive down and see it when it's finished. She agreed.

Shortly after that she took a turn for the worse. Thursday night I chatted with her on the phone for a few seconds. She didn't really know what she was saying and I guess after they took the phone away from her- she continued to talk to me. Just knowing that breaks my heart. Talking to Melanie was my favorite thing in the world. She understood me.

I decided I needed to come home. I called into work and Friday hit the road. When I walked in the front door, they'd gotten a hospital bed for her and put it in the living room. We didn't want her in a bedroom- shut away from everyone because she so just wanted to continue to be a part of it all.

She was coherent enough to recognize me to say hello and ask me how I was doing. I barely recognized her. I said a cheerful hello- then ran down to my bedroom to bawl. That was not my sister. I knew it was close. My brother and his family came shortly after that. That was the last time I personally saw her smile- and saw her eyes. When I lifted up my little nephew and said to her, "look who's here!!" She kind of opened her eyes- then when she saw who it was her eyes flew open wide and she got a huge grin on her face and said, "HI!!!" He just giggled. He was so happy to see his Nono. Later my sister and her kids came and she was able to murmur a hello to them and again- ask how they were. She was always concerned about others. Never a thought for herself.

The last coherent sentence I personally heard her say was "I love you guys." We all told her how much we loved her. We surrounded her the whole day and took turns holding her hands. We had Disney music playing in the background. When we were all finally in the same room at the same time, my dad and brothers gave her a blessing and just asked her to be at peace and for God to welcome her home.

I turned off the Disney music and turned on my Mormon Tabernacle Choir station. The spirit was very strong and when the song, "I Need Thee Every Hour" came on just after midnight, she took her last breath. We were nearly all there. My older brother couldn't be there because he was home with his kids- and the other kids were all downstairs asleep. It was peaceful.

I knew it was the best thing for her. She'd fought so hard for so long. She was so sick, in pain and so sad that she couldn't live her life the way she wanted. She was a very independent person and it was so hard for her to have help with every little thing. And I know that she is out of pain.

But I am the most selfish person who ever lived because I didn't want her to go. I'm not done with her. There are adventures we haven't taken and books and movies to read and watch. TV shows to discuss and conversations to have.

I talked to Melanie almost every day. She knew absolutely everything about me. She knew when I was happy and angry and everything in between. She knew my frustrations and would talk me through them. There is honestly no other person in this world I can talk to like I talked with her. She was my best friend. She was everyone's best friend. Seriously- so many people in the last few days have said they felt that she was the only one who liked them. 

She absolutely did not tolerate gossip. If we would start talking crap about someone she'd come to their defense- even if she agreed with us- but did not allow it to continue. It bugged me sometimes. You know sometimes when you just want to vent about someone stupid-? Well, you just learned that you couldn't go to her to do it.

It's super cliché to say that she was the kindest person I ever knew- but she literally WAS the kindest person I ever knew.

Everything I am I am because of her. I am a Trekkie- because of her. I know every word to every Disney song ever written- because of her. I constantly have my nose in a book- because of her. I wanted to become a writer- because of her. I love theater- because of her. Literally everything about me is a direct result of having her as a sister (the good stuff anyway- the bad things about me are alllllll me).

I'm sad. There is just no other way to put it. I can't handle the preparation crap. I wrote her obituary yesterday. That's not how things are supposed to go. We were supposed to be little old ladies together. I would have happily written her obituary in like, 30 or 40 years. Her birthday is in a week and a half. She would have been 48. It's too young. TOO YOUNG DAMMIT!!!

So many people have been so kind- bringing food and the outpouring of love has been overwhelming. And to be honest, I don't know how to respond to it. I'm not good at this whole death thing. It sucks. I don't recommend it. Anyway- to those of you who have visited- or have sent kind texts or messages thank you. I'm really not handling this well and I don't know what to say or do. I posted yesterday that it felt like I'd been kissed by a Dementor. I can't think of a better description. I feel like my soul has been sucked out. I have to keep drinking water to refuel the tears.

I know where she is. I understand The Plan. I'm not sad for her. Like I said, I know she's out of pain and is having a lovely reunion on the other side. But I'm sad for me. I have to live the rest of my life without my best friend. I have to get used to not talking to her every day. Do you know how hard it's going to be the next time I read a book and pick up the phone to call her so I can tell her about it?

I just don't know how to do this.

5 comments:

Melissa said...

I'm so sorry friend...It's so hard to go through something like this. I have a feeling she'll send you love and some kind of communication from the other side.

Karen said...

I'm so sorry Heather. This breaks my heart. Lots of love and prayers headed your way!!

Amanda Dancliff said...

The pain of loss is something that no one can escape, but you don't have to go through it alone. I love you and your family.

Susan and Scott said...

Yes this does suck I totally agree. I didn't know Melanie well until about 8 years ago and your right she was so kind. Remember her always and know that you get to do what's best for you in how to handle this. Love to you all.

Roxanne said...

Heather...you articulate this experience so perfectly right on. I know this grief, loss, bewilderment and even anger very well having lived it when Mike passed especially.....I send you hugs and love and prayers and complete acknowledgement....you get to grieve...we all KNOW the plan but we also are selfish enough to want to hang on to our loved ones as long as possible. Love you sweet girl....and I love Melanie...she truly is one of the kindest people ever. When ever i ran into her at Freddie's her face would always light up with this big smile that made me feel like I'd just been touched by an angel. I imagine she is like my Mike and bringing that gigantic spirit to share with those who've been waiting to hear the gospel from just such a soul. Love to all of you.