It's a running joke in my house, "Mama's talking to her imaginary friends." They're the people I've met online over the last few years, through blogging and various social networks. Of course they are very real people and when bad things happen to them, I do feel it keenly.
S., though, was someone I met in person - at the Conference for Younger Women Affected by Breast Cancer in early 2009 - and with whom I continued to connect online. We first connected because we both had metastatic breast cancer but soon realized that we had much more than the cancer in common - a progressive outlook, quirky gifted children and we both chose to expressive ourselves in creative ways. Unlike me, though, S. was a bona fide artist who used fabric as her medium.
S. was about my age. She had been diagnosed at Stage 0 but the cancer seemed to have quickly metastasized (was it just very aggressive or had something been missed? This was one of the things we discussed over dinner on the evening we met). We ended up spending all of our free time together, during that long week end in Atlanta - every coffee break, meal and evening. We even grabbed lunch together before grabbing our shuttle to the airport.
We stayed in touch after we got home, exchanging the occasional email and through the Care Pages that S. set up to share news with family and friends. She wrote to me about her latest art project (which integrated images of cancer cells), her daily life and a wonderful trip that her family took to Costa Rica. She also shared her frustration with the fact that no treatments seemed to slow the progression of her cancer.
Last week, I received a notice that S.'s Care Page had been updated. I logged in and found a message from her husband: saying S. had had moved from treatment to hospice care. Yesterday, he contacted us to say that this remarkable woman had passed away in her sleep.
I've run out of words to describe my sadness and the grief I feel on behalf of her family. Another child has lost her mother. It's all so wrong.
Over the week end, Zoom remarked that having cancer brings a lot of people into your life but takes a lot of them out, too. And, the truth is, I would do nothing differently, even knowing I would face loss and be forced to confront the possibility of my own death. The people who have come into my life - online and off- since my cancer diagnosis have improved my life immeasurably. I wouldn't trade that for anything.
But, right now, my heart is aching.