Death and hurricanes

Have you heard the saying … “Two things that are a certainty, death and hurricanes.”? Oh wait, it’s death and taxes, right?! Clearly I’m not up on my sayings.

But that’s what I’m thinking about … death and hurricanes.

As I write this post, thousands of people in Florida and elsewhere are dealing with the aftermath of Dorian or preparing for it to slowly make its way ashore. I moved to Florida in 1996, so I missed Andrew, but have weathered quite a few hits, direct or otherwise, since then. The level of panic and angst experienced by so many here in South Florida is truly rampant and I’ve noticed that the feelings are strongest with those who are experiencing a hurricane for the first time and those who had previous bad experiences.

The anticipation of a hurricane coming is rather excruciatingly boring after one gathers the appropriate supplies, but once a hurricane is coming, it’s inexorable movement is unavoidable. Hurricanes destroy so much and everyone has to hold on for the ride at some point. You can’t stop it, you can’t change it, you must simply hold on to something grounded until it’s over. There are lulls, like the eye, and bands that bring waves of rain and wind with breaks in between. It’s overwhelming and powerful and fills every inch of the visible sky.

Hurricanes are actually quite a bit like cancer.

We are all at the mercy of its whims and it is an experience that one must survive by putting one foot in front of other, often while being flattened by the treatment and the side effucks (my new word). To continue the analogy, I’m thinking that the treatment is like the rain and the wind is like the side effects. Our vision is filled with cancer and treatment and life expectancy and all of the detritus that comes with a terminal illness that has many chronic features. At the same time, the bond that develops between fellow sufferers is similar to the bond between people who have clung to each other for hours and hours to survive a hurricane.

The bonds amongst those of us with Stage IV metastatic breast have been tested recently by a long list of recent deaths. We lose men and women regularly in the metastatic community but this past week to 10 days have been singularly brutal. One after another, the announcements keep coming and many of the deaths are young people, women with so much left to accomplish.

I read once that there are three deaths, the first when the physical body dies, the second when the body is buried, and the third when the person’s name is no longer spoken. I wrote about this phenomenon earlier this year when my sister buddy Kari Rousch died. So long as I’m here, her name will be spoken.

So long as I’m here, I will speak these names too:

Tracy Gallaher

Amanda de Fiebre

Shannon Weber Lewis

Judy Hallin Erdahl

Patricia Wu

Susan Fellows

Ann Donovan

Jaime Birchfield

I am sure there are others I’ve forgotten to mention. Please feel free to add names in the comments, to hold some space for their families and the community at large. We need it, badly.

These women were young and more experienced, some with hair and some without, they were black and white, wealthy and not so wealthy, gay and straight, educated and not so educated, with children and without children, with partners and without, living all over the world. Breast cancer does not discriminate. I didn’t know all of these women personally, but their lives touched mine. I see their experiences and their families and I see myself and my family. It is sobering, it is painful, it is sad …

… and it PISSES me off.

We lose 116 men and women each day in the US; men and women who are not done, who have no desire to leave this world. Why? Because they run out of treatment options, because their bodies succumb to the ravages of this disease and the treatments, because the doctors only have so many tools at their disposal.

Each of these deaths could be prevented with research. Research to develop and test lifesaving medication. I will be in their shoes before much longer if I don’t have more treatment options.

Today, on Labor Day, I’m rededicating my labors to fight for more research, to hold companies accountable in how they treat cancer patients, to speak the truth about living with a terminal illness, to support legislation that will ease suffering, to support the metsters and early stagers in my life, and to live my best life with the time that I have.

Who’s with me?!

21 thoughts on “Death and hurricanes

  1. You know me, I’m definitely in. So much more can and should be done. Makes me so angry.
    On the hurricane note…praying you, your husband and those sweet boys are safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Abigail I am saddened by the loss of so many women passing. I started reading your posts because I was the Court Liasion in Osceola during your time with Judge Strowbridge. I guess I was curious, nosy and mostly sad to know that you were going through this battle. I retired at the end of 2017 and have continued to read all of your posts. I am in awe of you sharing your feelings, difficulties and battles with your readers. I have been blessed not to have cancer, but I certainly have lost sisters during my lifetime. I feel a bit guilty that I’m still here at 65 years old, and yet so many young woman with unfinished business have been lost. I will continue to lift you up in my prayers. Linda

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Her husband and I saw my daughter, Amanda de Fiebre, 34, take her last breath Friday afternoon. She will always be alive to us and we want her memory to live on in the fight to save others by the research Amanda was so passionate about. Thanks to everyone who speaks her name and remembers her cause.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Girl, I knew within seconds where you were going with this. Amazing metaphor (no i appropriate pun intended) for it. I once used drowning as a metaphoric comparison for domestic violence (which I guess makes it a simile?)

    But in drowning, most people think it would be obvious and they’d save people, in both situations. In reality, it often happens without loud attention (like swimmers can’t wave for help bc their arms are instinctively pushing down on the water), people don’t even notice what’s hidden (instead of the splashing arms, you see a normal head that looks like it’s just treading water and you have to pay good attention to see that they are slowly sinking, like DV victims hide their bruises or psychological abuse), and it happens right in front of people or in large groups with many adults who know each other bc everyone assumes everyone is watching. Not true. (I’ve been the only person to see K jump to what could have been a disaster… TWICE. With lots of family who adores her!)

    I’m glad my parents made me paranoid about some things. When it comes to my kids, I’m glad to be paranoid and safe, versus free and filled with regret.

    Anyway, my point was I loved the comparison. Some people may never understand what others go through even when trying. These things give us a way to relate to them what we go though, and it gives them the possibility of “getting it” a little better.


    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am so sorry for your loss and my heart go’s out to you. Having to deal with sickness and death is horrible. I find comfort in God’s promise that a day will come when “no resident will say, I am sick”, Isaiah 33:24. This bible-based article explains it more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting. I believe this verse applies specifically to heaven and does not reflect what will happen on earth, especially if you look to the original manuscripts and the actual language used in the original language of authorship. For now, the lack of funds going to research is what will provide the medication that would allow me to live longer and be around my children as they grow up. I am not afraid of death because my hope is placed in Him and I cling to that. I also believe in science and the resources that God has given us and I think much of that is squandered. Just my opinion. Love and light to you!


  6. Thank you for liking my comment. Love and light to you as well! Many people believe that it refers to heaven. If I may just ask for you to consider the Lord’s prayer Jesus told us to pray for at Matthew 6:9,10. In part he said for us to pray for his father’s kingdom to come to earth as it is heaven. The benefits along with the verse in Isaiah is found at Rev. 21:3,4, in part it says no more death, pain, or suffering. Those things aren’t happening in heaven only on earth. One last scripture I ask for you to consider is Psalms 37:9,10,29. There it talks about how the meek will reside on the earth forever. Just something to consider. I’m glad you trust in God.

    Liked by 1 person

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