Thursday, October 24, 2019

Saying goodbye to a friend

Photo credit: Mike Durbin

This most is a little more like a journal entry than a blog post. I just needed to post some of my few memories about my friend who lost her battle with multiple myeloma yesterday, but on her own terms.

These last couple of days have been surprisingly emotional for me. I had the privilege of attending HealtheVoices19 in Dallas, TX earlier this year. At this conference, I learned more about health advocacy and had a chance to meet other health advocates. This conference was one of those rare opportunities to bond with other attendees very quickly and on a much deeper level than at other conferences.

On my first day there, I specifically remember meeting a beautiful lady with short gray hair. Cherie was very quick to correct me when I assumed that gray was her natural hair color. She said it in such a matter of fact way that I couldn’t possibly be offended.

Throughout the weekend, I talked to her a few times. We didn’t necessarily talk about our advocacy work, but just about the conference and the fact that we have children of the same age.
Saturday night was open mic night and she stood up to speak. She was reading a poem written by her youngest. Much of this was about how Cherie’s journey with cancer, specifically multiple myeloma, had affected their relationship. While Cherie had been in remission for some time, she let us know that just the week before attending HealtheVoices19, her cancer had returned. If you told me that there was a dry eye in that room when she was standing on stage, I wouldn’t believe it.

After we all went our separate ways, we got in touch with each other on Facebook. Although we all have different chronic conditions, we follow each other’s journeys. Since this conference, I no longer simply follow those with the conditions that I have because I see that we all have very similar paths.
Cherie’s prognosis was not good. She did not have long to live. She opted to move to Colorado where Death with Dignity was an option for her. Cherie didn’t want to die a slow, painful death, but instead to make the choice for herself.

Her family and friends posted a video on Facebook on that last day of her life. It felt like an honor to have been able to watch this video and participate in those last moments of her life. I watched her daughter and son hold her hands and cry. I cried with them.

It was hard for me to sleep last night. I kept thinking about how hard it must have been to take that medication that ended her life. She knew well what was happening and wasn’t afraid of it. As Cherie always said, “it was all about love, anyway.”

I told Cherie several times in the last few weeks that I will never forget her. She took charge of her health. She made the decisions. I’m so proud to have known her.

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