I have been on my journey for five years. I have Stage IV breast cancer that has metastasized and the doctors say it is incurable. 2014 was a year from hell for me. In January I had five weeks of radiation, but I found another lump in my right armpit in March, and it was cancer. After that I had five months of experimental drugs that seemed to be promising at first, but by July they were no longer effective. I started chemo in August, which kicked my butt from here to Calgary and back again so many times. I am currently on maintenance drugs, which have a list of side effects as long as my arm.
2014 was a long year for me, and during that time, I had the opportunity to meet a young woman who touched my life. My story is a letter to this beautiful young woman whose life was cut short because of her journey with cancer. I wrote this letter last year after she succumbed to this disease. I was in the midst of a break-through depression that gripped me for weeks. I was in a dark place when Jaynie was taken away. This is my tribute to her life.
June 12, 2014
Your life was way too short – you were taken too soon. Yet for such a young person you have experienced many things that a 15-year-old should never experience, and on the flip side, there are things you will never experience – finishing high school, college and university, dating the perfect boy, marriage, having your own children, sending kids to school, a career. This list is almost endless but you were diagnosed with cancer two years ago and had surgery and chemo and other treatments and pills and pain and surrendered your life – no one should go through this let alone at your age.
I visualize people – all kinds of people – young, old, men, women from every walk of life, and we are all running a race. We are all running for different reasons, and the finish line is never in sight. In my race, I see people running beside me and the next moment they are slowing down and pretty soon they are racing no more. Their race has finished for whatever reason without them ever crossing the finish line. For this I am truly sad and now I cry for the loss, the suffering, the pain for those still in the race and those who are having to keep running although they want to lie down and stop in tribute to you and all that you left for the rest of us – we are still running. I have to stop writing to cry.
I don’t know what you went through even though I too have cancer. Each of us is a unique person with experiences that are only yours and mine. No one truly understands how we all feel because we are individuals with our own filters, biases and rose-coloured glasses.
I can image some of the stuff you went through because I too went through surgery, chemo, pills, depression and fatigue and all the other stuff that a body endures when you have cancer. Still, each person has their own experience which is very hard to describe to others who don’t know. Family and friends know about the stuff we are going through as they can see with their own eyes how our bodies are fighting – but they can never truly understand. They can see how it all affects you and me, but they don’t understand.
Jaynie, I know that you died at home with your mom and dad and brothers with you. I too want to die at home with my family around me. I also know that you prepared for your final moments in this world – I find that thought very over whelming, sad, joyous, peaceful and so very courageous for such a young woman. I admire you for it, for what you have been through, for what your parents have gone through by letting you go when the time came. Not sure if I could do what you have done, and I have lived 52 years.
I wasn’t able to attend your funeral, although my thoughts were with you and your family. I was in Calgary at the Tom Baker waiting for a CT scan to assess how my own cancer is progressing. I am still in the race – for how long, God only knows. I’m still running and there are times when I am so very tired – tired of the race, the fear, losing others that are racing with me and for all those people who don’t even know they have also entered the race. There are moments when I too want to stop racing as my spirit is deflated and so very tired of the fight. Thoughts of all my children and daughter-in-law and my grandkids bring joy to my life again – my Murray who sleeps beside me every night, who stands beside me every day – all of them encouraging me mentally and physically to keep putting one foot in front of the other as my race hasn’t finished yet. I’m not sure where my race will take me and for how long I will run. I have to stop writing again as I cry for all of us.
Jaynie, this letter is for you and also for me as I had to continue on and leave you behind – but I leave you behind only in the physical world. You have a place in my heart where you and your spirit lives on. I will keep you close to my heart.
You have been gone only 12 days but those 12 days seem like an eternity and I can’t imagine what and how your parents, brothers, family and friends feel.
I have so many emotions going like waves over my body – some are describable others are not. I too have to let you go and I too know that one day I will leave the race forever and the others will continue to run without knowing where the finish line is. There are no winners – only survivors.
Jaynie, I will see you again when cancer no longer tries to break us and we can be totally free of pain, fatigue and all that goes with cancer. Farewell for now Jaynie, I will see you again.
Fly, Jaynie, fly! Be forever free!