Last weekend I learned that one of my favorite bloggers and multiple myeloma compadres succumbed to her disease. Nancy, of “Because I Said So” fame signed off her blog three weeks ago after admitting hospice into her life.
We had much in common with respect to our cancer. We both received our multiple myeloma diagnosis in December of 2007. We underwent stem cell transplants during the summer of 2008. We blogged about our experiences and became ebuddies with a common foe. There, the similarities end. Everything that solved problems with my treatment failed with hers. The trajectories of our health went in opposite directions.
In the midst of these travails, Nancy found her voice as a writer. The prose soared whether she was writing about compassion or reviewing chick flicks. She loaded her blog posts with links to entertaining videos, poetry, and websites that charted the absurdity of American life. She also acted as historian and mistress of nostalgia for her Mid-western upbringing. Evidently, she inherited the family archive of photographs. She used these to illustrate poignant stories on everything from epic snowfalls to prom dates. (My favorite is the dog story, The Legend of Penny and Sam.)
Nancy could not catch a break with her disease. Early on, it became clear she had contracted an aggressive variation on the theme we all share. She suffered the indignities of a misdiagnosis, allergic reactions to some chemos, an infected port, exploding IV bags, blood clots, and an uncooperative insurance company, fondly referred to as DieSuckah. As if this were not enough, rude neighbors made the recuperation from her stem cell transplant difficult. And, of course, she received a negligible response from that procedure.
Fortunately, she won the lottery when it came to friendships and family. Nancy also enjoyed a wealth of intelligence, compassion, and keen wit. She revealed with unflinching honesty both the heartbreak and humor of cancer. These attributes contributed to making her blog a highlight reel in the whole of the blog-o-sphere, not just our little myeloma corner of the blogging universe. She wrote clearly and efficiently. I admired her as a fellow writer for nerdy things like sentence structure and the economy and continuity of her prose. I envied the natural instincts of her composition; at heart she was a poetess whose poetry found flight in paragraphs not stanzas.
Her posts from the latter part of 2009 carried ominous warnings of a disease having its way with her. She wrote to me last winter, explaining her decision to stop treatment. In typical Nancy fashion, she seasoned blunt reality with a joke.
She said, “I just happened to draw the short straw this time. (On the other hand, I get to be first to the afterlife, neener neener neener!)”
She knew what she wanted to do and was going to do it her way. Her blog was not sub-titled “Because I Said So!” for nothing.
I’ve linked a few choice posts. Now, in closing, here are some quotes from her at her bloggiest best.
“…In The Gospel According to the Coot, God is love, compassion, the instinct to choose caring over apathy, kindness over cruelty. God isn’t outside of us; if s/he exists at all, it’s inside our hearts.
I could not accept a God who wields tragedy like a weapon; who has the power to cure sick children, and chooses not to.
So even now, I can’t bring myself to pray for healing, because I can’t believe in that kind of God: a God who might say “no” to that request. Instead, I believe in a God who has given us the tools to live in an unpredictable and often unfair world, a God who grieves with us when tragedy strikes. A God who is a source of strength and comfort, not a fairy Godfather with a magic wand…
I can, and do, pray for courage, grace, strength, understanding and patience. Lots of patience.”
And this, on her stem cell collection, which she achieved in a single harvest:
“Every step of this journey, I have been a Murphy’s corollary: whatever can go wrong, will… at the worst possible time and place…and will be wrong to a degree never seen before. Everything from the original misdiagnosis to a near-overdose of some meds to fighting DieSuckah for coverage. There has never been a single event, a single test, a single appointment that has gone “better than expected,” much less perfectly, until now. For the first time since my diagnosis, something has gone perfectly, and I’m having trouble switching gears and believing it’s true.”
Nancy’s gifts as a writer helped me to feel life more completely. Her revelations buoyed me during recuperation from my own stem cell transplant. Sometimes they brought tears to my eyes but, more often, her writing filled me with laughter at life’s mysteries and miracles.
For that, I loved her.