Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Joy and the Sorrow

Reading my blog you might think that this cancer stuff is just a minor inconvenience. Well, we try to live like that. From time to time, someone in our support group will say that if he or she didn't attend the support group they would forget they had cancer.

That may be true and we have often said that if we didn't have to dialyze five times a week we, too, might think that. But then...

On our arrive home on Sunday, I retrieved my emails (a great benefit of Glacier Park is that there are few internet connections and, for the most part, no cell phone service!) and was brought suddenly back into the reality of CANCER!

Just after we left Madison, two members of our support group whom we had grown to know and love died. We felt bad that we missed their funerals and memorial services and could not say goodbye to them. There remains a deep sadness in both of us.

When we joined the multiple myeloma support group 18 months ago we were both in "post-diagnosis distress." Within our group we immediately found two real "fighters" with tremendous energy and enthusiasm for life: Maggie Heyden and Chuck Koval. They became models and mentors for us.

Maggie was a young woman with children still in school and she was determined to beat this cancer. She was both energetic and full of life. As the year went on, Maggie sought medical advice from around the country, and traveled far and wide to find ways to resist the cancer and improve her health. Then her husband was diagnosed with cancer and Maggie's most recent attempt at another stem cell transplant (this time from a donor) failed. Both Sabine and I will miss her and the joy for life she had.

We had known Chuck and his wife, Peg, before we came to the support group. Their son was an outstanding member of the police department; a man I was privileged to hire. Mike still serves as a training officer on the department and I see a lot of his dad in him. Chuck also had a love of life and learning. As a trained scientist, with a Ph.D. in entomology and a U.W. faculty member, Chuck had a deep understanding of his cancer and shared it with each one of us. His questions to those who came to address our group were not only marked by his knowledge of the disease but also by the clear and special role he had as a patient, a consumer of medical care. (Often one of the visiting physicians would inquire as to whether Chuck had an M.D. or a Ph.D!).

Both Maggie and Chuck gave us all hope for the future. They both had valiantly fought and held back their cancer for many years. Their passing was a sad event for all of us who knew them. Though they both now have passed from this life to their Creator, they still give me hope and the realization that life is a special gift -- to be lived everyday and never squandered.

Thanks to both of you, Chuck and Maggie, and may your souls rest in peace now and forever!

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