Wednesday, December 17, 2014

DANNY'S SONG

Every life has a story and this life is no different.

Danny is someone who was very dear to me.  His ashes, as I understand it, have been spread over the graves of his mom and dad.  That was his wish.  He planned each detail.

Beyond being someone who was so very dear to me, going back many decades, Danny was a man whose smile could like a room.  His heart was huge.

Danny and I were inseparable after high school for a bunch of years.  We lost touch for many years at a time with an occasional phone call here and there.

Earlier this year, I found out he was diagnosed with lung cancer.  I called him to say hi, to let him know I was thinking about him.  He gave me the details.  He had shingles.  Bad.  For whatever reason, they did a CT and saw this thing on his lung.

When I spoke to him in March, he had completed chemo.  I recall him saying that it really knocked him on his ass.  He told me the oncologist pushed a very strong regimen because he was in great shape and in that oxymoronic fashion, he was very healthy.  Except for that cancer shit.

I spoke to him again in May.  This time, he called me just to say hi.  It was May 18th.  The date held sentimental value to us and he mentioned during that call how he never forgot that and how each year, he would remember our friendship and how each year, he would think about calling, but he never did.  This year, less than four months ago, he decided he was going to call.  We strolled down memory lane together.  He sounded great, he was feeling great.  Cancer was a blip, he fully rebounded from the chemo and life was good.

Except, apparently, it wasn't.  I have no reason to think he knew something was wrong when we spoke.  I can only surmise the cancer returned with a vengeance.  A couple of weeks ago, I got word that he wasn't well.  In fact, I learned, "it doesn't look good."  I had every intention of calling him but each day, every day brought new challenges in my own life.  I never made the call and now, it's too late.

Danny died on September 3rd in a hospice facility in Florida, near the town where he had been living for the past few years. His former wife, an MS patient, was at his side the entire day.  Five minutes after she left, he took his last breath.

This is the essence of who he was.  Danny was married for a short time.  Married life was not for him and although they divorced, they remained best friends.  When she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, well after their divorce, Danny made it his business to care for her.  When her condition deteriorated to the point where she would need care beyond what he could do in his home, when she was no longer able to live alone, he arranged for her to be moved to a nursing home.  When he relocated to Florida, he arranged for her to be moved from NY.

It wasn't near his home, but rather than settle on something less than, he had her put on a waiting list at a facility that was close to his home.   He would not accept anything short of the best possible care and he spent every weekend visiting with her, driving quite a distance but never missing even one weekend.  Until the shingles thing.... and then the cancer thing....

My heart is broken.  It has taken me more than three months to put my feelings and thoughts on paper.  I started writing this shortly after his death.  The hurt, the emotions, the anger over what I feel is senseless kept me from putting pen to paper, to fully capture the man, the friend and the gentle soul with the big heart.  I can't pick up the phone to check on him.  I won't hear his voice again.

Lung Cancer.  It kills and it kills and it kills some more.  My friends who work so diligently to promote awareness of this disease, the stigma attached to it and the lack of funding for research to improve outcomes, do so because this should not be happening. Even with earlier diagnoses, the outcomes are not nearly where they should be.  My beloved grandfather was 55 when he died.  I was ten years old.

Danny was in his 50's too.  He had a LOT of life left.

Instead, he was stolen from those who loved him.

Today, I cry.  And today, I remain aligned with my friends who advocate on behalf of that patient population.


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