Tuesday, May 20, 2014


It seems it's coming in waves.  I am long past that point and frankly, now, I'm taking all of this quite personally.  My anger consumes me.  The sorrow is palpable.

Yesterday, I learned that one of the bloggers from the UK died.  Vicki, who blogged at Stage IV and Beyond, was fondly known as Sticki Vicki in social media circles.  She was diagnosed with Stage II disease in the latter part of 2007.  It's almost seven years since her diagnosis and today, she is gone.  One more life stolen by this disease.  One more early stage patient whose disease progressed and ultimately took her life.  If you don't know Vicki, take some time to poke around her blog.  She was a fierce advocate and someone who frequently left comments on many of our blogs.

The evening before, I was utterly stunned to be told by a friend that Jude Callirgos had also died.  Exactly two months prior, Jude was at an event in Connecticut where she WAS the event.  It was a book reading and signing in a quaint New England town south of Danbury.  I remember the day of the event because I had every intention of driving up to CT.  The weather got dicey and I decided it best to err on the side of safety.  Every ounce of shit that feel from the sky from October through what feels like last week, somehow managed to turn the roads to ice.  And I stayed put, a 90 minute drive from Jude's book reading.

I know it was a huge success and the last thing I knew, Jude was in Italy sipping wine in Tuscany as she had been planning for quite some time.  I also know her trip was delayed by two days because she had to address a last minute medical issue.  It took her seven hours to rebook her airline tickets which is likely fourteen times longer than the medical procedure.  Jude was a friend to many.  Behind the scenes and despite her deteriorating health, I know she was helping others.  I know this because she helped me, using her far reaching circle of friends and her knowledge of that area of CT, to put together some information I needed.

I don't recall asking, I just recall mentioning I was going to try to get to the book reading and why the location of the venue was of interest to me.  She jumped into action.  That's just how Jude was.  I know others have shared privately how she offered to do things for them, too.  Again, it was Jude who jumped in.  "I can help with that....."  To say I am saddened doesn't even scratch the surface.  Breast Left Unsaid, Jude's book, is filled with her wry wit and dark humor.

In Jude's words,  "if I managed to reach you in some way, or my fondest wish - made you laugh - I will rest easy knowing that I recounted my story for a purpose."  Jude is resting easy.  One can't help but laugh at her reactions in some situations and her observations of others.  Jude's death, although I knew she was quite ill, came as a shock to me.  In a span of two months, she did her book event, traveled through Italy for several weeks and died.  Just like that.  I have my thoughts about "just like that" but absent any knowledge of fact, I'm going to refrain from any conjecture.  All I'm going to say is that Jude's voice and her friendship is going to be missed by so many of us.

Although Jude pokes fun at the Betty Rollins' memoir in saying "Unlike the book, I did not cry first.  Not a tear.  I broke shit."  I did cry first when I heard of Jude's death.  And then, I screamed the word FUCK at the top of my lungs.  If there was a stronger, more offensive word, I can assure you, I would have used that one instead.

Unfortunately, for me, it doesn't end there.  When I began writing, I knew nothing about blogging.  As I poked around, knowing my intention was to focus on chemobrain, I found a blog called Confessions of a Chemo Brain.   I reached out to Jaime.  She is a New Yorker, she is "part of the Sloan Kettering family in NYC" and she is Italian-American.  I could relate on all counts.  Jaime was living with Stage IV Lung Cancer.  We became friends.

She hadn't been blogging and I got worried.  I left a message under one of her posts.  She emailed me to let me know everything was fine and we became Facebook friends.  I love Facebook.  Now, not only can I stalk my kids, I can keep tabs on so many of the people I've come to cherish.  Jaime was one of those people.  In the frenzy of the past few months, I haven't been checking FB.  I definitely need to come up with a more organized system with both Facebook and Twitter.  My online life has become as disorganized as my office.

This morning, I thought about Jaime.  I went to go leave her a note.  The last thing Jaime posted on Facebook is so fitting of her humor and everything I love about her.  I laughed.

"It's gotten to the point that if a drug company introduces me to a man on tv I assume there is something wrong with his penis."

That was written on January 26th.  If my math is correct, Jaime turned 38 years old on March 5th.  Sometime after midnight, the day after her birthday, she was gone from this world.  Another cancer death.  Another piece of my heart.

First, I cried.  Or maybe I cursed.

But then, like Jude, I broke shit.

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  1. In another group of metastatic survivors two have died in the past week. Both were mothers. These are younger women with a kind of aggressive disease that nothing stops. That nothing stops. Nothing. Watching this kind of suffering these past months is changing me beyond tears, into a kind of shocked rage. That is six women in the last week alone.

    Blogging, social media, twitter and Facebook are all excellent for helping those of us with a shared interest to connect. It also connects us to the greater sorrow all affected by Stage IV illness share. Although the pain is very real the only thing I would change is more voices, more shouting for more effective treatments. I don't hear enough people yelling.


    1. Jody, my dear friend,

      Yes, shocked rage is a good way of putting it and I agree. There isn't nearly enough yelling; effective yelling for meaningful breakthroughs. This incremental nonsense has run its course for me. Ditto the misconception that "no one dies of breast cancer anymore."

      Yes, I'll continue my yelling. There isn't nearly enough urgency for my liking.


  2. My dear test friend I love you so. I lost two other friends besides Jude. Amber and Joann both last week. I took it hard and still am. This isn't right and pisses me off. Let's break shit and drink patron xo

    1. Oh AnnMarie--you know I love you tons, too. This year is no different than any other it just feels like it's hitting much closer to home which makes it sting that much more.

      I'm at the ready to launch shit and pass the patron between us. The hell with the glasses-we'll go right from the bottle.


    2. I stopped blogging in Feb. I couldn't bear to read one more name from bloggers who died. I wrote my blog I thought with gut feelings. Someone wrote me an email that I was always so negative, I never had anything good to say. It was like a slap!! There is nothing about Breast Cancer that makes one feel happy. I felt a little dejected I suppose because my other blog was hacked had to start fresh and no one was reading me further..Cancer changes people without a doubt!! I am so damn tired of receiving news sometimes one two or more times a week another fabulous woman is gone..I stopped counting, I can't they are not just numbers but women, mommies, sisters, aunties, wives lovers girlfriends, blogging buddies..voices silenced well fuck it and fuck cancer . Add one more voice to the angry choir.... When does this stop. Tonight I go back to blogging I have a lot to say!! Lots of Love AnneMarie.....Alli XX

  3. Seriously this feels impossible to grasp and not lose one's shit. It just feels impossible. I'm grateful for the goods like friendships and laughs and support, but sometimes the bads just feel so, damn, impossible. Sending you a hug.

  4. dear Annemarie,

    thank you for this - I could not for the life of me name what came over me in hearing of so many deaths in such a short period of time. but now I have. sheer rage that wants to launch me into orbit, but the sorrow has put heavy steel weights on my heart. crying and screaming - GAH! if there's anything left in the patron bottle, please pass it - I feel a deep and burning need to escape form all this horrible reality. today feels like just too mofo much.

    love and warm hugs,


  5. Powerful words, my friend. {hugs}

  6. Tearing up at the post and the comments. So sorry for and angry at all the losses and the loved ones left behind. This disease is horrid. *hugs*

  7. AM ... I wish there was never again a reason to write a blogpost like this. Jude's death was heartbreaking and you captured her very essence here. I was planning on hitching a ride with you to her book event and am also cursing the weather. She touched people in such a profound way, often without ever meeting them in person. She always thanked me for introducing her to #BCSM (or at least, coming out of lurker mode). Boy could she find the humor in almost *any* situation. I am trying hard to embrace that lesson from her. Glad you are up for air ... miss you so much. xo

  8. As I read above - very powerful words. I love coming to your blog and reading what I wish I could say. Or write.


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