The cancer was in so many places in her body (many, many bones, lungs, liver) that her prognosis was quite poor. One of her sons moved back from New York to California to be with his failing mother. He put his life on hold … something that bothered Mary Margaret all the way to the end. Especially since she lived two years longer than anyone expected!
Mary Margaret kept busy to the extent she could. Her caring oncologist put together creative treatment plans to help extend Mary Margaret’s life. She always knew that there was no cure, but she pressed on regardless. She had several-times-a-week medical visits, but her weekly trips to the metastatic breast cancer support group we attended together were her main social outings. One of her sons jokingly dubbed us “The Loser Ladies Club” because we certainly lost the “early detection” gamble that is so preached in the pink ribbon movement.
At one point, Mary Margaret and I discussed the question, “What do you do with your days?” Here’s some of her thoughts:
“I think it is perhaps the most important question we are facing.
“One of the last things our Franca (died December 7, 2013) said at a meeting was "What's the point?" I was too upset to talk that day, but her question was generally received as 'What's the point of coming to meetings when I am so ill and have nothing to say' or 'What's the point of keeping on when my doctor says there are not any hopeful treatments left for me and my eyes are yellow' --- but I heard it as a much more philosophical issue, one we had talked about many times over the years -- 'What's the point of life at all?' 'Why are we doing this?' Franca had read and re-read a book by E. Tolle called The Power of Now (which I never got through) and found comfort in it and in trying to make each moment count for her. Birgitte, who is a mindfullness meditation facilitator, works on this outlook as well . . . . that any moment of any life is a gift. Franca mourned with each loss (motorcycle-riding, sky-diving, hiking,finally even long walks) and was struggling to find the point in all this effort . . . what is the point?
“As someone whose life has included many disabled and elderly people, I find this a very slippery-slope kind of question --- the money, suffering, time spent to keep someone sitting in a hallway for years . .. . my son's friend, Mattie, who is 34, wears diapers, crawls, and can say 'mama' -- where is his transcendent 'now'? What is the point? But, Oh, so dangerous to begin to judge the quality of worth of a life .. . or which life is worth less, and therefore worthless.
“The final instruction for many is Deut 30:19 . . . ."Therefore choose life . . . ." ( I am a King James girl forthe literary joy of it.)
“So yesterday I did a bit of laundry, my medical daily 'stuff', ironed a couple things, never stepped outdoors, took a few naps . . .. . what's the point?”
The last time I saw Mary Margaret was July 6 of this year. The cancer had moved to her skull, as well as to her brain. The medical team referred to them as extensive bony mets and Mary Margaret couldn’t stop singing the song, “Bony Marone” (Look it up on Youtube.) Her snarky sense of humor was still intact. A week later, she suffered a tibia (lower leg) fracture as her body continued to fail her. She had radiation to deal with the pain, but she stopped all other treatments. She knew her time was short.
Mary Margaret died on September 10. I still cry over her loss. I still expect to see her come into our group with her knitting bag (She was a prolific (and FAST) knitter and crochet-a-holic). She didn’t want visitors in her last days, so I said goodbye to her with a card and an orchid, delivered a week before she died. I don’t know if anyone read it to her, but it was closure for me.
I miss her so very much. The “Loser Ladies Club” isn’t the same without her. She always knew, as we in the group still know, that we’re not losers in the cosmic sense. Our lives have value and our minutes matter. We just want our minutes to stretch into hours, days, weeks, months and years.