My Aunt Debbie passed away this morning after a battle with cervical cancer that was nothing short of brutal much of the time. Having been in remission for awhile now, she continued encountering other problems that doctors often thought were a result of the intense radiation she went through at the beginning. We all spent nearly all of the last year frustrated that she breezed through chemo and then the remission aftermath was the tough part - which seems backwards!! But, as I am sadly learning from experience, remission doesn't last forever, and when the cancer comes back it does so rearing it's ugly head and then there is nothing left to do.
Debbie's cancer came back in February... but she didn't tell anyone, including her immediate family. I can't say I blame her, as I know my family and we're an optimistic believe in miracles kind of bunch... and whether we understand it ourselves or not, she knew that it was her time to go, and she wanted to do it her way. But, that doesn't make us wish any less that we had known what she has been holding in for a couple of months, preparing herself for something that we all continued praying would still be way off in the future.
She got her hair done and painted her nails last week. She redid her bedroom and made it a place that she was happy to spend her final days in. She wrote letters to all of her kids and hid them behind picture frames for my other aunt to give them when today came. Oddly, I admire her for all of this - I can only hope that I am as strong and as at peace with everything as she was if I am ever faced with a literal life and death situation.
Thankfully, I saw her on Easter, and although barely 100 pounds and obviously in pain she was cracking jokes and laughing with all of us talking about the Forest Park St. Patrick's Day festivities she missed out on in March. The last time I heard from her was late the week before last, when we chatted over text messages and she ended the conversation by telling me that she is proud that I am her niece. While I was obviously extremely touched by the message, a big part of me wishes it would have struck me that maybe she was telling me that right at that time for a reason.
My favorite memory of Debbie would make no sense to anyone that wasn't there if I were to try and type it out. For the record, it involved the Taco Bell chiwawa, my Uncle Jerry, a lot of beer, a photo album that you could record voice messages on to go along with the pictures, and a rhino in handcuffs. The picture below is from that night and I am certain I will never forget it.
(My Aunt Cinde, myself, and Debbie)
This week is bound to be ridiculously tough and emotionally draining. I'll be making it through with a lot of prayer and a lot of time with my incredible family and Dan.
We all love you dearly, Aunt Debbie... you will be in everyone's thoughts and hearts forever.