I learned about blogging from my sister Debby. She wrote an inspirational blog that started off talking about her life and her love for daughter Zoe, and sadly ended talking about her fight against leukemia that eventually resulted in her death (her obit). She beat leukemia once, but relapsed in November 2008.
On Thanksgiving of that year, she became very sick from the effects of the chemotherapy, and I rushed her to the MD Anderson ER. I’ve never been as thankful as I was that Thanksgiving. Sad we couldn’t be with our family, but thankful that hospital workers were there to take care of her, and cafeteria workers provided an imperfect turkey dinner.
Debby stayed in the hospital from Thanksgiving 2008 until her death in May 2009. For the last 6 months of her life, she was confined in loud ICU wards. She could only breathe through a respirator, could barely move, was in near constant pain and could not speak. She fought hard, painfully to live, and when they finally told her that she would never get off the respirator and that her death was certain, she asked me to update her blog with a message that would be posted after her death.
The following is the only post she did not type herself. She mouthed the words to me over months, and it was very difficult communicating with her, writing this all down. Even helpless and in pain and waiting for her death, she wanted to make a difference to others. She was trying to find any sort of meaning in her terrible suffering. This is Debby’s message of Thanksgiving to you, reprinted from her blog that sadly no longer exists (UPDATE 2012: part of her blog was recovered somehow and can be found here: www.debutaunt.com. It is brave, honest, funny, will make you cry even if you didn’t have the pleasure of knowing how fantastic Deb was. I miss her every day.)
From the blog post, “Not Even Death Can Stop Deb From Having Her Say:”
“I am writing this blog post to say a more proper goodbye to all the interweb peoples who have helped me keep it together. Who have given so much support to me through the years. Who are my friends and family. Who were strangers who became friends.
In my blog, I often give assignments for people to do. Here’s the ones that are on my mind….
1. Appreciate everything. Even stupid stuff. Since I’ve been sick, I’ve communicated with a number of service members abroad. We understand each other well because we both know how much we miss just the normal stuff that most people take for granted. Driving. Driving in traffic. Complaining about stupid stuff is for people who have no idea how good they have it.
2. Be a force for good. There’s enough bad stuff in the world without adding to it. Forgive people and leave grudges for others. Do kind things just because. Figure out what you are good at and do good with it.
3. Seek a higher power. I believe Jesus Christ is my savior and this gives me comfort. As it takes faith to believe, it takes faith not to believe. I believe God doesn’t want us to live our lives on an island, and that finding a community of faith that is uplifting and supportive to you can make a huge difference in your life. If you have that cool. If you don’t, consider it. But don’t wait until you are looking death in the eye because you will miss out on some neat things. (Love you ACTS community!)
4. If you have kids, squeeze them. And then squeeze them again. Give yourself a pat on the back if you are responsible and work hard to give your children a good life and better opportunities. Sometimes you don’t give yourself enough credit. If you have people in your life that you love, tell them that. Often. Don’t save your I love you’s for a rainy day.
5. Take care of yourself. I understand more than most that there are injuries and illnesses that you can’t prevent by eating well and moving, but that doesn’t mean you should be fatalistic. Nothing like being hooked up to a respirator to make you appreciate just getting going, doing and breathing. Treat yourself at least as well as you treat your car–you put the right type of fuel in your car and you drive it safely most of the time–you are more important than a car so treat yourself that way.
6. Enjoy life. Life is meant to be enjoyed, and as long as it isn’t hurting yourself or others, go for it. Bring joy to others. Find passions in your life that make you want to get out of bed in the morning, unless your passion is sleeping and then go ahead and sleep in.
7. Be open to new things. Listen. Doesn’t mean you have to change your mind, but who knows, you might learn something.
8. Support sensible health insurance reform. I’m not sure what that ends up looking like, but injuries and illnesses shouldn’t fate people into a life of insurmountable debt and bill collectors. I spent the last “healthy” months of my pre-hospital stay, worried and scrambling to find insurance because my COBRA insurance ran out. Patients should be able to focus on getting better and not crushingly large mountains of papers telling them that their credit is forever screwed.
9. Ask for help. This is a hard assignment. For a lot of people, it isn’t easy to ask for help when you need it. But what I’ve discovered is that it is a part of the human condition for people to want to help those in need. People enjoy helping others. Sometimes you get help where you don’t really expect it. So if you need help with something, go to the appropriate people and get it.
I sometimes think that the bad stuff that happens in life is one of the few things that bring people together. It still sucks, but maybe it sucks a little less.
There are too many people to thank for the help they gave me and my family over these difficult times. I would list you individually but am afraid I would leave someone important out. My last days have not been easy at all, but it has been a great comfort to know about all those who gave me prayers and love.
In my life, I’ve looked for love in a lot of wrong places, and as I die, it is nice to know I am surrounded by love.
10. Last assignment. There is no last assignment. You create your own assignments every day. Choose wisely.
To sum it all up….I love you internets! I love you friends! I love you family! I love you Zoe!
All my love,
Deb’s Story: An American Health Insurance Tale. Deb’s story in her own words about her insurance struggles.