A few years ago I participated in a cancer survivor program as part of my treatment at Cedars-Sinai. It was for people who were mostly done with their treatments and needed some help getting back into the swing of things. It specifically addressed issues such as chemo brain (i.e. forgetting things), physical effects (neuropathy, nutrition, balance), nutrition going forward, dealing with mood changes, etc. We met once a week for six weeks and were a group of six people.
Since the class ended, we have kept up via email and shared our successes and setbacks from time to time. Only one other person besides me was dealing with metastatic cancer long-term, so the attitude of the group was, "we made it through, so now what". No one in our group embodied that attitude as fiercely as Shanee.
She was young, had started her own business, and was very ready to get on with her life. Her cancer experience had been, in my interpretation of her view, an inconvenience or a side step on her way. She was very positive and full of ideas and plans.
Shanee "completed" her cancer experience in January with her long-awaited breast reconstruction, and off she went to conquer the world.
I first heard something was wrong from another group member about a month and a half ago. She told me Shanee's cancer had returned and that she was in the hospital, but that she was in good spirits and would like visitors. Three weeks ago I went to visit her after my treatment and found her just leaving her room for a procedure. I spoke with her briefly, she was very happy to see me and I told her I would try to come back on my next treatment day.
A week or so later I heard she had been moved out of the critical care tower where I saw her and was in a regular room. She appeared to be doing better.
After another week she was moved back, but this time into ICU, was intubated and on oxygen, and needed to have her lungs drained periodically. A tumor ruptured a major artery and she was bleeding internally. She slipped into a coma and stayed there.
Shanee died early yesterday morning in the intensive care unit of Cedars-Sinai. Lord, receive her soul. I heard the news while I was driving to my chemo appointment.
This loss hit me very hard, although I did not know her well. She was so full of life and plans and she never saw this coming. I was attending the class with a very different perspective and was wistful that she was going to get to return to her normal life and I never would. I couldn't have been more wrong.
Cancer is a nasty, sneaky disease. No matter the stage a person is diagnosed, the experience is really never over. You always are on guard. In some ways, I am grateful for my stage IV diagnosis right off the bat because I will always be monitored regularly and will have a chance to get on top of anything new before it gets out of control. No, this doesn't make me totally safe, but it certainly helps.
I can honestly say that I am at peace with whatever comes my way. I understand that I am not in control of any of this and God's will is always what is best for me. In the meantime, I am trying to make the most of every day I have (as we all should).
The doctors who led our group are planning a get together for us to remember Shanee and to share some coping strategies with us.
In the meantime, please pray for her soul and for her family and friends. Rest in peace, Shanee.