I can’t begin to believe it or bring myself to admit it’s true. Because it just can’t be.
Even typing these words seems so alien, so surreal, when reality has been altered so much.
I haven’t even managed to say it out loud yet, in case it makes it true and the heartbreak jumps out of the email I received, and into Real Life, where it will be Too Big To Handle, and I’ll have to face a world where Dyanne died.
It’s been an hour since I wrote those words and I can’t describe how much I hate them. How physically I want to punch into the computer screen and erase them forever and make them not true. My hands are shaking with anger and shock and I can barely see the screen because just knowing that I can’t erase that – knowing what happened – is too much to bear and the floodgates have come loose.
My eyes keep drifting back up the screen as if to check the words are still there – hoping against hope that they’ll change and tell me “No, it’s all okay – she’s alive”.
They’re not changing. Why, oh why aren’t they changing??
I want the old world back. I want the world where I could talk to her on Facebook or email, and swap bad jokes and stories and recipes, back. I want her blog back, with her gorgeous writing and her honesty and her Truth-Telling and her warrior spirit and her determination to share every last part of her fight against breast cancer, just in case it helped someone. I want more time to laugh about silly things kids say or what’s going on with that evil Syphylissa (she did SO well on that – absolutely rose to the challenge and put that baby doll into some truly dubious situations!).
I want my Ten Things co-host back; my friend who offers such support and encouragement and prayers and sensible, optimistic things. I want her input back, and her advice, and her wicked sense of humour and comic timing. Heck, I even want her endless volleyball updates back, and to see the super-supportive mom showing off pictures of her awesome kids.
I want Dyanne back.
And it just hurts so much, with such bitter irony that this Friday coming is the run I was going to run in her honour, because I’ve been so affected by her story and the ways she made the horrors of cancer become real to me. Her compassion and empathy for other people was always so present, and I remember her talking about her feelings of guilt for being so healthy.
And I HATE that I have to now talk about ‘remembering her’ and I HATE, HATE, HATE that she was wrong; that she wasn’t healthy; that it got her. The breast cancer metastasised and ended up in her brain before anyone could do anything sensible, and then suddenly, unexpectedly – game over.
Which is the absolute worst thing about cancer. There’s never, ever a cure. Not yet, anyway. Once you’ve got it, you have it for life (however long that is), and it can reoccur or change or develop at any time, and you’ve essentially been turned into a time-bomb of the life-shattering horror that only a nasty, disease-filled, untimely, unfair, unimaginably early death can bring.
We were even talking recently (I can’t fathom how we got into such gallows humour, but I guess at the time it helped a little), and she joked about this, saying “Biggest impact with me gone: there will no longer be toilet paper on the holder in the bathrooms. There will always be a stack of clean dishes on the counter because no one can seem to figure out where they go besides me (although they find them and get them OUT of the cabinets with no problem). I'm the keeper of the family calendar and am the traffic controller for all things schedule related. I do all the shopping, most of the cooking, all the laundry.”
But then the serious side struck – “I won't be there when my son finishes college and goes on to med school. I won't be there when my daughter goes to prom and graduates from high school and goes on to college and beyond. I'll never meet my grandkids. I won't be there to be my husband's partner, his playmate, his sounding board. My parents will have to bury their child (an OLD child, but still THEIR child).”
It was a sobering thought, and neither sent a message for a while after that, in deference to the utter shittiness of that idea.
This idea which is now the new world. The worse world. The so much worse world.
The thing which hurts most is that I barely even knew her that well. The friendship we had probably only scratched the surface of the all of who she was. Her beautiful memories (which she’s posted about so, so recently – with nary a sign that all was not well), the things (other than frozen custard, sliding on wooden floors in her socks and her cats, Fletcher and Pete) which she liked. What her childhood was like.
And if I, who really knew her so little, am so profoundly upset and thrown by this new world without her, I cannot begin to imagine the depths of grief those who knew and loved her really well must be going through.
Her son and daughter, still so young. Her husband. Her parents. Her friends. The kids she taught at preschool, who will never again spill juice for her to wipe up, or compliment ‘Mith Dyanne’ on her pretty hair. Her church family. Her neighbours.
And on the extreme periphery, yet still devastated – us; her blog family.
Her funeral will be held at her church. They’re going to have yellow streamers and wear bright clothes, and try to remember her liveliness, her Pollyanna optimism, her playful spirit, her strong faith, her determined love for her family, friends, and others. The way she’s been such an amazing, all-in mom to her children, and gave her energy, support, nurture and self so wholly to them.
I’ve heard that everyone’s been instructed to tell stories about her at the funeral, and try to remember her with laughter – as much as possible.
It’ll be a valiant effort because if the gaping, ragged hole in my own heart is anything to go by, they won’t be in the mood.
Apparently she said she doesn’t want anyone wasting money on flowers, but would rather prefer donations to go to the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation and the American Cancer Society.
And in perhaps the most wonderfully bittersweet gesture I’ve ever known, she also wants people to donate to my run, because she was so pleased that she’d inspired me so much, so happy I was doing something to help people in her situation, and to support the researchers who are striving to find a cure, or a prevention, or anything to make sure this never, ever, ever happens to anyone ever again.
My wonderful, beautiful, inspiring, encouraging, hilarious, sweet, wise, amazing friend – I knew you too little, and will miss you an impossibly huge amount.
Just know that now and forever, I, too, want backsies – I want you back.”
Did you catch the quotation marks?
Right there, hiding at the very beginning and very end.
And here’s the big reveal – the big relief – I shouldn’t have to write this obituary – not now, not next year, not ever.
Because Dyanne’s fine (well, not fine, fine – she still has cancer and all its after-effects to contend with) but she’s alive and well, and possibly as anxious as I am about the reaction to this post, for which I sought her permission, her input, and her blessing in writing and posting. And which she bestowed, willingly.
Because we want you pissed off, like, ‘ready to reach through the internet and punch me in the middle of my face’ pissed off.
Yes it was a ruse, but just wait and attribute that anger properly for a moment…
It could have been real. Because this IS what cancer does to people. Indiscriminately.
One day you have a friend or a neighbour or a spouse or a parent or a child, and the next day you discover you have them with cancer, and after a long, gruelling – or short and horrific – battle, they could be gone.
And you could suddenly have an ex-friend, or ex-neighbour, or be widowed, or orphaned, or lose your child.
There is no rhyme. There is no reason. There is no poetry or logic to cancer – only horror.
And it’s this horror which I wanted to make plain today.
Because I want you to hate it as much as I do, and I want you to use that hatred, that passion, to channel your actions.
I want you to donate to Dyanne’s causes. I want you to donate to my run. I want you to run your OWN run, and get me to sponsor you right back. I want you to have a yard sale, or car-boot sale or online sale and donate all that money to some form of cancer charity, facility, research grant or ANYTHING which will help prevent it from taking more of people's loved ones.
Because the people who are fighting this on the medical front-line need to fund their research and treatments, without which, Dyanne would NOT be alive.
Without which so many others, so dear to us, would not be alive.
And, with which, perhaps some who are no longer with us, would be.
So yes – scream, yell, complain, rant, swear. Even do all those at me, if you must...
But you have been informed.
And I don’t apologise, because cancer is PAINFUL. In every way, shape and form of pain there is to be had. I want to shock. I want to appall. I want to galvanise you into more than just words*.
This time, we get a reprieve, and it’s just to get you thinking hard.
You can read her full story, here, at her blog I Want Backsies
Dyanne’s promised to live until she’s 104 – I’m hoping beyond hope that she does, and there is no ‘next time’ for this post. Because it was absolutely one of the hardest things I’ve written.
*But also, I do apologise. Because given the statistics for cancer, I realise that this post will tap into people's Real Hurts. Real Losses. And being hoodwinked in this way may cause Real Upset. For that, I apologise. Because I know some of those hurts too. And they're awful. But what's worse is there's still no cure - the people working on it still need support. People will keep dying. And that's far worse than a little tricksy blog post.