The internet is a wonderful, terrible thing. I started participating in online discussion groups when my daughter was born ten years ago. I joined groups of moms with kids of the same age, groups of moms who had c-sections, vegetarian moms, Unitarian Universalist moms, working moms....looking for that community that is sometimes hard to find in "real" life.
And when Craig and I decided it was time to have another baby, I found more message boards. Boards with women who were trying to conceive. Some of those ladies would "graduate" to the next step: the "Expecting in _____" boards, while others would remain on the "TTC" boards for another month.
I "met" a lot of women in July 1998. Though some of the women left the "Expecting in April 1999" message board, due to miscarriages, false positives, or attrition, most of us stayed together, and still remain in contact. We compared notes on our pregnancies and plans for baby. We discussed breastfeeding, cloth diapers, working, staying home, older siblings, pets, and weight gain.
And in March 1999, we started having babies. And the birth stories were riveting. One baby was born by emergency c-section after the mother's placenta abrupted. One baby was born in the back of the family minivan in a 7-11 parking lot after just one hour of labor. We were a lucky group - nearly all of us had babies that were healthy and we recovered easily from our various childbirth experiences.
A few of us found we had more in common that merely our babies' birthdays. Patsy and I were both of the "crunchy granola" type of moms. We breastfed, wore our babies in a sling, co-slept, and cloth diapered. We were active not only in the April 99 boards, but also the Attachment Parenting, Cloth Diapering, and "Granola Moms" forums. We also found each other online in other places. And her baby daughter and my baby son shared a birthday.
Patsy and I, though we had a lot of things in common, were very different people. I sometimes bristled at her posts. While I am a Unitarian Universalist, her posts frequently exuded her strong, evangelical Christian beliefs. A discussion of sex education in school had me so annoyed that I avoided the message board for a few days, until the discussion was over.
Despite our differences, though, we remained good "internet friends." We sent each other greetings on our babies' shared birthdays. We were friendly in our communication. And I read her updates on her growing family and new husband with interest.
And then her update had very bad news.
Throughout 2006, Patsy's health was an issue. She went to the doctor with various ailments, mostly to do with breathing problems. In July, things got really bad. Her email tells us:
I haven't updated in awhile.
Several weeks ago, I was having excruciating back pain - went to my dr. and he thought it was a pinched nerve and gave me some drugs and a cortisone shot.
That same week we did bloodwork and found out I have hyperthyroidism. I am so freaking skinny my butt skin hangs in the back. I think I am 125 lbs now? C made me go to MUSC last week because my dr. wasn't moving fast enough on getting me to an endocrinologist - I'd be dead by Sept. I now have an appt this Friday, which is also J's birthday.
Friday I went to an orthopedic dr. who wanted to do an MRI and surgery. HELLO? He also prescibed meds to me that say don't take if you have hyperthyroidism.
Monday C is going to call a chiro and see how fast I can get in there. I am so weak right now, the last two weeks I've mostly been in a recliner. A has been taking care of everything during the day for me, bless her heart - and C takes over when he gets home.
Don't take your health for granted you guys. I did my whole life. I've spent many sleepless pain filled nights - it's just horrible. I am SO thankful for my children's health.
In August, she went to the emergency room with a collapsed lung. Lots of tests later, the diagnosis was very, very bad. Patsy, who had never smoked, had metastatic cancer in her lungs. Within days, we learned that the cancer was in her brain, too.
It didn't occur to me when I got pneumonia the first time. But, looking back, I remember the first time I was in the ER, and they did a chest x-ray, the dr. came in and told me I needed to see a pulmonary spec. that week (and this was the Sunday of the week of Thanksgiving), and the nurse was taking out my IV and she was avoiding my eyes. Of course, if they saw something and weren't clearer, I'd like to know why. I didn't go to the PS because I didn't have insurance at the time. So it was 8 more months before I was diagnosed. Thank goodness it's not the more aggressive one.
She was in and out of the hospital that fall, making progress, and occasionally updating us on her family. The chemo and radiation seemed to be doing their ugly jobs.
Well, last week I resumed my chemo because my bloodwork looked awesome, my breathing was awesome. But Saturday found me in bed, the dr. said it was normal to start feeling really bad 3-5 days after the treatment. I didn't have treatment this week because of the holiday, but I'll have it again next week. I'll tell you guys, I've always heard having cancer is like a roller coaster ride, well it's so true. Some days I feel so uplifted, and like everything is going to be ok, and other days I worry that I won't be here next Christmas. I swear, if I didn't have C I don't know what I'd do. He is always there for me, he's had to take on SO much since I've been sick. My hair started coming out the other day. It's like, if I run my hands through my hair above my ear to the back, I have about a doz. strands of hair in my hand. I don't think I'll lose all of it - in fact, the dr. commented a few weeks ago that if I was going to lose it, I would have already. But I do think it's going to thin dramatically. I am so dang skinny too.
She posted to the list that another of the April 99 moms had her twin babies on Thanksgiving, and when another mom's daughter was diagnosed with Leukemia, Patsy was there to share what she had experienced with cancer treatment.
I don't know how long it's been since I updated. I haven't been online a whole lot lately. Did you guys know I picked up knitting? Anyway...a few weeks ago I stopped chemo and they put me on a target drug called tarceva. It's like $4000 a month! But with our insurance it's $50, thank God. I have felt awful tho, so I spent Weds at the hospital downtown. They wanted to check me out in case there had been progression since I stopped chemo. C had read that Celebrex can help with Tarceva -something about stopping your body from letting the Tarceva do it's work. He talked to the Dr. on Weds., and my Dr. agreed to put me on Celebrex. I have felt SO much better the last two days. It's amazing. My appetite is even better. Sorry I haven't been more involved...I am always reading though.
I'm pretty sure, as I've looked through my old emails, that this is the last update (around Easter).
Last night, I was reading email and saw that Patsy was in a coma. Her oldest daughter was on the way to her side.
This morning I read that she died last night, around the time I read that email.
Patsy was 43. She leaves behind a wonderful husband, seven children, and lots of real and virtual friends.
I hope she finds herself in the heaven she so strongly believed in, and that her family is comforted by the prayers of so many people around the world.