Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cloud Keeper

Cloud Keeper

Cinda's Story

by Linda Anson

I found this story written out long-hand on notebook paper in our file cabinet. I have no idea when Linda wrote this, but I'm going to guess it was in the summer or fall of 1993. There are a lot of scratch-outs and false starts, I've included them because they tell about Linda. -- Dale Anson

Cinda smiled a dimply smile, her eyes sparked as she leaned into the conversation. "I want to be remembered by some act totally outrageous."

"Well, if someone told me I had 6 months to live, I'd gorge myself on all my favorite foods and make love for days!" Cynthia returned.

"Right," Cinda said. "Like cancer is such a turn on!"

"I'd travel," added Linda. "Budapest. I've never been to Budapest."

The three women sat around a chrome table in the old deli downtown Moscow (Idaho). They were gathered for what would be their last laughter luncheon as a trio.

Cinda, 49, married, mother of five and a cancer patient, was about to begin an experimental cancer treatment. One last desperate attempt to put her cancer in remission.

Cynthia pushed back in ther chair, "You're supposed to grow old before you die." Linda and Cinda exchanged a look of understanding. Cancer was common ground for the two women. Linda, 46, wife and mother of two, was in remission from her breast cancer. She and Cinda had met a few months earlier at a cancer support group. Like Linda, Cinda had fought and won the battle against breast cancer. She had a bilateral mastectomy, chemo, and hormone therapy. Unfortunately, Cinda had a recurrence. This time, the cancer was in her bones and lungs.

Linda buried her tear-streaked face into the warm coat of her dog Grafi. The black lab leaned her body into Linda's, giving the comfort needed. Linda raised her head, wiped away the tears. "Oh, Grafi, how can you not miss someone who loved dogs and Disneyland and the very essence of life?" Her mind screamed. She got up from the couch and walked into the kitchen for a cup of coffee. Standing at the sink, she shrugged her shoulders as if to shrug off the mantle of gloom that seemed to hover about her.

Sometimes I want to turn back time and relive days when things were going my way. I'd like to turn back to a time in my life when I still had both of my children living at home and I still had both of my breasts. It was harder parting with my son than with my breast.

Recriminations. Regrets. Remorse. Words of powerful feelings. Sorrow. Sadness. More works, more feelings. Where does one begin to put down in words the depth of emotion that one feels at the loss of a valued friend? I thought I was prepared for Cinda's death, she had terminal cancer. The experimental treatment she chose to pursue had slim margins of successful results. I guess I thought it was a lot like the lottery. You know you're probably not going to win, but you buy a ticket anyway. When your numbers aren't drawn, it doesn't come as a big surprise. Somehow, knowing all the odds, I was still unprepared for the magnitude of the loss I felt when she died.

Cinda came into my life just a few short months ago. I met her on a warm evening in early spring. I had walked the few short blocks from my house to the Hospice office to attend my first cancer support meeting. We all sat around a table and our "leader" asked if we would each introduce ourselved and state our medical cases that had brought us to this place. There were 16 people crowded in that small room. Several were supportive family members, the rest like me all had or had had cancer. As they started introducing themselves around the table and describing their various cancers, treatments, and stages, I was overwhelmed by their calm recitations of life threatening conditions. I was so new to this arena at the time, I didn't even understand the significance of the statements. When Cinda spoke, I paid close attention because she, like me, had had breast cancer.

Cinda told of her bilateral mastectomy several years ago and her chemo. She spoke of recently discovering a lump on her collar bone and having some tests run.

I hadn't started chemo yet. I didn't know that breast cancer could end up anywhere but in your breasts. The depth of my ignorance about my own condition became clearly aware to me that night. Over the next few weeks I would learn a great deal about cancer. I would learn even more about the courage, compassion, and genuine concern of the cancer victims. Cinda became my educator, my cheerleader, and my friend. When they discovered her cancer had recurred, this time in her bones and lungs, I was still an innocent in that diagnosis. My first reaction was fear. If this could happen to Cinda, this could happen to me. Cinda instinctively felt my fear and shielded me from the starkness of her condition. A few months ago she told me they could not cure her but the treatment she was taking could give her more time. I guess I wanted to believe that meant years. It was only after her death that I found out it had meant months. I have deep regret that I did not work harder at being her firend. I just figured we had some time.

Over the months that I was fortunate to have her in my life, we shared a lot of feelings. She gave me a friend. Cinda liked to match up people. She and I and our mutual friend shared a lot of laughter over long lunches. Cinda always sent cards from her adventures. She drove to California in a pick up truck. She went to Alaska. She went to Disneyland. She went to London. Before she left for her final days, she sent out a card. She said she couldn't help feeling like she was going off to camp. Her amazing ability to see everything as an opportunity for adventure is one of the many things I'll miss about her.

Cinda once told me she wanted to be remembered by some outrageous behavior.

Cinda, my friend, you will be remembered by your outrageous sense of adventure, your outrageous ability to draw the most diverse groups of people together, and your outrageous ability to give so much to so many without asking or wanting anything in return.

I sat at your memorial and listened to your family and friends share their thoughts and feelings about you. Only then did I fully understand how truly precious your friendship was.

Sometimes you grow old before you die. Cinda was only 49 but her whimsical intelligence came from an ancient wisdom. The world was a better place with your presence.

While there will be a large empty space in my life for a long time to come, I can't help but rejoice in knowing the universe shines brighter because you are now part of it.

In memory of these wonderful people. These were the members of the "Life Boat", Linda and Cinda's support group. I don't know about the spouses, but I do know that all of the people on this list lost their battle with cancer. I believe that Linda lasted the longest of the group, and I am thankful for everyday that I got to spend with her.

  • Ginny Berg
  • Judy Nielsen
  • Linda Anson (and husband Dale)
  • Linda Frei
  • Marilyn Levy (and husband Stuart)
  • Roberta McFadden (and husband Bruce)
  • Rusty Black (and wife Carol)
  • Tom Gaul (and Melinda Menne)
  • Cinda Thompson (and husband Bill)
  • Dee Overstreet
  • Shirley Kees
  • Jeanne Wetmore

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