Welcome to my world

I am a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister and a friend.
I've learned that who you have in your life matters more than what you have.
Thank you for stepping in to my world!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Kicking cancer's ass - day 1631

Two weeks ago today I was in Virginia, about to say my final goodbye to my friend.
We smiled, we laughed, I cried.  I hugged her one last time, and then as I left, I felt the grief hit me.
I honestly don't even remember the drive to the airport, or my flights home.  It's all a blur.

One week ago today I was in New York, getting ready to attend the memorial service the next day.
The grief was still with me, still sharp.... but dulled a little bit because I was back "home" and with my mom.  I don't care if you are a toddler or a grandmother - there is nothing like a mother's love.  
I got in a quick visit with my dad (who was doing really well!) and got my fill of New York pizza.

At Trudy's memorial service, I stepped way out of my comfort zone.  I knew in my heart that I wanted to say something to honor her, and our friendship.  I just didn't know if I could do it.  

I did.  

Teary-eyed from her husband's eulogy, I stood up and gave my own.  In front of a lot (a LOT!) of people (Trudy was something special) - people I didn't know, friends I haven't seen in decades, family I've known most of my life - I spoke from the heart and thanked Trudy for a friendship that nourished and refreshed my soul.

I met Trudy on the first day of junior high.  We were instant friends, inseparable from that day on.  I have so many memories that Trudy was a part of.... passing notes in school, sleepovers, trips to the mall, Friday night roller skating, cruising in her mom's blue Camaro, going to baseball games with her dad and Uncle Joe, so many different concerts over the years.  We went on beach vacations with each other’s families.  We even got our first jobs (at the same store) on the same day when we were 16.   We were at each other’s houses more than we were at our own.  We celebrated marriages (and I don’t care what Rich Sperl says, I take the credit for getting Trudy and Todd together!)
We celebrated babies.   Being a wife and mom was all she ever wanted to do.  I’m so blessed that even though life took us in different directions, we ended up back in some of the same places, too.  I only lived a few hours from her when she had Zachary.  Two years later they were stationed in Abilene when I had my son.  I went to San Antonio to be with Zac when Jenna was born, and Trudy came to visit me the next year when I had my baby girl.  
I've never used the term "best friend" regarding anyone except Trudy.  We may have lived far apart, but she was never far from my heart.  A few years ago Trudy gave me this necklace I’m wearing.  It says “Wherever you are, it’s your friends that make your world.”  Trudy’s friendship has made my world for most of my life.  She's the Thelma to my Louise.  We've shared love and heartache, fun and excitement, laughter and tears.  We even fought cancer together.
The name Trudy means "universal strength".  That’s so fitting.  Trudy is my hero.  She showed me the way when I had to walk in her shoes.  She never complained, she was never dramatic.... she’d just take what life threw at her and then move on.  She was the strongest, sweetest, funniest friend with the most beautiful heart.
Trudy left us far too soon, but hers was a life well lived.  This is a celebration of that life.  Military wife, school volunteer, Girl Scout cookie mom, swim team mom, walking partner, listening ear…. Whatever hat she wore, she was always the same amazing girl who was my best friend for 33 years.  Trudy was someone you could count on, and she was always up for anything.  So many things about her deserve to be celebrated:  her strength, her compassion, her loyalty, her fun-loving spirit, her faith, her love of family.  Sometimes you don’t realize how the little things in your life may impact someone else.  I will never think of Pepsi, Jolly Cow, popcorn at Target, Disney, road trips, scary movies, Carvel ice cream cakes, chocolate cake at Denny's, Ocean Isle Beach or the movie Top Gun without thinking of Trudy.  The 4th of July in Saugerties will never be the same for me, and I promise to toast her at Pizza Star every summer.   
I went to visit Trudy in Virginia last week.  It was my honor to spend some of her last days with her.  Late one night while I sat there watching her sleep, I made a promise to her.  The only way I could think to honor her was by doing what she did…..so I promised to live a life well lived.  I promised to make the most of every moment, like she did. 
When i walked into her hospice room last Friday morning, Todd asked her if she knew what that day was.   Trudy smiled and said "It’s Michelle's birthday".  Of course.  Of course Trudy would remember that it was my birthday.  Then she and Todd sang Happy Birthday to me.  I will never forget that moment.  It was the best birthday present I’ve ever gotten.  Before I had left the night before, I’d put my phone up to her ear and played Wind Beneath My Wings.  She was sleeping, but the next morning, my birthday morning, she told me that she heard it. 

There has never been a time, since I was 11 years old, that Trudy was not a part of my life.
I want to smile because of all of the years I had her in my life, not cry because there won't be more.
Trudy, you are the wind beneath my wings... Thank you for being my friend.  Thank you for being you.  

Mom and I finished the day toasting Trudy at Pizza Star with her husband and her kids.  Pizza and Pepsi - just for Trude.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Kicking cancer's ass - day 1620

Trudy Lee (Koyon) Grant 
August 10, 1972 - February 4, 2018

When I wrote my latest blog post in the wee hours of the morning on Feb 4th, I knew.  Even though I hadn't been told, hadn't received the phone call or text, I knew.  God was getting ready to call Trudy home.

I couldn't sleep.  I finally made myself go to bed at 3:15am, and I was awake when I got the text from her husband at 6:05am.

I am forever grateful for the time I spent with Trudy last week.  Even though it was so difficult, seeing her so weak and sick, I wouldn't trade those moments for anything.  I wish I could write a beautiful tribute worthy of her, but for once, words are failing me.

Did you know that the name Trudy means "universal strength"?

How fitting.  No matter what life threw at her, she handled it with grace and strength.  Military life with multiple moves and a husband that was gone more than at home, difficult pregnancies, cervical cancer, lymphedema, her sister's heart attack, breast cancer, losing her mother to breast cancer..... Trudy never complained.  Never asked why.  She just kept on keeping on, making the best of whatever she had, and always looking on the bright side.

I'm not waxing poetic because she is gone.  I would have said (and have said) these same things about her while she was alive.  Nobody ever said anything bad about Trudy, because what could they say?  She was a loving, supportive, forgiving wife.  She was the most incredible and inspiring mother.  (Really, she puts us all to shame)  She was the friend I wish everyone could have.

I met Trudy on the first day of seventh grade.  That was in September of 1984.  There are friends who have known her longer, but I'll go out on a limb and say there's no one who has known her better for most of her life.  Whether we were inseparable in high school or spent two years without seeing each other, we could always, always pick up right where we left off.  As if no time at all had passed.  In all of the years we lived away from each other as adults, I can probably count on one hand the number of phone conversations we've had that lasted less than two hours.  It's kinda funny (but not really), but we couldn't even do breast cancer alone.  A year and a half after she got sick, I received the exact same diagnosis, and had the same treatment and surgeries. Crazy, huh?
We've shared love and heartache, fun and excitement, laughter and tears.

For me, Trudy was the one who I could just be myself with.  She never expected more than what I was, and she loved me for who I am.  I could tell her all my secrets and she could share hers with me.  So many important moments in my life.... and Trudy was a part of all of them.

There is no way a few pictures and some heartfelt words can properly express how much she means to me, and how much I will miss her for the rest of my life.  I've lost other people I loved, and some of them hit REALLY hard, but losing her is like cutting off a limb.

My husband is my romantic soulmate.... my other half.
Trudy was my friendship soulmate.... my better half.

There is no one like her, and my life will never be the same without her in it.

I love you BAH.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Kicking cancer's ass - day 1619

It's 1:38am.  I traveled from Texas to Virginia and back in the last three days.  I spent most of my time in Virginia at Trudy's bedside.  I'm physically and emotionally worn out.  And yet here I am, wide awake.  Looking up Bible verses about grief, comfort, strength and friendship.  What do I get?  A quote from Dr. Seuss. 

Insomniac blogging at its worst.

Trudy is an easy person to love.  She has made a lot of friends everyplace she's lived (and with a husband in the military, there have been a lot of places).  She has done a better job of keeping in touch with friends from home than I have.  She is the glue that holds her family together.  She is a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend.  Nobody loves her like her husband does.  Nobody loves her like her children do.  Nobody loves her like her dad does.  Nobody loves her like her sister does.  And I can promise you, nobody loves her like I do.

I've never used the term "best friend" regarding anyone but her.  Being inseparable in junior high through college or living thousands of miles apart....the words "best friends" always rang true.  She's the Thelma to my Louise.

I don't really know how to handle my grief.  Trudy is still here, but she won't be for long.  And even though I'm constantly hounding her family and friends who are with her now, I said my goodbye yesterday.  It was beautiful.  It sucked.  I laughed, she smiled, I cried.  We talked.  I hugged her as tightly as I gently could.  She squeezed my hand.  She whispered that it's always been us.... the bond we share is so special and "just us".  Her words.  

I keep waiting for the call that I know is coming.... the one I'm hoping for (for Trudy) and dreading (for me).  You'd think eventually I'd run out of tears.

I need to find comfort.  I need to find the peace that emanated from Trudy when I left her yesterday.  All I feel is sorrow.  I need to smile because of all of the years I had her in my life, not cry because there won't be more.  

We have shared so many wonderful and meaningful times.... passing notes in school and sharing clothes and cruising in my car and laughing/crying over boys and celebrating marriages and babies.  Trips to the beach and getting our first jobs (at the same store) and going to concerts and playing tennis and going to baseball games.  Fighting cancer.  New Year's Eve parties...like this one:

Given that our cancer journeys have been eerily similar, I know there are no guarantees.  Something else I know....whether I live another two months or another four decades, there will not be a single day that I don't hate the fact that Trudy won't be in it.   

Friday, February 2, 2018

Kicking cancer's ass - Day 1617 (part 2)

Ok, all of my eloquent and beautifully written words from last night..... forget them. (Well, don't forget them because I meant every single one.... I'm just not feeling very eloquent right now. )

I am on the plane headed home, and I am gutted. 

I know Trudy is in a wonderful place, for as long as she stays.  She has her husband, her dad, her mother-in-law, her children, and an amazing number of friends coming through her door.
She's being kept comfortable and treated like a queen. 

But damn I want to be there.  I want to be the one holding her hand, rubbing her lips with the ice she needs, telling her I love her a million times. I want to sit in the quiet night and watch her chest rise and fall with each breath. 

It was hard enough to realize that she is leaving us.... I didn't want to be the one to leave her.

When i walked in this morning, her husband asked if she knew what today was.   "Michelle's birthday"
Of course.  Of course she  would remember that today is my birthday.  Then she and her husband sang Happy Birthday to me.  Are you kidding me?  My heart is in tatters.

I told her that I played Wind Beneath My Wings (I put my phone up to her ear) before I left last night while she was sleeping.  She said she heard it. 

I am comforted knowing that she's at peace.  She knows she's loved.  We had a wonderful, emotional talk about us, and how our friendship has stayed so close for so long.  I hope I left her knowing how special she is to me.
The problem is that Trudy always knows what to do.  So what do I do now? How do I find peace without her to guide me to it?

I have a full life.  I have a wonderful family and some really good friends.  But I won't have my Trude, and that breaks my heart. 

Kicking cancer's ass - day 1617

It's after midnight, which means it's officially my 45th birthday.

I'm celebrating.  Not in the way I would have expected, but in a way that's very meaningful to me.

As I sit here in Trudy's hospice room, listening to her breathing and the hum of the oxygen machine, I've decided to celebrate. 

Celebrate this amazing girl who I've been honored to call my best friend for 33 years.  Celebrate her strength.  Her compassion.  Her loyalty.  Her faith.  Her family.  I look across her bed and see her husband of 25 years dozing in the recliner.  (Thank you for sharing her with me)  I was able to hug both of her kids earlier tonight. 

Even though she is leaving us far sooner than any of us wanted, she will be leaving behind one hell of a legacy.  Hers was a life well lived.  She was always moving, always planning, always going somewhere, always doing something for someone else.  Selfish was not in her vocabulary.  She loved people, and the proof is the endless stream of visitors she's had just since I've been here. 

My friend Kathryn, also a breast cancer survivor, calls our birthdays "bonus birthdays" now.   This is my fifth bonus birthday, and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world right now.  
Her hair is a mess, her lips are dry, she slept most of the day (after keeping me up most of last night needing ice chips and asking me if I was awake), but my Trude's still the best birthday date I could ask for.

I will see her tomorrow before I have to get back on a plane to head home, but tonight... just me and her.... this is our time.  Time for reflection and remembering.  Time for my goodbye.

My heart aches, but Trudy is at peace.  She's told me that more than once in the last day and a half.   I hope she goes Home soon.  God, she's ready and waiting.  

Trudy Lee.... Thank you for being you.  You've earned your wings.  Cancer is no match for our mighty Father, and I'm relieved you will be whole and healed in His presence soon.

I promise to live a life well lived.  I promise to bring my kids to Busch Gardens with your kids.  I promise to toast you at Pizza Star every summer.  I will be better about organizing my linen closets (but you're a hard act to follow!).  I will never think of Pepsi, Jolly Cow, popcorn at Target, train rides, road trips, scary movies, Cheap Trick's  "The Flame", Lake Taconic, amusement park rides, Carvel ice cream cakes, July 4th in Saugerties, bacon on a hard roll, Sea World, chocolate cake at Denny's at 2am, Ocean Isle Beach or Top Gun without thinking of you.  And when I go to Disney this spring to watch my son march with his band in the parade, I know you will be cheering loudly from above your favorite place.  It's been my honor and privilege to spend some of your last days with you. 

I love you BAH.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Kicking cancer's ass - day 1615

2018 is barely thirty-one days old and already I hate it.  
This is insomniac blogging at its worst.  

Six weeks ago my mom lost her best friend to cancer.  They had been the closest of friends for decades.  They had seen each other through good marriages and divorce.  They had raised children in the same neighborhood and shared a love of music, peace and nature.  It was devastating that such a youthful, healthy woman 70 years young could succumb to such a horrible disease.

It's even more devastating that I am on the verge of losing MY best friend to that same damn disease.

It was almost four years ago that I went to visit my dear friend Allyson after I had finished chemo.  She had fought the good fight and went home to hospice care when there was nothing else to be done.  It was the last time I saw her.

Tomorrow (or should I say today) I am flying to Virginia to see Trudy.  My oldest and dearest friend is reaching the end of her fight.  She is weary and her body is weak, but her soul is at peace.  She has been my best friend for over three decades.  We've seen each other through heartbreak and love, childbirth and loss.  I can't imagine any world without her in it, but I especially can't imagine MY world without her.  

One of Trudy's greatest strengths is her faith in the Lord, and I'm doing my best to mimic that.  While my mind is screaming "WHY??????", my heart is seeking peace through His word.  I don't know what else to do.

Psalms are some of my very favorite Bible verses.


I'm counting on that.  
I have experienced quite a bit of loss in my life.  But none of them hit as hard as this one.

There are tears streaming down my face and a knot in my stomach, knowing my trip tomorrow will probably be the last time I see my BFF.  Life will never be the same.  We may live far apart, but she has never, never been far from my heart.  So many years of memories, so many laughs.  Her friendship has been a comfort I can't even describe.  

I'm relieved for her.  As her husband put it, she's been a valiant soldier.  But she's tired.  She deserves a rest.  She deserves peace.  I just wish with all my might that those things didn't come with such devastating loss to those of us who love her.  

I've never had to prepare myself to say goodbye.  I don't even know where to begin.