Monday, 16 April 2012

And Thirty Years Later...

What a difference time makes.
Thank you for the emails and notes after my last post - I was a bit on the gloomy side, I'll admit. There are those days too, unfortunately, where things just feel a little overwhelming.  Luckily more than not they are nowhere near as numerous as the ones when I am feeling ready to take this thing on.

April 11th, the day before my oncologist meeting, was a special anniversary. It was the 28th anniversary of the death of my childhood best friend, Diego, from cancer. He died of leukemia when we was 10.  Before Diego I had never heard the word cancer. I didn't know what it was, or what it did. In fact, I didn't know that Diego had it at all. See, we were never told. We knew he got sick a lot, and was often absent from school, but that was about it.
During one particular long stint I found out that he was in the hospital, managed to get the number and reach his room. He was asleep, the nurse told me. I had wanted to speak to him so badly, and frustrated that I couldn't I asked her if I could tell her a poem, and if she could write it down and read it to him from me.

She agreed.
All of nine years old, I made it up on the spot. I don't remember most of it, but I remember I put into it everything I had. She promised she would read it, and  I hung up, happy. Hopefully I would see him soon, and I hoped he'd like the poem.

The next day we were at school when we were all summoned into my classroom and told that Diego had died.

Died? What? He was a kid. Kids didn't die, it was a fact. Old people did. But Diego was our age, so clearly that was impossible.  I was numb, and when another kid asked who Diego was I wanted to smack her. Diego was my best friend. He was my world. How could she not know who she was, how the world had just changed?

They told us he had been sick for a long time, and cancer had finally killed him. It couldn't be true. I'd seen him a week ago. I'd talked to him, and he'd smiled at me. I'd run past him after he said to go ahead to the playground, and he would follow. He'd promised.

The funeral was a blur. It was closed casket, and I was one of the ones helping to carry it. Not really, since I was a little kid -- but I held one of the corners, wondering how it was possible that all his sweetness and kindness could be held in a box. I wanted to look, but they wouldn't let me. I was convinced they were lying and he wasn't in there at all.

Diego was the youngest of his siblings, the baby of the family. After the funeral his parents asked me and his other two closest friends to come over to their house, gave us some of his toys to remember him by. I got his stuffed owl and ladybug, a book of fantastical creatures by Leonardo da Vinci. I still have all of them.  His parents told me that the nurse told them about the poem. She had read it to Diego just before he passed away.  She'd lost the paper after, so his parents wondered if I could remember it and write it down for them.

I did, as best I could. All I could think was how good it felt to know he'd heard me, before he went away.

I made so many promises to him that day; I promised I would live, and adventure, and travel. I would marry and have kids, I would do anything and EVERYTHING, so he could feel like he lived his life through me too.  I promised him I would remember.

I remember every year, but it had been a while since I had visited his grave. I no longer live in Colombia, where I was born and Diego is buried.  Last year, however, I had to go there with Aiden as there was a family emergency, and I made it a point to go by it and introduce them, as I never had before.  My stomach felt sick about taking my son to visit a graveyard, and yet I remember doing it almost every Sunday growing up.

My sister Ili and my mom came with us - my uncle Horacio is buried not too far from Diego's plot, so we decided to visit them both. I got a bunch of sunflowers and one red rose for Diego's grave -- and it took me ten minutes to find it, even having the map and the plot number. It was so overgrown, so forgotten. Below his lay his father, who passed away a few years ago, Fortunato. "Lucky". Fortunato who saw his youngest child die of leukemia at the age of 10.

I dug a little hole to put the water bottle in, to lay the flowers there. I cried as I washed over the grave and introduced my best friend to my son. I couldn't stop sobbing when I noticed that Diego and Aiden share the same birthday -- there was something about that that just made me ache.

Aiden thanked me. He thanked me for introducing him to Diego. For taking him to see his grave, and for knowing he was his guardian angel. We'd shaved his head because my sister did a horrible job trying to cut his hair ( she was sure she could, having seen a video on youtube about cutting hair), and seeing him there with his shaved head, big brown eyes and sweet, amazing heart made me cry harder. I couldn't help but seeing bits of Diego in my son.

The day before my CT scan I was remembering all this. I was remembering  when my son asked me why Diego had died at all. I answered that at the time ( almost thirty years ago!) the research simply wasn't there. In fact, if Diego were to get the same cancer now, I said, he would probably have lived through it just fine. So much has been accomplished and learned in those nearly thirty years.

There are days when I AM scared. Days were I contemplate a world without me in it, because I have to plan ahead the practicalities - the taxes, powers of attorney, will and arrangements. My mind is too practical in that way - I know that its morbid to discuss them, but I know that  in the event something WERE to happen the last thing I would want is for my family to have to deal with bureaucracy on top of everything else. 

I'm done my moping  ( did plenty last week!);  in a few days we head off in our glorious road trip of AWESOMENESS, to see Banf, Drumheller and other long postponed beauty along the way. Then on the 24th  I am meeting with the experts, looking over my tests and scans and formulating a battle plan.

Music Suggestions Please?

With that in mind! Mel and Andrea helped me start a Fight the Jelly  song list - positive music to put us all in the right mood. Since this will be a road trip I would really love suggestions on other positive, going-to-kick-your-butt songs!

So far we have:
  • I'm still standing- Elton John
  • Eye of the Tiger - Survivor
  • Gonna Fly now ( Rocky theme) - Bill Conti
  • Just Stand up (against cancer)- Rihanna, various
  • You haven't seen the last of me - Cher


  1. Scrolled through what I had, dunno if these are what you're looking for but hey, maybe it's a start-

  2. I'm pretty sure my interpretation of this song is probably not whatever U2 had in mind, but may I suggest Walk On?

    Stay strong, and have fun on your roadtrip! :)

  3. I'm waffling on some of these suggestions, but to me they've always sounded positive in their own way.

    "Livin' on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi
    "You Raise Me Up" by Josh Groban
    "You Are Loved (Don't Give Up)" also by Josh Groban
    (Maybe?) "Firework" by Katy Perry
    "Lean on me" --take your pick on covers; quite a few have been done
    "I hope you dance" by LeeAnn Womack

    I'm kind of blanking on the rest. But there is one song by Josh Groban that... while not sounding so uplifting and positive... really touched me and helped me through the hard days after my mother passed away. It's called "Awake". I really do recommend it.


  4. Ok my musical friend! I have for you the perfect road trip song. It's completely upbeat, gets me dancing in my chair even in my advanced state of chronological impairment ;) and is all about being a survivor... of life's ups and downs!

    (Plus, I've always loved the completely random music video from way back.)

    "Life is a Highway" by Tom Cochrane.

    Have a FABULOUS road trip!

    By the way, you awe me with how well you are doing with all this, lady.

  5. First of all I wish I could right to you in a more private/personal manner, but then again this is not the time for regrets. I have just talked with Andrea and she filled me in with the news. Needles to say that I am in shock, but then again this is not the time for sorrow.

    This is the time for support, for extending a loving arm, even if it is a long and distant one. This is the time for good energy and companionship, I know that you are with your family and I know that it is the best for you and for them, but believe when I say, from the bottom of my heart , that I wish I could be by your side.

    My friend, my first love, may god grant you with a full recovery. Science will provide you with the best possible care and I know that everything that can be done will be done, I am sure that your parents will take care of that. I can only hope and wish for the best possible outcome.

    To be honest I haven't have the chance to read the blog fully, but I promise I will. If it is songs that you want I have two for you: and
    Speaking of Banff it is a very nice place, I was lucky enough to travel there in 2006. I did a week long horseback riding trip and it was awesome, right on the main road there is a chocolate store so maybe you can have a bite on my name. And if you want to know more, at the end of the ride we went to a local bar where I learned some cowboy dancing steps.

    Well it is obvious that I cannot find the “right” words to say, like if that was possible or even existed. So I better shut my mouth.

    I have you in my heart, my prayers and you do know that you do own a piece of my soul so it is with it in my hand that I wish for all the very best and I cannot emphasize enough who much I wish a pray for your full recovery.

    With love,


    PS. Please extend my best wishes to your parents and sisters, love them too.
    And please excuse my English. For some reason when I think about you I do it in English. I have been doing some writing for the AIM’s newsletter in Spanish I have all the material posted in my Facebook site so it would be nice if you could sneak a pick on them.

  6. Glad this week is better than last. You know I'm rooting for you!

    Anyhoo, a song that reminds me of you is Chocolat by Olivia Ruiz (i think that was her name lol).

    Make sure to have loads of fun! take photos and everything! Thinking of you. let me know when you're back! planning on doing a chocolate extravaganza soon.

    speaking of music, you know what I dug out the other day...your wedding cd :) it's fun to go back and listen to it. Remember the fun times up at the DUC

  7. Hi I am a fellow survivor from the UK I have established a registered non profit to raise awareness of PMP and also joint run a succesful support group for all fellow survivors and carers

    Good luck!