Saturday, December 17, 2005

MAJOR prayer request

There's this family that my family pretty much grew up with. Darlene was around the same age as my sister Maria, Janette same as my sister Helene, Joey matched up with Bill, and Danny matched up with Chris. That's not exact, but it gives a sense of the similarities. They all went to school together, and the connection between the girls held a lot longer than with the guys -- in each other's weddings, etc. Especially with Darlene and Janette, with my sister Helene. In fact, Janette's two girls are the same age as Helene's two girls, with their moms being best friends, it wasn't too big of a stretch for the kids to be best friends with their counterparts either. Granted, they were at different parish grade schools, but the connections continued with the fact that my dad taught at the school where Janette's kids went. Always made for some good times when the St. Martin's/St. Mary's basketball games would happen. Not only were the best friends pitted against one another, but my dad had to balance between cheering for his students and his grandkids.

But really, the two families are very tied together. The Kane parents moved to the beach several years ago, so our family always gets together with them when we go for our annual vacation. My sister-in-law is an avid volleyball player; for several years she and Janette were on the same rec league team.

Wednesday before Memorial Day 2001, I got a phone call from my parents: "Janette has cancer; she's having surgery Saturday." Huh? As my sister put it, Janette did everything right. No junk food, all the volleyball and other exercise -- she was in the prime of her health. Besides, she was only 38. Wouldn't we have heard about this before? And to do the surgery over Memorial Day weekend?

Apparently she had a routine doctors appointment on Tuesday, they called her back in on Wednesday, and scheduled the surgery for Saturday. But, on the good side, it was colon cancer. Really, in the grand scheme of cancers, colon's not too bad to have.

Except, when she had the surgery on Saturday, the surgeon could tell that it was no good. Even without it being sent of to the oncologist for the biopsy, he could visually tell that this was not a good situation. At that point, it was on her liver.

But, living in suburban Washington, DC, there are options. You've got both the National Institutes of Health and Johns Hopkins University right there, some top-notch places for cancer research. She could get in on one of their studies and get top-of-the-line care without as much expense.

Except .... she was too sick to even be admitted into any of Hopkins's programs. At that point, she was ready to give up, but she finally tried and got into a study at NIH. It was this thing where she had a chemo pump that was either continually administering chemo or saline, something like that. Major good blessing of fate is that NIH is probably a 25-minute drive from where she lives; most people in the area think nothing of driving that distance, it's further to go "downtown" into DC. So, it was no problem for her to go back and forth for appointments and treatments; she could be at home with family, friends, and "normal" routine during this whole time.

It was a tough time, though. At the time of her diagnosis, I believe she was given six months to live. Her daughters were going into 1st and 3rd grades, I think; I just remember that she was upset that she wouldn't even get to see Meghan's First Communion. She fought and she battled, and she made the absolute most of her time. My mom was amazed at all she was packing in there; my dad and I thought she was just making the most of what she had left. They went to Disney World and Ireland and I don't even remember where else. Some trips and/or events had to be postponed because of how her treatments were going, but she beat them out on that six-month call.

All the while, my sister Helene was in many respects the primary caregiver. Ken, Janette's husband, was working, and my sister worked from home. Since the kids were best friends anyway (as were Helene and Janette), it just made perfect sense that Helene would take the kids a lot, or drive Janette to her appointments, or whatever else.

I entered the monastery in 2002, and Janette was still fighting her way along. She even threw a surprise 40th birthday party for my sister, and I seriously considered trying to see if I could go home for it, even though I had only been in the monastery two months by then. The oddest point of it, though, was that if I went, it wouldn't be for my sister; it was more the chance to see Janette one more time -- we never knew how many "one more times" we had left. Fortunately, my sister was able to return the favor the following November.

February 2nd, 2004, Janette died at her home. Even though I was a novice, and technically novices are supposed to stay at the monastery (according to Church canon law), there wasn't even a question. Although I had always hesitated to ask the question of my novice director, simply because I didn't want to voice the possibility, both she and I knew that, when it happened, I would want to go home. True, she wasn't an immediate family member, but I didn't care, and there was no argument against my going either.

The big reason for my going, though, wasn't so much for Janette. It was for my sister's sake, who had been the main caregiver throughout this time. It was for my two nieces, who had spent these last couple years watching their mom's best friend and their best friend's mom fade away. And, most importantly (in my mind), it was for the two girls, to whom I showed no mercy whenever there'd be family gatherings -- I'd torture them just as much as my own kids when we'd be at the beach.

I also went for the kids of the school, where I had worked just two years before, and where my dad still worked. Janette did as much for the running of St. Mary's as Helene did for St. Martin's. Summer of 2003, Janette told the kids that if they worked all summer on a play, she'd let them put it on as a "real" play in August, with admission and refreshments and everything (smart mom -- saved her from having to sit through daily "new creations" by the kids!). There ended up being an article in the diocesan newspaper about it, written by my then-sixth-grade nephew, in which he shared how the kids tried to decide what to do with the money they earned. After discussions of Disney World and the like, they ultimately decided to donate the money to cancer research, because "our friend Janette has cancer." Not "our friend's mom" or "our mom's friend." No. Our friend. That's who Janette was to these kids.

That was a little over a year and a half ago. Meghan and Kelly are going into their second Christmas without their mom; Mr. and Mrs. Kane are going into their second Christmas without one of their kids.

So what happens now? Apparently yesterday, Joey (Janette's brother) went out and did the perfectly normal thing of scraping ice off his car. He came back in and didn't feel super-great.

Then he dropped dead from a massive heart attack.

38 years old, I'm guessing. Two kids, ages 4 and 6.

The family still hasn't recovered from the loss of Janette, and they had three years to get ready for that one.

So, prayers for Mr. and Mrs. Kane, who have just lost two of their children in what, eighteen months? For Meghan and Kelly, who are still dealing with the loss of their mom and now suddenly lose Uncle Joey too. And for Joey's wife and kids, who get to go into this last week before Christmas without dad.

Ah, yes. Tis the season to be jolly, to celebrate and spend time with family. Too bad that, for so many, that's more of just a slogan that you hear on commercials instead of a household reality. Every class of mine begins with prayer requests, and for so many of my kids there's divorce, or custody battles, or family disputes, or money problems, or too much "togetherness", or relatives in Iraq, or family in the hospital, or any number of other things that get in the way of "the holiday spirit" -- my heart just goes out to them all.

Peace to you all ... may you be able to make the most of it while you can. And if you fit in any of the categories listed in that last paragraph? Then extra prayers of peace to you -- good luck with the season.

4 Comments:

Blogger Lisa said...

Prayers, support, and sympathy -- absolutely!
Lisa

12/17/2005 9:28 PM  
Blogger AveMaria1 said...

ditto here Steph...

12/18/2005 12:32 AM  
Blogger Lorem ipsum said...

How horrible for those two little girls and of course all who love them and still love their parents. Prayers, and of course demands on God to explain what he's up to with this.

12/18/2005 2:16 PM  
Blogger the tentmaker said...

A quote from will smama in A Light Blazes...:

It is called the valley. Although the familiar Psalm reminds us that the Lord is our shepherd through the valley…it is still the valley. It is often dark, often cold, often lonely…and the light–no matter how much we believe in that light–is very hard to see.

Blessings to all

12/18/2005 2:37 PM  

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