Today also has a sad memory for me. My friend Donna died of breast cancer September 10, 2001. It still hurts to think about her. She was amazing and fun.
She was part of the “Turning 30 and Scary to Men” club, to which I and other successful single women “belonged.” Donna lived two blocks away, was successful at growing vegetables in Denver (I never could!) and took care of my cats when I went away longer than a weekend. She didn’t believe my cat’s lies that they never got any love.
She married a few years later. I was wedding slave – taking care of the details that needed someone, finalizing the setup and running to the store when the punch didn’t show up. After the wedding she moved to the south side of Denver, so I didn’t see her as often.
She had a beautiful little girl. Donna would trade babysitting with another mutual friend who lived near me, so I got to see her then. There also the “hen” parties – tupperware, longaberger (lots of those!) and others.
I was on a series of business trips and vacations that had me out of town for a month or so. When I got back I was following up on some phone calls. A friend who sometimes is really a guy when it comes to communicating, said “Has Kirsten told you about Donna yet?” Then wouldn’t tell me, but made me wait until his wife got on the phone to tell me. Donna had found a fast growing lump. I later found out she waited to have it checked until after a vacation.
She had a mastectomy and reconstruction. Through her experience I learned that reconstruction was now a standard procedure covered by insurance. Things had changed from my aunt’s surgery in the 70’s (my aunt is a survivor). She (Donna) had the tummy-tuck version. She had radiation and chemo.
Her beautiful long brown hair fell out. She got a wig – I remember it was a good one – I saw her at a funeral and thought she had modified her “recipe” (she had been touching up the gray) and it looked good, until someone said it was a great wig. Duh…
I remember the party where she was comfortable enough to not cover her head. It made everything seem real.
Donna got better. Her hair grew back in tight short curls that made her eyes look huge.
I remember when I found out about her relapse. I was running a fundraiser for breast-cancer and aids at my home. At the last minute Donna said she couldn’t attend. I found out at the event that she had just found out her cancer had returned. The fundraiser was a Longaberger sale that the proceeds were being split with breast cancer research and aids program for children affected by aids.
She died a few weeks later – before the products arrived from the Longaberger sale, about the time her daughter started school, just before her 40th birthday.
The next day life as we know it in the US changed. I know she was already in heaven singing gloriously to God and helping to welcome the many souls of those that died that day.
I wasn’t able to attend her funeral. I hope she knows I still cared.
In planning my wedding, I remember talking to my friend Sue (Z, I have a few friends named Sue) about how Donna should have been singing the duet with Susan my wedding. She told me how Donna was a source of strength during her (Sue’s) wedding.
So today I celebrate and remember the breast cancer victims and survivors in my life: my aunt Betty, Kirsten’s mom Lynn, Donna, Terrie (ironically my Longaberger rep developed breast cancer), Deb (who recently flashed me her new boobs over the web cam) and my mom’s friend Betty whose cancer has returned.
I also miss my girlfriends in Denver. Friends like these should never be taken for granted.
Don’t forget your monthly self-exam.
I met most of these friends through the Jaycees: