I thought it was strange when I missed three calls from my oncologist’s office this morning. There were not any messages, but I figured they would call back again. I was right, as I got the call just after lunch.
In the cancer community, a phone call can change everything. Especially when it comes from your oncologist’s office. Sometimes it’s bad news, other times it’s good. Today the call wasn’t anything that I expected.
Val, one of my chemo nurses from many moons ago was on the phone. She wanted to make sure that I knew. Kim, one of my favorite nurses and people who I’ve grown the closest to, was killed in an auto accident last week. She knew that I would want to know.
My stomach dropped.
I had just seen her a few weeks ago. We talked for over an hour in her office. She had recently remarried and was showing me photos, a beaming new bride. I talked about the church, my family and my health status. She listened intently, as if my updates about family and life were a bestselling novel to her. She was so proud of me. She made me feel so special.
Kim was the nurse who saw me as more than just a 17-year-old patient who walked into the chemo room with a strange case of colon cancer. Don’t get me wrong, all of my chemo nurses were angels and treated me with the utmost care. But Kim and I had a special bond. She comforted me after I was told I’d lose my hair, and in a way that only she could have pulled off, slipped me wig brochures “just in case.” When I was complaining about being a teenager with cancer and asking what I could get out of it, she did some research and told me about the American Cancer Society’s Young Cancer Survivor’s Scholarship, a program which ended up helping pay over $3000 toward my college. She always told me I looked beautiful, even on the days when I was pale and hardly able to walk. She came to my wedding. She would even sneak little goodies into my bag of chemo brochures. I still have the “hope” basket she gave me near my bed.
I loved Kim. She was a bright spot that I always looked forward to when I returned to the oncology office. She was one of the cheeriest, most positive, loving people I’ve ever met. Even after she had breast cancer herself, she embraced life even more (and looked mighty cute with the surprising red, curly hair that grew back!) Her beaming smile, warm hugs and excited eyes couldn’t help but give all of us who knew her hope for our lives, and for all of us facing cancer.
Kim’s journey ended too soon. I was sad to hear of my friend and the trajedy. I wasn’t expecting to lose someone in this community to an accident rather than an illness. But it must have been her time. I know that one day, we will each have our time. But it doesn’t make it any easier.
Last time we were together, Kim & I talked about how God keeps us here for a reason, and takes us home when we’re we’ve accomplished our purpose. We talked about how to make it through suffering, and how to make the most of things once we are on the other side. Kim’s one of those people who I will forever credit to helping me make it to the other side with my battle with cancer. She gave me hope. She loved me. She inspired me. She made me feel beautiful. She helped me see that living my life and sharing my story is a huge accomplishment. She helped me muster up the courage to see tomorrow.
I think I was part of Kim’s purpose here on earth. I know I wouldn’t be the same without her. She’s helped me become who I am. And while tomorrow won’t have her with us, I’ll forever carry her with me. I will still smile. I will still give hugs. I will still have hope.