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'And Just Like That, They Are Gone': Losing Friends at a Rapid Rate to Cancer

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If you finish out Breast Cancer Awareness Month and do not speak about stage 4, those who have died, are dying and are living with this disease, then we have failed miserably.

So here you go…

My friend, Mandi, looked around the room that year at the conference we were at and said something like, “Next year one of us won’t be here. I think it’s going to be me.” Mandi said that, and just like that a year later, she is gone.

Mandi Hudson died April 11 2017

Mandi Hudson died April 11, 2017.

I will not talk about my own fear of recurrence. I will only discuss what it has been like losing friends at a rapid rate. When I was diagnosed I honestly thought everyone lived, that you didn’t die from this disease. (Thanks, pink bullshit for that lie.) Then I met Lisa Adams via Twitter, Annie Goodman and Seporah Raizer, and my eyes were opened. I learned that not only can cancer come back, but it can come back, attack and kill. I have many friends living through this stage 4 diagnosis nine years out, six years and even 14 years out. But what about those who died in a blink? Mandi was at the beach just a few days ago. Now she is gone just like that.

Seporah Raizer died April 12 2015

Seporah Raizer died April 12, 2015.

Two years ago MetUp crew decided to stage a Die-In event at Living Beyong Breast Cancer at the exact time I got a call from Mara, Seporah’s sister, telling me that she died. It was ironic that she was one of the 113 people that died that day as her friends were gathered making a strong statement. (Actually it’s so much more than a statement, it is a reality.) It’s something I feel society is turning their back to because 113 people dying daily is an epidemic, a crisis and it needs attention ASAP. How does more than 40,000 men and women dying this year not make headlines?

Jodie Lanchantin died October 27 2016

Jodie Lanchantin died October 27, 2016.

Last year I went to LBBC mostly for Seporah. I wanted to honor her by continuing to be her voice. I went to the Die-In and spoke about how I may not be stage 4, but I am mad, sad and demanding more for my friends who are. Our brilliant friend, Mandi, was there as was my sassy friend Jodie. Honestly, we had a blast. We laughed until it hurt and made memories for life. It was a good thing too because they are both gone now. Mandi’s words haunt me for this year’s conference to the point I am not sure I can go.

Me speaking about my friend dying.

When will it stop? I just don’t understand why people keep dying. Where is the fucking cure we are all racing for?

I know there have been advances in treatment, but frankly, that’s horse shit. If you were Jodie’s mom, or son, or husband wouldn’t you demand more? If you were Mandi’s husband wouldn’t you expect these advances to save her life? Let me explain that some of these fabulous people are not dying in a hospital bed. Sometimes they are at the beach one day and gone the next. They are out with their children and have a heart attack. They are doing what they love and a blood clot takes over. When they die it does not say “metastatic breast cancer.” It will say heart failure, liver failure, organ failure, blot clot. So how do they count? How is their death even measured?

Today I sit and cry at the death of a friend again. It never gets easier. It only gets worse. I want more for them, for their families and for all of my stage 4 friends living with this illness and dying for a cure. I actually can’t count on my hands how many people I know that have died in the last two weeks. Don’t you find that ridiculous and heartbreaking all at once? I do. I’m just a girl who had cancer and is trying to understand why she is watching her friends die.

Photo credit: Annemarie Otis

Originally published: October 19, 2018
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