For the Love of Nancy

Last weekend I learned that one of my favorite bloggers and multiple myeloma compadres succumbed to her disease. Nancy, of “Because I Said So” fame signed off her blog three weeks ago after admitting hospice into her life.

Nancy in the first grade

We had much in common with respect to our cancer. We both received our multiple myeloma diagnosis in December of 2007. We underwent stem cell transplants during the summer of 2008. We blogged about our experiences and became ebuddies with a common foe. There, the similarities end. Everything that solved problems with my treatment failed with hers. The trajectories of our health went in opposite directions.

In the midst of these travails, Nancy found her voice as a writer. The prose soared whether she was writing about compassion or reviewing chick flicks. She loaded her blog posts with links to entertaining videos, poetry, and websites that charted the absurdity of American life. She also acted as historian and mistress of nostalgia for her Mid-western upbringing. Evidently, she inherited the family archive of photographs. She used these to illustrate poignant stories on everything from epic snowfalls to prom dates. (My favorite is the dog story, The Legend of Penny and Sam.)

Nancy could not catch a break with her disease. Early on, it became clear she had contracted an aggressive variation on the theme we all share. She suffered the indignities of a misdiagnosis, allergic reactions to some chemos, an infected port, exploding IV bags, blood clots, and an uncooperative insurance company, fondly referred to as DieSuckah. As if this were not enough, rude neighbors made the recuperation from her stem cell transplant difficult. And, of course, she received a negligible response from that procedure.

Fortunately, she won the lottery when it came to friendships and family. Nancy also enjoyed a wealth of intelligence, compassion, and keen wit. She revealed with unflinching honesty both the heartbreak and humor of cancer. These attributes contributed to making her blog a highlight reel in the whole of the blog-o-sphere, not just our little myeloma corner of the blogging universe. She wrote clearly and efficiently. I admired her as a fellow writer for nerdy things like sentence structure and the economy and continuity of her prose. I envied the natural instincts of her composition; at heart she was a poetess whose poetry found flight in paragraphs not stanzas.

On a family vacation to Traverse City, NJ

Her posts from the latter part of 2009 carried ominous warnings of a disease having its way with her. She wrote to me last winter, explaining her decision to stop treatment. In typical Nancy fashion, she seasoned blunt reality with a joke.

She said, “I just happened to draw the short straw this time. (On the other hand, I get to be first to the afterlife, neener neener neener!)”

She knew what she wanted to do and was going to do it her way. Her blog was not sub-titled “Because I Said So!” for nothing.

I’ve linked a few choice posts. Now, in closing, here are some quotes from her at her bloggiest best.

On God:

“…In The Gospel According to the Coot, God is love, compassion, the instinct to choose caring over apathy, kindness over cruelty. God isn’t outside of us; if s/he exists at all, it’s inside our hearts.

I could not accept a God who wields tragedy like a weapon; who has the power to cure sick children, and chooses not to.

So even now, I can’t bring myself to pray for healing, because I can’t believe in that kind of God: a God who might say “no” to that request. Instead, I believe in a God who has given us the tools to live in an unpredictable and often unfair world, a God who grieves with us when tragedy strikes. A God who is a source of strength and comfort, not a fairy Godfather with a magic wand…

I can, and do, pray for courage, grace, strength, understanding and patience. Lots of patience.”

And this, on her stem cell collection, which she achieved in a single harvest:

“Every step of this journey, I have been a Murphy’s corollary: whatever can go wrong, will… at the worst possible time and place…and will be wrong to a degree never seen before. Everything from the original misdiagnosis to a near-overdose of some meds to fighting DieSuckah for coverage. There has never been a single event, a single test, a single appointment that has gone “better than expected,” much less perfectly, until now. For the first time since my diagnosis, something has gone perfectly, and I’m having trouble switching gears and believing it’s true.”

Nancy’s gifts as a writer helped me to feel life more completely. Her revelations buoyed me during recuperation from my own stem cell transplant. Sometimes they brought tears to my eyes but, more often, her writing filled me with laughter at life’s mysteries and miracles.

For that, I loved her.

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16 responses to “For the Love of Nancy

  1. Thank you for a beautiful post. This is my first introduction to Nancy, but I feel like I have met her.

    That is how we live on – in the memory of our family and friends.
    Rest in peace, Nancy.
    Liliana

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  2. Oh God, I can hardly stand this news. I know it is selfish of me. I loved reading her witty, sarcastic, and “make me think” writings. I did not know her but I really did. To share THIS DAMNABLE DISEASE makes you friends in your own mind. Today-probably tomorrow- let me look for the good in my world and be thankful. I am thankful for the COOT. I am thankful she has no more myeloma. Just for today, I feel this:

    Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
    Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
    Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
    Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

    Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
    Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
    Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
    Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

    He was my North, my South, my East and West,
    My working week and Sunday rest,
    My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
    I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

    The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
    Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
    Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
    For nothing now can ever come to any good.

    April 1936

    –W.H. Auden (1907-1973)

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  3. Like you, I have lost a friend, not just a fellow blogger.

    I have known this news for days (I am in touch with a couple of Nancy’s closest friends, two of the Hoodies, in fact), but I could not bring myself to write anything on my own blog…nothing sounded right…

    But John, what you wrote is simply perfect. Thank you for expressing what I feel in my heart…you are a true gem in the myeloma blogging world. I will forward this link to the Hoodies. They are getting together soon, and I am sure they will want to read this…

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  4. Your words about Nancy were wonderful and I am sure she would have been so thrilled to know how many lives she touched. . I shall miss her very much, her talented writing and superb sense of humour even when life had dealt her such a poor hand. She kept smiling in her words, a rare talent indeed. This world of blogging brings us all so close,we live the pain of our friends, spurring them on in times of stress and willing them to be well.This is a most cruel disease and this has been a huge loss to bear once again.

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  5. What an incredible tribute John. Beautifully done.
    There’s a huge void in our MM blogworld now but we can always look to you and Susie to bring some poetry and
    stunning writing into our midst. NOBODY can vent like
    Nancy though. She was unique and special in many ways.

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  6. I truly understand where this blog is coming from, your heart for a fellow blogger that you have never met in person. Since I’ve contacted this cancer and started reading blogs and writing my own and I have come to know people from all over the world. I will probably never meet any of them in person but I have come to love and care for each. Reading their blogs is the highlight of my day. Please consider yourself one of those blog friends that I look forward to reading! I’m truly sorry for you and the loss of your friend.

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  7. Dear Friends,
    Nancy’s Bro #1 here. Your words are far more eloquent and poignant than I could ever compose myself. It is heart-warming to know she had so many friends and supporters through her blog. Someone suggested a site that may allow us to collect all her blog content and publish them in book form. I can think of no more fitting memorial/testimony to her wit, intellect and courage. We will continue to look at the comments anyone posts on her blog-site, or if you wish to send anything private or personal, you may write to LaCootina@gmail.com. Many thanks and peace to all….
    Marty

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  8. My heart is heavy, selfishly, for Nancy’s departure, but I could wish nothing greater than for her to discover her God is the loving entity that will fold her into His arms saying, “Well done..: for all her courage in the face of so many “unpleasantnesses.” Your tribute to her, John, is a rich addition to her words on her blog – I went back and read through many of her entries over the past few weeks and gleaned a few more pearls of wisdom – a book is a fabulous idea (go to blurb.com to see how to make this happen) with the “Because I Said So” cover she used on her blog, perhaps? Our blog-amily grieves with her family, though their loss is so much greater than ours.

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  9. John, I am so sorry for the loss of the your friend. From what you have excerpted from her writings, I can see how the two of you were kindred souls. Another cruel deprivation courtesy of cancer. Nancy, I hope you are partying in the afterlife.

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  10. Thank you so much for this beautiful tribute to my friend. I am one of Nancy’s “foodies” and it is so wonderful to know how many lives that Nancy touched through her writing. Thank you and God Bless!

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  11. This is Michelle, a foodie friend of Nancy’s …. this is a beautiful tribute to such a dear person. I wish you could have met her in real life–she would have knocked your socks off.

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  12. Hi John,

    As I was recently sorting through some of my own blog posts, I ran across a comment from La Coot. I thought, emmm, let me go out and check to see who she is and how she is doing. I felt an overwhelming dread as I read her final entry… but I plowed ahead and found myself laughing loudly and then tears trickling with the realization that she had moved on and I missed knowing her. But then, here I am, enjoying her, even now, she has touched me. What a gift she is.

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