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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Don't tell her when she's gonna die

My friend Nancy has been fighting terminal pancreatic cancer for more than a year. She's had the requisite rounds of chemo that weakened her tremendously. She lost a ton of weight and often her blood count wasn't good enough for her to undergo chemo.

I started visiting her once a week about a half-year ago. During that time, her doctor gave her a timeline for her life that would have had her dying this July 2011. July is two days away.
Today when I stopped by, her jeans were all dirt at the knee. She'd been weeding. She's got tomatoes and peppers planted and the peppers are already producing. Her poppies are going gangbusters.

Her family gave her a surprise 77th bday party this past weekend. Best birthday present of all: the doc recently said, "You're a very strong woman. You're gonna make more than 78."

Some facts about Nancy: I met her because she was a weekly volunteer at the nonprofit I founded, HOPE Network. She volunteered many other places also. She raised three sons after her husband abandoned them. She worked at a factory until retirement. She was a bad driver, so she relied on others to take her to work. She has so many friends that recently at her rummage sale, she had people double-teaming to help her - including two neighbor boys who did muscle work and set up a lemonade stand on her front lawn. (She had a sneak-peak rummage for all of her friends, with everything free.) Both the garbageman and the city street workers help her out by doing extra hauling they probably shouldn't do. Why? Because she's nice to them. If she found rummage bargains, for instance, she'd bring them home for the garbageman's grandchild.

Just a note lest you get the impression that Nancy is some overly sweet little old lady. Yes, she's little (wrinkly too), but she's salty. She says "hell" and "damn" a lot and she's a smoker. She KIND OF quit the cigs, but she sneaks. And she has a sense of humor that won't quit. It is VERY fun to tease her.

That's the kind of person Nancy is. Her recipe for survival is more simple than what we find in a lot of self-help books: Laugh. Laugh at yourself. Volunteer. Work hard. Get dirty. Give stuff away. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Reach out to your neighbors (the garbageman too). And don't give up.

Oh, yeah, and keep smoking (for the cynics out there). Haha.

Postscript: Pictures below are from August 21, 2012. Update on Nancy is in blog post from Sept. 2012, Nancy is still alive, more than one year later.
Nancy Reinsvold, Aug. 2012, and her giant tomato

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