"Live fast, die pretty." That's what one of my chronically awesome friends used to say. Used to, because she died this past Sunday from complications of her multiple chronic illnesses.
As I sit here trying to catch up via social media to find out just what went wrong, I see once again that she and I share two of the same illnesses: fibromyalgia and liver-related diseases. These are the reasons we connected over two years ago on Twitter.
In the end, we both agreed: our illnesses sucked and the time and expense of traveling to the Mayo Clinic for a workup and recommendations was well worth it.
Now I don't want you to get the wrong impression--we were really just acquaintances. I am not privy to the details of what lead to her recent departure. What I do know is that she had been in and out of the hospital during the last several months and receiving home health care in between. A mutual friend shared that she thought she might have picked up an infection while in the hospital that, in the end, her chronically compromised immune system just couldn't fight it off.
Her close friends say that she died a fighter and a warrior, comforting her friends to the end. I see the evidence in her social media footprint that she knew the Grim Reaper was close, but she managed to stay several steps ahead of him up to the bitter end. She relished her wins against him. And she relished her last birthday in November and the recent Christmas holidays, events she was able to enjoy despite his presence offstage, lurking about in the wings.
I know her friends and family find comfort in the fact that with her death, her pain and suffering have ended. I acknowledge this as well. But I am also upset that in life she wasn't able to find the pain control and disease management she needed to have an acceptable quality of life and to stay alive a while longer. I know that these were issues she struggled with for years.
Which leads me to ask demand: when will medicine truly alleviate our pain and suffering? Because I know I don't want death to be what finally takes away my chronic pain, chronic fatigue and the assorted other symptoms of my chronic illnesses.
Before chronic illness destroyed her healthy life's plans, my friend was a honest-to-goodness, real life ballerina. So today it gives me comfort to think that she is finally able to dance again. Yes, she is dancing in heaven...