The last few weeks have been the toughest since I was first diagnosed. I have been trying to accept that we have lost some pretty amazing and young warriors lately. I have had a very hard time with that. It seems like one right after the other and I can't make sense of it really, but I am trying.
My friend's daughter Jillian, my friend Angi, and Jennifer, and Briana. All within months of each other. Each one fought with strength, grace and dignity. I was and am still in awe of each of these amazing women. They tried every trial, did every treatment, and most of all, they lived their lives to the fullest and never gave up. They did not let melanoma define them. They used it to help others, to teach us the importance of love and friendship. Out of all of these warriors, I only met Briana in person and actually was close with her.
I met Briana at a cancer group by my house called Gilda's Club. I had went and signed up the week prior, needing something to cope with my new diagnosis. But, I was disappointed to find out that they didn't have a group for skin cancer, or melanoma. I decided to try the Wednesday group and posted about it on my page My Journey with Melanoma. Briana commented that she was part of the Wednesday group and she was excited that I would be there since she felt alone being the only one with melanoma! I was so excited to meet her!
I will never forget the first time I saw her. I walked in, and I knew immediately that it was her. She had the biggest, most beautiful smile I have ever seen! She gave me the biggest hug and I felt such a connection with her. It was like I had always known her. We were soul sisters.
We went to the Wednesday group meeting for awhile and then we both decided that it wasn't really what we wanted to do and continued our friendship outside of the group. She went to one of my daughter's dance recitals and we had so much fun! She met my family at a melanoma walk we did together in October, and my daughter and her became very close too. My daughter accidentally called her Banana one day and she said, " Well,
if I am a Banana, you are an Apple!" Then somehow I became Melon. :) Haha! We would meet for lunch or text back and forth. Our favorite was to just text, "I love you. That is all." If I asked her about her treatment, she would talk about it briefly and always would say, "It's no big deal." She just amazed me. She never let melanoma get her down. She was not about to let it mess up her plans. She didn't dwell on it, or complain about it. We didn't really even talk about it much. She just did what she had to do and moved on. She just lived. And she had a lot to live for!
She was planning her wedding to the love of her life and she was missing him because he was finishing college in Massachusetts. She was so in love and if you brought up his name, or the wedding, her face would just light up!! The wedding was absolutely beautiful! She was glowing and so very happy. There were butterflies and Gerbera daisies everywhere. She loved both. She was very tired at her wedding, but she didn't let it stop her from celebrating. I was so happy that she was so happy.
She was still doing a trial at U of M and she was enjoying married life. We didn't see each other for about six months, and we decided we should meet for lunch. I was shocked and almost didn't recognize her. I had known that her last trial had ended and she was waiting to get into another one. She did get into the trial, but the side effects were too much. She was sent home on hospice 2 months later.
She died on Valentine's Day. I thought I was prepared. I don't think you can ever be prepared to say goodbye to someone you love. I went to see her twice while she was at home on hospice. It was incredibly hard to see her like that,but I am glad I went. She saw me get upset and cry and she whispered "I love you." and I whispered, " I love you more." The last time I went, I blew her a kiss when I left and she blew one back. That is the last time I saw her. I never thought that this would happen. I never thought she would not beat this, and I know she didn't either. But, she was at peace at the end that this is what she was faced with. She knew she would be going to heaven and that there was nothing else she had to do. No more pills, no more chemo, no more radiation, no more doctors, no more cutting, no more pain. She could stop the battling and be at peace.
Today is going to be really tough. I know she is looking down on all of us and she is holding our hands. I know that she will be with me today and always. She was an angel her on earth and I know that she has a very special job now. I will always remember her big beautiful smile and her easy going personality, her strength, her sweetness, her beautiful blue eyes. I will continue to fight Briana. I will never, ever stop. You taught me not to give up. I am so glad that you were my friend. Fly with the angels honey. You got your butterfly wings now.
I love you. That is all. <3 <3 <3 <3 <3