In early December I received a phone call from my friend K. It is a phone call I will always remember. She was ringing me to talk about the latest events in her journey with Inflammatory Breast Cancer. The metastases in her liver were growing out of control and there was no longer any chemo they could try. She was now in palliative care only. She had reached some acceptance of what was going to happen and had made her peace with it.
As I listened to her talk I couldn’t help but feel privileged and honoured that she had rung me to talk – We only got to know each other originally through Sweet Louise when she wrote a forum post asking if anyone else had Inflammatory Breast Cancer. She had liver mets at diagnosis June 2010.
Like me, she wanted to be proactive in spreading awareness of IBC, and was very supportive of me setting up the Australasian IBC network with our other New Zealand and Australia ‘IBC sisters’. We call each other ‘IBC sisters’ because we are part of a sisterhood none of us wanted to belong to, but we have that bond to support each other through shared experiences.
I put her in touch with other IBC sisters internationally too though our mailing lists and Facebook group
K and I spoke often, on the phone and through Facebook chat, and when she came up to Auckland in September, for some Rugby World Cup games, I got to meet her face to face for the first time. She felt guilty that she hadn’t done more in the name of IBC awareness but her treatments made her too fatigued a lot of the time.
Ever since the phone call in December I have been waiting for another phone call, we had exchanged a couple of text messages when she felt up to it but she has been absent from Facebook, I knew it was only a matter of time. My niece B has been one of K’s home care nurses, and K gave her permission to keep me informed (without going into details and breaking patient confidentiality) Though our New Zealand IBC sisters in the Australian IBC network I had also put her in touch with another woman, C who also lives in Christchurch and C was able to pop in and see her on Christmas Eve. So between C and B I was kept informed.
B informed me on Tuesday night that K had started to deteriorate more rapidly and when I got a text from B yesterday morning, without even opening it, I knew what it would read.
C rung me last night and we grieved for K together. And this is what the sisterhood is about. K rung me on the 10th of December to talk because she knew as someone with IBC with liver mets I was not a total stranger to dealing with what she was going through – although not as far down the path as her – I have faced thoughts of my own mortality and made peace with what ever is going to happen so I could understand and support her in a different way a way that her family and friends, no matter how supportive, could not.
I am flying to Christchurch for K’s funeral and meeting up with C. We are going to brainstorm how to carry on K’s desire for spreading IBC awareness the breadth and depth of New Zealand. K’s family is also aware of that desire and want to help and are going to tell funeral goers how important it was to K and ask for their support too. This will be part of K’s legacy.
Rest in Peace K, you were a gorgeous lady and I am glad to have been your friend and ‘sister’ on this journey. And whatever I do in IBC support and awareness in New Zealand will be in memory of you.