I have tons of posts in my head … lots to say … mostly good and positive thoughts these days … things I think you would love to hear. I haven’t had time. Life has been extremely busy for months now (like heart-attack-busy) through this past weekend. I’m grateful for all that I’ve been doing, all that I have accomplished and even more grateful that it is all now complete. My schedule is wonderfully light as of this morning. I’ll be able to focus on myself again, do more gardening and do more writing.
Unfortunately, I come here today to share the news of the passing of a dear friend.
Nancy Wehrell died Saturday. It wasn’t unexpected, although I’m sad it came so quickly. Nancy was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. Early stage. No lymph node involvement. All of the signs she could yank, chemo, radiate and run. In the spring of 2005, she was diagnosed with metastatic disease, which means the sneaky beast of breast cancer had spread. In her case, it was in her lungs and bones. She soon learned it also had spread to her brain.
I met Nancy online in the spring of 2006 shortly after my diagnosis. She was the first Stage IV woman with whom I became friends. I’m ashamed to say that at the time, I was fully avoiding even speaking to Stage IV women – afraid, I think, of facing the reality of what could be in store for me. However, I was sucked in by her personality and how we seemed to think so much alike. I think in some ways I convinced myself if I liked her a lot, she would somehow beat it. She was an incredible fighter. It was obvious in how she wrote and all of the treatment she was taking. So, I figured if I poured some love her way, coupled with her huge fighting spirit, we’d beat this thing.
Of course, I learned over time that just because I love someone, it doesn’t cure them. I’ve come to accept that if I’m going to love these women, some of them are going to die on me. It’s just life. There is no doubt, whatsoever, that I would have rather known Nancy for a while and lost her, than never to have known her. (Of course, knowing her and keeping her would have been the best, but I didn’t get that option.)
Losing Nancy hurts a lot. Knowing we were going to lose her and couldn’t stop it hurt even more.
I say this knowing that she has a very loving, involved family who is missing her deeply right now, especially her beautiful sisters and her “sweedy” Jeff. My pain is teeny in comparison to what they must be feeling.
Nancy was the “grande dame” of YSC – queen of the boards. If we had a leader, she was it. She was smart, incredibly sharp-witted and quick with words. She was unapologetic in her criticism of people she thought were wrong, but she was also extremely compassionate and caring. She was beautiful, too, with blonde hair and big bright eyes that actually sparkled – in person and in pictures.
She hasn’t posted on the boards in almost a year. At first, I think she was living life and avoiding some periods of negativity and loss. We all do it from time to time, but it was rarely Nancy’s style. She seemed able to deal with anything and everything that came along. I think, for me, it was the first sign that something wasn’t going well. We missed her like crazy. Her lack of posts left a hole. We could find her from time to time on Facebook. Then, it started to become obvious to me, long distance and without much interaction, that treatment was dragging her down and inhibiting her abilities. Otherwise, she would have been back. As my oncologist says, the treatment is often worse than the disease.
She never came back. And the updates on her condition, though always positive (because that, of course, was Nancy), started to show cause for concern. She recently entered hospice.
Nancy’s services will be Saturday. In the invitation, her sister wrote that the attire is, “Casual. No Black. Nancy would love it if we all wore white with splashes of bright, spring time colors.”
That is certainly Nancy.
Nancy was an incredible support to me during the dark, dark days of my life from January through summer of 2007. She wouldn’t let me stay down and helped drag me back up with her phone calls and emails.
Nancy was a superb writer and had a brilliant knack for summarizing life events. She said once that she was sick of people saying, upon hearing her diagnosis, “Well, we could all be hit by a bus tomorrow.” She wondered where the rash of people getting hit by buses was happening. She said if she heard it said one more time, she was going to go get a bus and start running people over.
That was Nancy.
She made her last blog post on “So it goes” almost a year ago in June. I think it’s so appropriate in that post she linked to a clip from “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
That was Nancy, too.
I was so fortunate to meet her in person at the YSC conference in Jacksonville, Fla., in February 2007. I was able to give that lovely woman a big hug and just soak up her radiance for a while. Did I mention Nancy is prone to outbursts of cursing and obnoxious behavior just like me? This photo was taken at dinner that night. It’s for an “f cancer” video I plan to make someday. If it wasn’t blurry, I would frame it poster-sized for my living room.
We snuck Nancy and Jeff into dinner that night. Nancy was a spur-of-the-moment arrival to conference because she wasn’t sure if she could handle the trip until that day. You had to be wearing nametags to get in to dinner, so we found two people not coming to dinner and borrowed their tags. I think Jeff was “Mary Jean Burns” (or some other woman) that night. We had fun.
I loved Nancy with all of my heart, despite the fact that distance and health conspired to keep her from being an everyday friend. Of course, how could she be an “everyday” friend? Nancy was not normal. (That would make her laugh.) Nancy was spectacular in every way. She was more like the best Christmas ever, instead of an average Tuesday. She is a person who will be missed more as time goes by.
The world is a lot less bright without this amazing woman in it.
I believe, though, that you haven’t heard the last of Nancy. If there is anyone who can inspire posthumously, it’s her. There will be more coming from Nancy Wehrell and those who loved her. I just know it. The light has dimmed, but it hasn’t gone out.