On June 23rd, a friend posted about a mother of six at her church in Philadelphia who was dying of Inflammatory Breast Cancer. She said the family thought she had about two weeks to live and linked to Punk Rock Mommy. I was intrigued by the name of the blog, the fact that she was suffering from IBC -- an aggressive form of breast cancer I had only recently become aware of through Susan at Toddler Planet -- and because my mother also has terminal, stage-IV cancer. So I began to read the blog that very day.
I became engrossed in Andrea's words. She had a raw, no-nonsense yet lyrical way of writing about facing death. She was open about the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of accepting your own death. She was heartbreaking in one sentence and funny in the next. She didn't shy away from gallows humor. She was straight forward about her urgent need to be with her children, her husband and her inner-circle of friends, even if it meant saying no to well-intentioned would-be visitors. She joked about death being inconvenient and admitted she was jealous her husband would get a big master bedroom all to himself.
Every day since the 23rd, I would reload her site multiple times to see if she had updated. When she didn't update, I read posts in her archive, looked at the photos in her Flickr set and prayed for her and her family.
On the 5th of July, after a day out with the kids, I came home and reloaded her blog. I saw the photo of a lit candle and just knew she had died. But what's amazing is that she left one final post for her husband to publish. It is one of the most powerful things I've ever read. Andrea's dying declarations challenge us not to be petty or spiteful. She thanks God for the final year she had with her family, even though it was it was so painful. Read her words yourself; they're heartbreakingly beautiful.
I'm so thankful I was able to follow Andrea while she was still alive. I am grateful that she gave me insights on what it's like for my mother to face a disease that is killing her. Thank you, Andrea, for everything. I'll miss your words and wisdom.