In the light of so many people responding to this little bucket of rudeness, I thought it would be a good time to take a step back and think about something else. I know I have a backlog of things I’ve been meaning to blog about and Lorelle puts it so eloquently that it really can’t be helped especially when you do have commitments to attent to. One thing that I have been putting off writing for some time was the challenge that Lorelle set out for some of us, to blog about someone or something that has changed our life. I think this is the right time to put it all down.
“I’m so glad that my guardian angel came all the way to see me.”. I remember those were her last words to me before I left the hospital.
Like all classic stories, this one quite simply began with a girl. It wasn’t any ordinary meeting like the days of old. No. I met her online in a teen community forum named Xfresh. Back then, the forums was teeming with teenagers with problems of their own, and just so happened I lead the pack by dishing out advices to them that actually worked on more occassions than one. It was a good life, it satisfied my narcissistic need for self assurance and it was nice to be needed for something good.
I didn’t really think much of anyone else nor my future then. I was young. I wanted to rule the world. I had a plan and it involved genetically enhanced human beings. Friends then were either people who needed me or people I needed to get a leg up in life. I didn’t think much of the people I was giving advices to. Out of sight, out of mind was a motto that I used to get by the day until a new problem came to the forums to work through.
Louise Rita was no exception. Truth be told, I don’t remember exactly how we started to talk, but I do remember one of the earliest conversations we had was about her health. She’d been complaining about headaches and constant fatigue which I thought wasn’t unusual, still it bothered her enough that she went for a complete medical checkup. I didn’t hear from her in a while, and then I did…and it wasn’t exactly cheerful news. Louise was suffering from multiple growths in her head, to which she needed to undergo chemotherapy.
By now, all I could do was do what I did best which was to impart the words of wisdom that I’m used to giving out. Difference was, this time she had a name and unlike alot of problems that teens faced, hers was not a figment of her insecurities or just another path to growing up, her was real and it was going to kill her. Whatever words I said to her at that time meant something to her and I think it was a that time too that I began to mean what I said.
It wasn’t until some time later that I heard from her saying that while the growths in her head had stopped. Her condition continued to worsen and it became clear what the affliction was. Non-hodgkins lymphoma is one of the most unpredictable form of cancers ever. So much so that radiotherapy can actually speed it up rather than slowing it down. I cannot pretend to understand or know what she went through to find that out. The pain of bone marrow tests, the hair loss and vomiting due to chemotherapy and not to mention the uncertainty of her future, that for someone so young, could have their future taken away like that.
As far as bone grafts go, hers was neither a success nor a match with any of her family. Which meant one thing, to continue chemotherapy in hopes of beating this malignant cancer one dividing cell at a time. To her, it meant weeks or maybe months of suffering through as every dividing cell in her body normal and cancerous was destroyed. So finally, sometime after her 18th birthday, she decided on one finality to end this. She would let her cancer take its course…and I would be part of that decision to keep to that choice.
We talked alright, always through the medium of the net and to think after so long, we still haven’t met face to face. But we talked and all she needed was a friend who could understand that it was her choice to make given that a lot of people didn’t agree. But I did, strangely enough, she had become a friend who meant something in my life. A friend who had her future taken away from her. A friend who made the decision that would take her away from all of us. And I told her that she made the right choice.
I saw her for the first time on the 28th of Sptember 2002. By then, she was physically weak with the cancerous lymphocytes overtaking her bloodstream. She had lost her ability to hear, but that didn’t stop all of us from the one communication we all were accustomed to, we wrote it down for her to read, a subtle irony for those of us who met her online. She smiled and she laughed, barely. If anything, her conviction to keep to her choice was made even stronger by the realization that she had friends willing to see her through this.
She passed away a few days later on the 30th of September 2002, peacefully and without complications in her sleep. I think despite me expecting her to go, I didn’t expect her to go so quickly. She did mean a lot to me and to all of us that knew her as a person and for the first time in my life, I realized I felt absolutely helpless to a friend that I cared for. At her funeral, those closest to Louise was requested to give the eulogy. I was one of them.
I can’t really remember what I said, just bits and pieces, but I remember saying that in all the time that I knew her, Louise was a girl with incredible courage and a sharp optimism. I don’t think she would have wanted us to cry for her death, but rather celebrate what she brought to us in life. At the end of it, while her future may have been taken away from her, she would never ever die as long as we remember her.
I think the day she died, was the day I started to realize that life means more than just our grand plans for something great. It isn’t defined by the successes we achieve or the responsibilities we hold on to. It’s defined by actions we take onto ourselves and onto others beside us. She had the courage to choose a path that would ultimately take her life, but as much as we think we were supporting her with her decision, I think she was there to help us understand why she made that choice. It’s ironic that at the end of it, she was more comfortable with her actions than any of us. To that I would call her courageous beyond a doubt. Because how many of us would be willing to choose such a path? How many of us would be willing to keep to the path we choose after that? She did and that I think was her greatest lesson in all of this.
Now, while my plans to change the world still stay, it is not without a certain effect from Louise Rita. It isn’t about what I want anymore, but rather, what I don’t want. I don’t want anyone else to suffer the same way she did. I don’t want anyone else to feel helpless in the face of our close, loved ones we care about. I don’t want anyone else to make the same choice she had to make that takes them away from the people that care them.
Now, I do my best to make sure that the war on cancer will end by our hand. Even if it takes me a lifetime, I would do everything in my power to make sure that no one else goes through what she did. Life may be far too cruel to take the lives of innocent people away, but it isn’t without a sense of perspective that such events gives us lessons of hope, courage and inspiration to do what it takes for what we want.
In life and death, she changed the course of my life, for better and worse. For that, quite simply is something I don’t think I will ever forget. So to Louise Rita, I say this…to me, you’re never dead as long as you are remembered, in our thoughts and in our actions. I’ll do my best to keep to that promise and let the world remember that while your presence may only be for a moment in this world, and while I might not speak for everyone when I say this, but your legacy at least will live on in the memory of my actions.