My friend, Naunie, died in the wee hours this morning. Her body just gave out after several bouts with ovarian cancer. We knew that she was going to pass soon, but the news still came as a massive kick to the crotch this morning. I pray that her husband and children and family and friends are all blessed with peace and patience while they muddle through this sad and difficult time.

Naunie’s death comes only a month after my other friend, Shelly, died of pancreatic cancer. Shelly’s case seemed whirlwind, having been diagnosed in September and then passing in early January. She, too, was married and had children and grandchildren. I continue to pray that her husband and family and friends are also able to find peace.

I am begging Allah to help ME to find peace. I loved these two women. Naunie created a study program to help my son to pass his U.S. History standardized test so that he could graduate. She introduced me to “compassionate entrepreneurship” through her part-time sales work with “Trades of Hope.” She had the most brilliant smile that started in her toes and continued up until it just illuminated any room that she happened to enter. Naunie was passionate about her family, her teaching career, her ability to help others, and her love for God. I only knew her for four years, but I am a better person for having met her.

Shelly and I met at work in 1986. We studied Arabic together and became good friends, commiserating together over how much we hated our instructor. We worked together and lived within a mile of each other. We both accepted assignments overseas in different countries, but stayed in touch over the years. Shelly was the first visitor I had after I came home from the hospital following my second child’s birth. We would sometimes go for years without contact and then pick right up where we left off. She loved to laugh and I was elated when she and Bruce married and had children together. They seemed to complete each other. Shelly had the most generous heart of anyone I knew.

I am struggling with the whys behind their deaths. I mean, I am a firm believer in each of us being destined to die at our prescribed times. I guess the believer in me still struggles with Allah’s timeline and why them instead of me? Why was I blessed to have my cancer discovered earlier than theirs? Why was my surgery successful in containing the tumor and theirs spread?
Why am I so angry that this wretched disease that is so commonplace is still keeping the undertakers so busy? I am trying so hard to be patient and trust that Allah is the Most Compassionate and that in His compassion, He knew when to call these women out of their pain and into His realm. But I still agonize and ache for their young children, and for their husbands who are left to carry on with the raising and comforting and caring of these young children.

Please don’t misunderstand. I do not think that it is what war veterans call “survivor’s guilt.” I have no feelings of remorse that I am not dying. In fact, I am quite grateful that I am living and with a very positive prognosis. I am so angry that there really was never a chance, short of a miracle, for either one of them. There is still no effective early detection method for pancreatic or ovarian cancers. Why not?! Is no one making an effort to find one? We hear about breast, uterine, cervical, labial, colon, prostate, lung, esophageal, and skin cancers frequently. But those dodgy pancreases and ovaries are just…, well, difficult.

So, I am sad today. I am angry today. I will probably continue to eat my feelings (the leftover piece of apple pie I had for breakfast was a good start.) I will smile to myself as I remember different interactions and fond memories that I had with both of these fine women. I will mourn these women. And I will continue to throw up my middle fingers occasionally today and shout, “Fuck you, cancer!” because it is taking my friends away from me and their families. And I will continue to be hopeful that some amazing person will find the best and easiest and least expensive way to detect these life-stealing diseases with enough time that they will no longer be death sentences.

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