One of the very first friends to reach out to me in the earliest days of my fight was a former co-worker from a hospital I used to work at. We were the unlikeliest of friends. When Marquita started as a charge nurse I didn’t know quite what to think of this spitfire bundle of energy. As a general rule, I put my initial thoughts aside, rather than deciding at first glance that I dislike a person and as time passed we formed a friendship.
We worked well as a team and shifts were always more fun when I had her to talk to. Marquita was an absolute wealth of knowledge and I think she may be in the top two teaching nurses I have ever worked with. Our unit could be burning to the ground and she never lost her cool. Honestly I can only hope one day someone will look back on their time working with me and have half the respect for me as I have for her.
The more we talked we realized we had similar interests. One of the most fun times I have ever had was when we both drove up to Omaha, Nebraska to attend Junkstock. We wandered around the festival style flea market on a chilly October day and had more fun than I can describe. It was amazing to see the things people were able to make using common everyday junk. Marquita was drawn to every vendor display with purses. I began to wonder if an intervention was needed! We wrapped up our day of adventures with me introducing her to one of my favorite Italian buffets.
As time passed we moved in different places. I left the hospital we worked at together to take on a new challenge working on a women’s surgery unit. Shortly after I left, Marquita moved to another state to live closer to her family. Even through the distance we always maintained touch. Sometimes we would talk more often than others depending on how busy we were at the time, but no matter what, the friendship never faded.
On October 10, 2018 I was still in the middle of the bad days. The days when simply moving around in bed caused so much pain. The bedside commode days. Worst of all? This was the day after my first oncologist appointment when I got the final diagnosis. Metastatic breast cancer. I was still so very numb. I was lying in my bed staring blankly at the wall as I did in the beginning. Suddenly my phone vibrated and I looked at it to see one of the most moving messages. The perfect message that I needed so very much in the midst of the crushing depression.
My buddy starts the text out with words of encouragement. Reminding me if I ever needed anyone to talk to, yell with, curse with, anything, she was there. We chatted for a bit before the truth came out. Two weeks prior, around the same time I was diagnosed with my ‘unknown’ cancer, she too was diagnosed with cancer. Stage 2 uterine cancer.
Who could ask for a better friend in life? Here Marquita is dealing with cancer on her own, worrying about me and trying to lift my spirits. The next week she popped in with funny pictures to make me laugh. I later learn this was after she passed out at work and was sent to the emergency room. While I have been ‘lounging around’ since my diagosis, this tough cookie worked up until she had surgery.
We both had our hysterectomies within a couple of weeks of each other. While I breezed through mine and took my bucket list trip soon after, Marquita had some complications. While I have been incredibly blessed to so far only need oral medications which has been kicking cancer’s ass, she had a port placed to begin chemotherapy and will also need radiation. While my hair might be falling out a tiny bit more because of my medications (hard to tell because I’ve always shed like a dog), Marquita asked the love of her life to shave hers off rather than watch it fall out during treatment.
But through it all this badass is looking to me as an example. Marquita told me ‘So today when this started I said WWJD (what would Jen do). Ha ha. And I just sucked it up.’ What would Jen do? Oh girlfriend, what would you do? What would this beautiful, amazing, courageous woman do?
My friend is going through so much more than me, yet she looks to me as an example of strength. I sometimes wonder in the moments of darkness if I would be able to get through this without my cancer sister. My motivator. My laughter. My friend through thick and thin.
Cancer sucks. It really does. Our type of cancer might be different, but we are both facing the same beast. Cancer doesn’t care who you are. It will come for you just the same. I hate what it has done to me. I hate what it is doing to my beautiful friend. I hate that our lives have had to take a backseat to this terrible disease. We won’t let cancer stop us. We are already making plans for the future. Together we are going to visit Junkstock again. We are going to take a roadtrip to see the world (or at least the US).
Everyday I thank God for sending my adopted sister to me. Marquita is my rock. She may think ‘what would Jen do,’ but to me I will always suck it up and ask myself ‘what would Marquita do.’
Dx 10/9/2018, invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), left breast, 1.5cm, Nottingham Grade 2, hormone receptor positive, ER+ (estrogen receptor)/PR+ (progesterone receptor), HER2- (human epidermal growth factor), BRACA- (genetic mutation), Stage IV, metastasized to bones
First CA 27.29 10/9/2018 83 (goal <38)
Hormonal Therapy 10/12/2018 Tamoxifen (Nolvadex, Apo-Tamox, Tamofen, Tamone) pills
Targeted Therapy 10/12/2018 Xgeva (Denosumab) injection
Hormonal Therapy 10/19/2018 Lupron Depot (Leuprolide Acetate) injection
Surgery 11/29/2018 Vaginal hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy
First CA 27.29 post hysterectomy 12/10/2018 73 (goal <38)
Hormonal Therapy 12/11/2018 Femara (letrozole) pills
Targeted Therapy 12/23/2018 Ibrance (palbociclib) capsules
First CA 27.29 post medication change 1/10/2019 60 (goal <38)