Laurie Foley is one of those people I just knew I’d meet someday. I was so sure of it. We have some of the same friends in real life, have 55 friends in common on Facebook, attend the same sort of events, run in the same circles, find the same stuff funny, wonder at the same things — it was inevitable, really.
But it turns out I will never get to meet her. After living for 3.5 years with ovarian cancer and all its various complications, Laurie entered hospice care this week. What I know for sure about her without having to meet her face to face is that she’s one of the kindest, funniest, warmest, most brilliant humans around, and I’m so incredibly sad (and angry) that soon she won’t be here anymore.
Her friend Cath Duncan (a pretty amazing human herself) posted something about her on Facebook that I asked her permission to share here. She said yes.
Laurie hasn’t lost the fight to cancer. Though I’m certain that she has been the most well-educated, active, and diligent patient there ever was in her pursuit of treatment for the cancer, Laurie was never occupied with fighting cancer. She’s been pursuing something much, much harder … finding ways to live lovingly and well, and now to die lovingly and well, in the face of all of the unfair, and physically, emotionally, and spiritually difficult ways that cancer has intruded on her life. Laurie’s definition of living lovingly and well has always placed a big priority on looking after others, and her timeline today is a testament to that.
Laurie, I’m fucking pissed that, with all the love and medical science and prayers in the world, we couldn’t wrangle the miracle we all have wanted for you. And for us.
I asked Cath if I could share what she said because I so appreciated the way it honors Laurie, but also because it reminds me so much of how I felt when Kelly died. That the “success” stories when it comes to cancer shouldn’t be limited to those who survive. That no matter how well we live or take care of our bodies, no matter how many people love us or how hard they pray and want it, no matter how much money we have, no matter how excellent our medical care, no matter how much good we’ve done — we still suffer, we are vulnerable, and we die. Even the best and the brightest and most loved lives are impermanent, temporary.
But the promise of it, the inevitability of that end doesn’t dull my sadness, my anger, my confusion and resistance. I’m still only human, caught up in what’s fair and what isn’t. And then I’m reminded of that Facebook post from Keanu Reeves where he said,
My friend’s mom has eaten healthy all her life. Never ever consumed alcohol or any “bad” food, exercised every day, very limber, very active, took all supplements suggested by her doctor, never went in the sun without sunscreen and when she did it was for as short a period as possible- so pretty much she protected her health with the utmost that anyone could. She is now 76 and has skin cancer, bone marrow cancer and extreme osteoporosis.
My friend’s father eats bacon on top of bacon, butter on top of butter, fat on top of fat, never and I mean never exercised, was out in the sun burnt to a crisp every summer, he basically took the approach to live life to his fullest and not as others suggest. He is 81 and the doctors says his health is that of a young person.
People you cannot hide from your poison. It’s out there and it will find you so in the words of my friend’s still living mother: ” if I would have known my life would end this way I would have lived it more to the fullest enjoying everything I was told not to!”
“None of us are getting out of here alive, so please stop treating yourself like an after thought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the ocean. Say the truth that you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There’s no time for anything else.” (~Nanea Hoffman)
[Update: apparently this piece is fake, not written or posted by Keanu Reeves, but I’m leaving it here anyway, with the final paragraph credited to the actual author of that section.]
Laurie’s friend Patti Digh shared a story about her on Facebook recently, about the time in 2013 she gave a talk at Patti’s Life is a Verb Camp.
She spoke about transformational energy – about how she was transforming the negative fear of chemo into hope, and many other transformational energies she was learning about in her walk with ovarian cancer. And she ended by holding up a cupcake and lighting the candle, demonstrating for all of us what transformational energy can do.
Thus the picture I included with this post. It’s a nod to Laurie’s reminder about the power of transformational energy, it’s a tribute to how she’s lived and how she’s dying. It goes back to what I said the other day, “if you can hold the pain and remember the magic, you can keep going, you can do what you need to do, you can be content, you won’t give up.” And when it’s time to go, you can go, knowing that you were so loved, knowing that your energy was transformational for every one you touched.