When Three Tragedies Strike (In One Year)

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Catherine and her old friend Bonnie

bonniegeller“My husband, Jerry, met Bonnie’s husband, Larry, on the train platform about 25 years ago, soon after we moved to North Salem, NY. Our children were all little and we all became fast friends. Bonnie had been in the publishing business, then became a nutritionist, and worked with high-profile clients. She was stunning and glamorous and the picture of health. We were so close that we named Bonnie and Larry guardians for our children if something were to happen to us.

“The four of us moved when we became empty nesters. Although we didn’t see each other as much, we kept in close touch. When we went to dinner at their home, after not seeing them for a while, I couldn’t believe how different Bonnie looked, as if something was wrong. ‘What’s going on with you?’ I asked her. ‘I have a horrible backache. Maybe I have Lyme’s disease,’ she answered.

“I went to Larry and told him I thought Bonnie needed to see a doctor right away.

“It took over a week for Bonnie to be diagnosed. Larry called and said, ‘I know Bonnie wants to tell you herself, but I’m going to tell you that she has lung cancer that has metastasized everywhere, including in her kidneys.’ When we saw Bonnie a couple of days later, she was looking terribly sick and was in severe discomfort.

“What could I do for her, I thought. ‘I know you don’t like to ask people for help,’ I told her, ‘so this is what I’m going to do for you. I’m just going to show up cook for you, pick up your dry cleaning, take you to the doctor, so you don’t have to worry.’ And that’s what I did.

“On one visit, I instinctively jumped into her king-sized bed to hold her, and she said, ‘Girlfriend, we have to spend some good quality time alone,’ but that was the last time I ever saw or spoke to her. Soon after, she developed painful blood clots in her legs and didn’t want to see anyone. She wanted the doctors to do anything they could to save her life. How could she even have accepted that she was going to die? She didn’t have time to go through any of the stages, so she wanted to be kept alive.

“Bonnie died eight weeks after her diagnosis. She was the first friend I have lost. I was a wreck. I couldn’t stop crying. I was frightened. It took me so by surprise. OMG, this could happen to me, that quickly. Bonnie didn’t even have time for regrets. One day Jerry and I went to her house and just stood in her backyard. ‘Where’s Bonnie?’ I asked myself.

“The experience made me wake up and smell the hummus. Jerry and I started traveling a lot. We said we have to go and do things. We’re in the backend now, so if we don’t do it now, we may never get to do it. Having an open dialog with your partner is important.

“I also wanted us to go to the Mayo Clinic for a complete physical, but my doctor talked me out of it. Interestingly, he also told us, ‘Your friend Bonnie got dealt a good hand because we didn’t torture her and put her through all sorts of things. She had just too much cancer.’

“Why does it take someone else’s horrible situation for us to realize the value of life?”

Catherine and her beloved boxer Hannah

catherine-dog“Hannah, our-six-year-old boxer, had become a finicky eater and stopped drinking. She wouldn’t even come to me when I called. I told the vet that Hannah just wasn’t herself. I knew something was definitely wrong with her. The vet thought she had atypical Addison’s Disease, and said we can treat it, but a specialist believed Hannah had a brain tumor. An MRI showed that in fact a tumor was located between the two lobes of her brain.

“We put her on steroids, and she was wearing diapers, but she wasn’t getting any better.

“One morning I noticed Hannah was having trouble breathing. When the vet called, she asked, ‘Is there anything I can do to help you?’ I wasn’t ready yet, but Dr Gamez’ kind and gentle voice told us that we were in good hands and that she would help us through it when the time was right. She told us ‘there’s no rush…when the time is right you’ll know it.’

“When the time came to make the decision to put Hannah down, we brought her to the vet. It was just so sad. But I knew it was the right thing to do and the right time. Again, Dr. Gamez helped us understand that we were doing the right thing; both for Hannah and for ourselves.”

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