Monday, October 13, 2008

things that affect your brain

Has it really been a month since I've written? It's quite insane how time flies. My blog is suffering as a result of one of my personality traits - when all is well I am very social, call and write people often, and generally reach out quite a bit. When things go wrong, or I am upset or depressed, I retreat into my own shell and tend to disappear for a bit.

My freshman year in college I had a friend named Liz. She was one of the wonderful women I met in the phase in my life where I attended frat parties in my PJs and drank cokes without any rum (was on my university's varsity soccer team and decided not to drink during the season). These boys were fantastic - they loved me all the more for my PJs and stocked up on cokes for me in their minifridges. Liz was always the most "grown up" of all of us - she held dinner parties for her friends and looked like she belonged on the red carpet even at a semi-formal dance. Some broke up with their boyfriends, some went to study abroad, and some, like Liz, morphed into a completely different person, taking on the likes, dislikes, and all characteristics of her new boyfriend. Basically, many of us grew apart. Fast forward to 4 years later - Liz was diagnosed with brain cancer. She went through surgery and treatment, beat it once, it went into remission, but then came back stronger. Liz was fading fast and I was getting updates from friends. One of whom which was her former roomate, but they had a falling out, and never really patched things up. I listened to her agonize over whether or not to send her a letter, and what it should say. What do you write to an estranged friend who is dying? In the end, Liz passed away before the letter was sent. We were all devastated. She was 24 years old.

On September 23, 2008, my friend Jason died after his own 4 year fight with brain cancer. I've never seen anyone fight for his life like he did. You can read about his life and amazing character on his blog, Team Jason. Towards the end, Jason was still incredibly upbeat, very focused on beating the cancer, and through his blog I BELIEVED he would win. His last post was just days before he died, and while very honest about the setbacks in his treatment, his attitude didn't miss a beat. Jason was the definition of an inspiration to all who knew him, and I know his memory lives on. This is the last picture that was taken of Jason, days before he passed away (as appears on his blog). Still smiling and positive as always!

Please consider making donations in Jason’s honor to the Wellness Community of St. Louis at 1058 Old Des Peres Road St. Louis MO 63131. This organization helped Jason immensely during his 4 year battle.

This time, it was me who was left with an unsent letter. I had an unfinished email to Jason I started the week before but kept putting off saying "I'll send it when I have enough time to write a proper email." But, of course, that time never came and I am left with guilt. We were not estranged in any way, but it still hurt that I never got to say all the things I wanted. As time goes on I realize more and more that it is an extremely rare thing to be able to properly say goodbye to someone and to say everything that needs to be said. A very rare thing indeed. My mother never got to say goodbye to her father, who also died of cancer, and that is something I think about a lot, how painful that must have been. But what can you do except vow to seize the moment and tell people who matter to you that you love them? I am going to try, that's for sure.

Is it strange that I have had 2 of my friends, both under the age of 26, die from the same kind of brain cancer in the past 3 years? Last time I went to get my eyes checked the opthamologist offered me some sort of a test that looks at your eye and can somehow tell if you have a brain tumor (don't ask me how this works), albeit with the statement "you're young so you probably don't have to worry about this and the test is optional." You'd better believe I got that test right quick.

Which brings us back to Sudan. I came down with malaria this past week, and althought (thankfully) it was not cerebral malaria, one of the symptoms among many including high fevers, chills, joint pain, and achiness, are headaches. Mine have kept going even though I finished my medication on Saturday. All this means is that I need to drink more water, but with each nightly throb (usually when the headaches arrive) it reminds me of all the strange and incomprehensible things that go on up there, and how lucky I am.

Is that strange and morbid?

Sorry, it's been that kind of month.

Soon to come: happier posts about my new diggs, new friends, and some upcoming travel!


RyRy said...

Erin - this post really moved me. I went and read some of Jason's blog and I feel now like I know the guy. MAN - he had writing talent.

I wanted to take this opportunity, heed your call and let you know that I LOVE YOU and am sorry for not keeping in touch more often.

Please take care of yourself, and beat that mother effin malaria.

I'm sorry for your loss of Jason. He seemed like a really determined, lovable guy and he's definitely braver that I would ever be in the face of that scariness.

nyGRINGAinCHILE said...

this was a wonderful post. i am sorry that I am only just reading it now. i hope that you are OK with your malaria...are you feeling better? as you know my mom's been in town and i've been out of the picture quite a you, i tend to become reclusive and distant when i am down in the dumps...and i guess you could say i was a bit down in the dumps prior to my mom getting here what with the not finding a job and feeling totally lost in my for liz and jason, you are right- it's relaly horrible. obviously jason's death has been very sad for me and many of my friends from home...and what you say is true, we should take more time to tell people we love them. however, instead of making yourself nuts about constantly telling everyone how much you love them, i make myself feel better by saying that actions speak louder than words and i do believe that all of my friends know i love them even if i don't say it enough. i know jason knew i loved him and that you did too. anyways, i'm rambling. but let me just say, before i sign out, i love you erin and miss you a lot! : ) i hope you are doing better ...i'm off to read your more recent posts.