It was always Debbie and Susie

Growing up we were Debbie and Susie. Two sisters, one blond and one brunette, two years apart. Like all sisters we played together, fought bitterly, made up, giggled, plotted, fought some more and managed to reach adulthood without killing each other. I was the master at pushing her buttons until her son came along and installed new ones.  He came along exactly 6 weeks after my first daughter so we experienced first time motherhood together.  As we raised our families the arguments were fewer and further between but we could still piss each other off like no one else could.   We both recently started watching Dark Shadows on Netflix. She was many episodes ahead of me and wanted me to catch up. Watching reminds me of when the show aired originally.  I was 3 or 4 and she was just starting  school. I would stand in the window and watch for her bus.  When “my Debbie!” appeared, I knew it was time for Dark Shadows. We watched together every afternoon.   In the last few years Debbie has gotten to experience being a grandmother to 3 adorable little boys.  It made me laugh when one of them would refer to her as My Debbie.

Debbie was diagnosed with Lupus when she was in her 20s.  She was never exactly healthy, but never really had any of the bad flare ups you read about.  She suffered from terrible migraines, but so did my mother and myself. She had a lot of rheumatoid symptoms and was on pain medication most of the time. But during all that she raised her son, returned to school in her 40s, got her teaching degree after subbing for many years and was excited to land a job teaching 7th graders.  I thought she was insane for picking that age group. She loved every minute of it.

When I got my cancer diagnosis she took it harder than any of us.  She cried so much that at one point I told her to “dry up” or I wouldn’t talk to her.  She didn’t cry in front of me again, but I’m sure she still shed plenty of tears.  The day of my surgery she received a call from her doctor who had been going over some recent lab work.  At that point she had been experiencing horrible infections for months and antibiotics were not working. He suspected CVID (common variable immune deficiency). None of us had heard of it but she met with a specialist who agreed and wanted to start her on infusions of intravenous immune globulin (IVIG) as soon as the following week.  A little Internet research prompted her to ask for a second opinion as this treatment would be administered once a month for the rest of her life.  The 2nd doctor would not agree with the diagnosis until he ran his own tests.  Each time it would take weeks to receive the results, at which time he would decide one more test was necessary, then one more.   By the time the diagnosis was confirmed, treatments were agreed upon and the insurance finally approved them (but only for 3 months) it was 7 months since the original diagnosis. She had two treatments and was feeling better than she had in a long time. Then, one week after the 2nd treatment she passed away in her sleep. It was July 10.

My last entry on this blog was July 9. I was outraged that my radiation had been cancelled and I was going to have to tack one more day onto the end of my treatment.  She read the blog and called me to commiserate.  We spoke for over an hour. She had had a relaxing day reading in the sun. When I saw her over the weekend I had loaned her a stack of books and her plan was to alternate one book for pleasure with one for her curriculum planning.   18 hours later I was standing over her bed where she looked like she was sleeping peacefully, curled up on her side like she had slept every day of her life.  It’s been over 10 days and it still doesn’t seem real.

I returned to treatment Monday, now a full week behind schedule.  I commented how f’ed up it is that cancer treatments feels like a return to “normal”. She would have appreciated that, along with the black “fuck cancer” bracelet I have taken to wearing every day.

I miss my Debbie.




  1. eddiesandcurrents · July 21, 2012

    I don’t know what to say. Just reading it was a punch in the gut. I am SO sorry. I cannot imagine your pain. You have my deepest sympathy. And prayers. Just know your blog family is sending love.


  2. embracing chemo · July 21, 2012

    There are no words… Please know that my love and thoughts are with you.


  3. bornbyariver · July 22, 2012

    I am so very sorry for you loss. I hope you can feel her presence going forward with your radiation treatments, with your future.


  4. hopeforheather · July 22, 2012

    I have no words either. Except to offer my deepest sympathies.


  5. Tracey Baptiste · July 22, 2012

    I am so sorry about your sister. I’m sure it feels like an extra blow. Love and hugs to you and your family.


  6. rachaelsladylumps · July 22, 2012

    My heart breaks for you. Your close relationship you had with your sister sounds amazing. I hope you find some peace and take comfort knowing that you will continue to feel she is still right by your side. Sending hugs your way.


  7. Lori · July 22, 2012

    No words to express how sad and angry I feel for you. Prayers for comfort are all I can offer.


  8. Denise · July 22, 2012

    Tears are streaming down my face. I am so very, very sorry.


  9. Lee Asbell · July 22, 2012

    Oh my. I am so sad. I will be thinking of you and your family.


  10. Susan · July 23, 2012

    I actually cried big fat tears reading this. My deepest sympathy for your loss.


  11. Jen (Sturtevant) Meus · July 23, 2012

    I’m sorry for your loss. Sisters share a special relationship. I’ll be thinking of your sister, you, and your family!


  12. breastcancerat40 · July 23, 2012

    I’m so sorry that your Debbie was taken from you. She will always be in your heart, and she will save a spot for you on the other side. I pray for strength and courage for you and your family during this very very difficult time.


  13. helpingdeb · July 23, 2012

    Hello precious . My heart goes out to you. In a huge way. i am just now starting to get my ‘brain’ back after chemo. I know what you’re going through with this loss – my baby brother died years back and our family was in awful shock for weeks thereafter. Please know I am reading your blog and you are always in my thoughts and prayers. May Debbie’s memory be eternal. With peace and much love, Deb (from the helpingdeb blog) xo


  14. The Presents of Presence · July 23, 2012

    My heart goes out to you…I am sending you hugs..I loved your post…I’ve been thinking of you and My Debbie, your special angel. ❤ xo


  15. Laura Renegar · July 24, 2012

    I was just so shocked to read about your siter, and so saddened, My heart aches for you not only for what you are going through – but to lose your sister while battling. Words are just not enough. You are on my prayer list and have been. Hugs and love sent your way!


  16. mainelyhopeful · July 24, 2012

    Thanks everyone, for your kind words.


  17. Off My Chest · July 25, 2012

    Oh boy that’s a tough one…. I think your sister likes the bracelet from where she is – I know that I sure do from here. There is nothing that I , a stranger and a Kicking-cancer’s-ass-sister, can do to make you feel better. I will try to find one of those bracelets though and think of you and of her every time I wear it.


  18. judiththomasberg · July 25, 2012

    My heart aches for you, I’m so sorry for your big loss.


  19. cancerkitten · July 28, 2012

    I’m so sorry to learn about your loss. Hang in there. I am keeping you in my thoughts and prayers.


  20. onwardandupwardblog · July 31, 2012

    Somehow I missed this post, I had to back track to see what has happened. I am so sorry for your loss. How unbelievably sad, angering and frustrating since it seemed like the treatments were giving her relief. She was taken too early.

    My prayers go out to you and your family…I’m so sorry for your loss.


  21. Cindy's Cancers · August 1, 2012

    I don’t have any words to make it any better for you but just know that so many people are here for you and wishing you some good things in your life. I am truly sorry for your loss.


  22. aumnicol · August 3, 2012

    In the silence of my concern- I want to give you comfort. Like a small match lighting in the darkness, spreading and joining candles. In the silence, the light spreads. Keep blogging. Love , Aum ( pronounced om)


  23. Shaunna · August 4, 2012

    I am so sorry for your loss, a sister’s bond is a very special one. I cannot even fathom the pain you are feeling, knowing that you are also in the fight of your life. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers, and even being so many states away, I wish I could wrap my arms around you. S


  24. Tar-Buns @ Here and ThereSa · August 9, 2012

    My deepest condolences at the loss of your sister. Double whammy while you are fighting for your life. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

    (I was intrigued by your avatar over on my sister’s blog, Pegoleg. If you’ve read some of her work, you know we have a sister now battling brain cancer, a brother who died 14 years ago from the same brain cancer, and another sister, cousin and aunt who have or are currently fighting breast cancer. It’s an insidious evil, that cancer. Best wishes to you.)


    • mainelyhopeful · August 9, 2012

      That’s far too much for one family. 😦 Thank you for the well wishes and all the best to your sisters and other relatives in their own battles.


  25. Heather · August 11, 2012

    I’ve just now read this. So, so sorry for the loss of your sister. Wishing all of us in this battle could have such a close commiserator as she was for you. Good thoughts going out to you & your family.


  26. sarenaperez · August 16, 2012

    I also am sorry for the sudden passing of your sister. It is never easy to lose those we care about. I know you will take your time to grieve and life will press on, just not like it ever was. I’m so sorry.


  27. marketaz · September 4, 2012

    I am so so sorry for your loss. I lost my brother last July – my rock and it still hurts. I wish you good thoughts of your sister and know that she is close to you still every minute of the day.


  28. Pingback: A different 9/11 remembrance « mainelyhopeful

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