Tribute to my cousin, Margie Shane

Some of you had met my cousin Margie Shane. She was a hero to me in how she lived and how she lived with cancer. She was an artist, a writer, a performer, an entertainer, and an independent strong woman. In Bernie Siegel’s book, Faith, hope, and healing: inspiring lessons learned from people living with cancer, Bernie calls Margie an Exceptional Cancer Patient (ECaP).  It takes a special person to not project feelings onto other cancer patients or tell a person what surgeon is best for her or not share her opinion on what is the best way to live with cancer or survive chemo. Margie was exceptional in so many other ways. She allowed me to find out on my own what the best way for me is to live with cancer. I have failed her because I so desperately want to save everyone from the pain of cancer or not make the same mistakes I did. Margie realized that each person has their own destiny, their own way of living with cancer. She respected mine as I continue to honor, respect, and admire hers. She was a true hero. I never realized what she was showing me along the way. I was too busy enjoying my ride with her. She was correct in teaching me that cancer is a personal journey and the path we take in life is neither right nor wrong. The journey is individual and personal.

Cancer sucks. Cancer takes over without a moment notice. Too often the cancer wins the fight not only against the patient, but against the doctor.  The last time I talked to Margie, only a couple of weeks ago, she was so full of hope. We laughed as usual and talked about her fears. I reassured her in every way I could. She told me she was in liver failure. I told her I already knew. How did I know she asked? I told her when I was in Waikiki and my tumor marker came back as 1500, we sent an email to my doc asking what the warning signs would be of the situation getting worse. I wasn’t feeling like I normally did, so our guess was that my cancer was around the liver. He meticulously explained the symptoms leading up to liver failure and what to look out for. Margie had already told me she had these symptoms. I felt strongly that she could come back from this. Her “bitches” (tumors in her liver) refused to cooperate from her initial diagnosis. While I had chemo, she had chemo and she had radiation. She faced all of her treatment as an independent woman. Of course, she had friends who always rallied beside her, but she came home without an Alex or Jim helping her eat or making her bed. She had incredible strength. She had incredible spirit and the ability to laugh at a horrible situation. She was an ECap!

Now Margie and I go back to days before being cancer soul sisters. We were cousins first. I remember meals with her mom and dad and visits to Florida to see her parents and they would say, “You are so like Margie in your humor and mannerisms”. Her dad calls me J.D. For Joan Debra and he would continually tell me, “J.D., that is what Margie would do”.

What Margie did for me is immeasurable in words or emotions. Margie saved my life. When I was in my total crisis of finding a surgeon in a week when I needed to have a Debulking surgery she jumped to our rescue and stood by our side. I can see it like it was yesterday. She gave us names without giving her opinion, but we all came to the same conclusion. She took notes and we laughed. We laughed at the exam that almost removed my ovaries by the hands of a surgeon doing a gyno exam. We had lunch and laughed some more. She found humor in every ounce of these encounters since she knew what awaited me, but never said. She did this all while undergoing her own treatment. She helped me to find the best surgeon for me. Now, if you asked her an opinion about a doctor, she gave it to you. She allowed you to find your own answers, but was along for the ride by providing love, support, and humor in a very bad situation. During my 12 hour surgery, she sat in the waiting room with my mom and Jim and took shifts. She entertained Alex. She never left my side and I was in the hospital for a week while she was undergoing chemo and blood transfusions and scans. My days were fuzzy, but I remember her sitting on the sofa in my hospital room comforting me. When I was in pain, she encouraged me to get through it.  When I started chemo, she came to every appointment. She even stood in the “closet” for 7 hours because there weren’t enough chairs in the old closet. She was my voice when I had none or was too drugged to make a comment that made sense especially when Jim had to work. She understood firsthand what I was going through and never let me understand the horrible nature of this disease. She always had hope and strength. She had enough for the 3 of us. When Jim had to take a call since he has yet to miss more than 2 chemos in 3 nonstop fun years, Margie wouldn’t leave my side. We would laugh at chemo and don’t ask me why. We had stalkers and Debby downers and just plain ole pity party patients in the “closet”. We got in trouble a lot, for acting out a Saturday Night live sketch in the closet both old and new. We got in trouble for just laughing at the annoying side effects of chemo including the hair loss. Margie gave me the best cancer books and bought me some of my favorite t-shirts. I have many special photos of us in the chemo closet. We both have our wigs on and she is wearing one t-shirt which we both have and I still wear which says “breathe” and another that says, “wish”.  In between the good and bad days of chemo side effects for both of us, we had some fun meals out in the city. Our favorite time was when she came to Laguna to be with the entire family. The kids put on shows and we enjoyed every minute.

The chemo closet was our stage and our audience. The nurses were our biggest fans and the doctors couldn’t quite figure us out. They would usually say, “What a pair” or just smile. I know we puzzled them whether it was the fighting Bader (her mom and my grandma’s maiden name) spirit since all Bader women are tough women or just our will and motivation to survive. Her doctor really loved her and all the nurses did too. I know they knew what was really happening with Margie. They never told me, but their sense of urgency for us to connect and the look in their eyes spoke volumes. They know because they have seen the path of this disease over and over again. When I think back, I think they had this look when I saw them back when my tumor marker was over 1500 and I had cancer all over my abdomen. I have always said that Cancer is a selfish disease. During this past year, Margie and I lost our physical connection to each other in our fight to survive. I was dealing with little options left to try (still am) and she was dealing with those bitch liver aliens causing her ascites and pain. So when I arrived at chemo at UCLA back in June and one of our nurses who was “our first” for both of us urged me to call or write Margie, I did.  Since the damn pneumonia happened, I wasn’t talking much those days. This nurse was insistent and told Jim to call if I couldn’t talk. I called her at the beginning of June even though I wasn’t supposed to talk because I couldn’t breathe. Margie had asked if I ran up the stairs since I sounded so winded. I told her it was the nature of the beast, pneumonia. We talked a long time about me losing touch and being on the island to survive, dumb tv shows that we still watch, what the doctors said and didn’t say, and our fears. I was angry with the disease and myself for not connecting with her sooner as she had been there for me every step of the way. I was determined despite doctor’s orders to not talk on the phone, to call her every week and every day. I left her messages which only she and I would find funny. We did briefly talk of the “what ifs” and island you only want to visit briefly as we were against the Debby downers and pity party patients. I told her how much she meant to me and my family. She had shown me how to fight this disease with strength, determination, grace, and a lot of humor. She was the true sunshine as she knew and understood the evilness of this disease. How she fought this disease as such an independent woman and showed strength that was unmatched and misunderstood by many. She never lost hope even when facing her fears. She would want me to stay fighting and keep laughing. I cannot believe she is gone. My heart breaks as I read what she wrote to me.

Here are some of her words to me:

“You’re strong and your fighting spirit will take you far. I BELIEVE in you, love you. After you read this you’ll start to see how often God winks at you.”

“Whenever I’ve gotten discouraged or a little blue, I come back to the teachings of this book. (The Triumphant Patient by Greg Anderson)

I believe you’re strong without a doubt. Keep doing whatever you’re doing. You’re amazing!!! I know we’re going to be old ladies talking about this in 30 years as part of our past…just another bump in the road of life. I love you. Margie”

“Here’s another inspirational book (There’s No Place Like Hope, Vicki Girard) I want to share with you, I stumbled upon it and am reading it now. Your wonderful attitude will continue to help you heal and HOPE!!!

There’s a lot of hope to go around, love you Margie”

From her chapter in the book, Faith, hope and healing by Bernie Siegel, Inspiring lessons learned from people living with cancer.

A  New Autumn by Margaret Shane,

“My once idealistic expression is more soulful and serene yet full of hope and excitement…. At times I was discouraged, sad and worried. However I decided early on that it wasn’t going to beat me, and the gifts that have come from it have far outweighed my actual illness… My faith in both god and myself deepened, I felt like a large net was holding me up, orchestrated with angels circling, taking turns to catch my fall, to help me beat back the fire when I felt it circling me. Those angels are my family, friends, fellow cancer survivors, doctors, nurses, and even strangers….Cancer is scary, but not as scary as I thought it would be…I’m sure that stubbornness and a strong will have helped me over the last four years and will continue to do so…. I see the world with different eyes…I’ve had to let go of some left brain thinking, so that I can open up more to trusting my heart and spirit. Not looking at the “shoulds” or “coulds” but what is right and true for me. I’ve had to honor and value myself like never before….fighting this disease has helped me find my passion for living fully again.”

Bernie Siegel’s reflection on Margie’s piece

“Cancer reminds me of water in the way it has the ability to reflect back certain truths to you…your body is aware of how much time you spend fighting versus nurturing yourself… When you nurture your body, mind, and soul, growth and healing occur within you, …So never stop planting and cultivating your seeds of life, though cancer may been seen as compost, remember how it helped Margaret to find her passion for living her life fully again.”

The world has lost a very special warrior, a cancer soul sister, a cousin, a friend, and my hope is today when you see some beauty in the day you say a prayer for all those fighting to survive because that is what Margie would have wanted. Lastly, I hope you find your passion for living your life fully each and every day. Margie always did that and taught me to do the same. As we say in Hebrew, L’Chaim-To Life!



One Response to “Tribute to my cousin, Margie Shane”

  1. Karen Duxbury Says:

    Margie has touched my life. I was her hair stylist and have seen her through thick and thin in the last few years. I was so sad to hear of her passing. She meant a lot to me, and I know a great woman is missed by all of us. Thank you for your words, and thoughts about her. I only wish I had learned about her passing earlier so I could have joined in her celebration of life!

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