Whelp, this sucks!
This is wrong.
This isn’t fair.
This cannot be real.
How could it possibly be real? What the fuck kind of reality would that be – a reality sans the strongest, bravest, funniest, badass…iest (look it up), most beautiful inside and out person on the planet? Surely if there is a person worth saving, that’s the one. Right? That’s the person who is meant to be here, to show us all that it can be done: you can be given insurmountable odds and not only overcome them but do so with two mighty middle fingers held high in the air, laughing as what was supposed to be your fate disappears beyond the horizon behind you.
And yet here I am, typing Mary’s final blog post for her. Sucks BALLLLS. I would do just about anything to be going about my merry life knowing that down the road, my cousin and best friend in the world is typing up her latest raw, venomous, hilarious blog post, inspiring thousands upon thousands of people doing what she has been for the last three and a half years: kicking cancer’s ass in. Just about anything. But that’s not how this world works, is it? Nothing we can do. Not much to say either, except…
Before I go any further, please allow me to bring you up to speed on the medical details in the two and a half weeks since Mary’s last blog post on February 25. On Monday the 29th Mary went in to get the liver biopsy. She was admitted to Seidman, received lots of fluids, platelets, and drugs, and was feeling ok. On Tuesday afternoon, she received the news from Dr. Caimi that the cancer was present throughout her liver, not in tumors but in free-floating cells, and the chemo was making her too sick to continue. Over the next two days she met with palliative care doctors, radiation doctors, and hospice. Her goal was to be home with Mack and Derek and to be comfortable. She was able to go home Thursday afternoon armed with lots of pain meds and a plan to start radiation the following week, the hope being that it would help enough to give her some clearer days.
She spent Friday and Saturday with her family, and she got to see and talk to a lot of her friends. She was tired and confused some of the time, but she still had her trademark sense of humor and strength and was able to enjoy that time at home. Sunday through Wednesday, Mary was comfortable, mostly sleeping, and pretty out of it when she was awake. She was able to walk and talk and eat, but she tired easily and was very confused.
Thursday morning brought a drastic decline in her condition, and hospice believed she only had a few more days at best. From that moment on, Mary was surrounded by family and friends 24 hours a day. The hospice nurse stopped by regularly, and her medications were adjusted to keep her comfortable. The incredible support system that has been with the Buell family from day one made sure everything was taken care of.
On Sunday morning, just before 8:00 a.m., she passed away, peacefully, with her husband by her side.
*deep breath* (Keep it together; you can do this…)
(Nice job, dumbass,)
The day after she stopped treatment, Mary went to the bathroom – you know, like you do when you have to go to the bathroom. When she came out, she said she wasn’t sure why she thought of this in the bathroom, but there were two things that came to her that she was really struggling with. The first was that she wasn’t going to get to see Mack graduate Pre-K. This was her near term goal, and it was out of reach. The second was that Christmas 2015 was their last Christmas as a family, and she hated that she was sick and in the hospital. My only response was, “This sucks,” because it did, and there really wasn’t anything else. She responded, “I am glad you are here, because you will say that it sucks.” And it does suck. That’s it; it sucks. There’s nothing that makes it any easier. It sucks. (She then reminded me that these were her thoughts while dropping a deuce, and the tears quickly turned into laughter.)
So, what to say now? If nothing anyone can say makes it any easier, then what are we supposed to do with all these words? Words can’t bring her back. Words aren’t going to make Derek or Mack feel whole again. Words can’t heal the unimaginable heartbreak that her parents John and Sue feel. Words won’t neutralize her sister Jeanne’s anguish, a feeling only a big sister who has lost her little sister far too early can know. Words can’t fix this.
Then why am I typing? Yes, I’m typing because Mary asked me to. But why else? I think the answer lies in the heading at the top of this blog: “MY WAY OF DEALING.” Mary wasn’t blogging because she thought it would fix the problem. She was blogging to help herself deal with the problem. And she did so in the only way she knew how: uninhibited, void of filters or shame, unrefined in the best way possible, and with a level of strength, bravery, and humor that made a lot of us wonder if she was indeed actually a real human being. So maybe, just maybe, words can help us deal as they helped her.
By the way, let’s get one damn thing straight here: she was indeed actually a real human being. Through all of this, she was herself. She wasn’t strong and brave because this was thrown at her. She’s always been brave and strong. And stubborn, too. She’s been stubborn as shit for as long as I’ve known her, and she was so all the way through the end. She wasn’t going to let go unless it was on her own terms, taking everything as a challenge and determined to prove you wrong. To be honest, that’s probably why she stuck around as long as she did. There were a couple times when she was given some pretty bleak prognoses and could have given up her fight. But she just said, “Nope! Not ready,” lowered her shoulder, and barreled through another wall. Sometimes, though, there’s only so much an actual real human being can do.
I really didn’t want to use this blog post to recap Mary’s journey (DRINK!) though. There’s plenty of that in her previous posts. And if you haven’t read all of them, you stop reading this sentence right now, navigate yourself to her January 4, 2013 post, and you don’t stop reading until you’ve gotten yourself back here. What are you, some kind of sicko who reads the last page of a book first like Harry Burns from When Harry Met Sally? Speaking of which, have you seen any recent pictures of Meg Ryan? She looks like Joan Rivers… as in like Joan Rivers NOW. It’s sad. Anyway…
Mary was so much more than the last three and a half years of her life. To those of you who knew her for longer than that, you probably could have surmised that if anyone could have dealt with the circumstances she endured in the manner in which she did, it was her. She had always been amazing. Her ability to reach out, touch, and inspire people didn’t start with her diagnosis. Mary was always there when you needed her, with a card ready if necessary… usually one with a really good joke inside. She loved taking care of people and knew exactly what everyone needed.
When Mary was a student at JCU, and I was just starting my freshman year, without hesitation, she immediately introduced me to all of her friends, made sure to include me at mealtimes and parties and campus events. There wasn’t a single day I felt alone or homesick, and she was the number one reason for that. I will never forget her getting up at the crack of dawn, still drunk from celebrating her 21st birthday, to come to church and be my confirmation sponsor. She may have left three times to vomit, but she was there. And she was the best sponsor I could ask for. On more than one occasion, Mary helped me deal with heartbreak. Shitty thing is now my heart is more broken than ever, and she’s not here to make me mix CDs, send me cards and junk food, make fart jokes, and just be Mary. SUCKS BIG, HAIRY, FREAKIN’ MAMMOTH BALLS!!!
Things I will forever miss doing with her: singing everything in four-part harmony; keyboard duets; choreography; rapping; yelling over her voice while trying to explain the rules to a new board game (though I’m sure everyone else will still talk during the explanation); making fun of younger versions of ourselves; campfires; drinking wine, drinking margaritas, drinking; picking out little gifts to give her that I know she’ll think are funny; making wildly inappropriate jokes; sarcasm; her hilarious phone calls and silly texts; flip cup; making crazy faces; making crazy home movies; being a total weirdo; eating her delicious food; play dates with our kids and how sincere she was with mine; hugging – Mary gave the best freaking hugs; watching The Bachelor; Mondays; Fake Family Reunions… honestly, I could keep going for a good ten pages, so I’ll stop here.
Speaking of the Fake Family, if you never heard her or me or any of us talk about the incomparable relationships that all of the members of our Fake Family have with each other, I’ll spare you the story of its inception, but just know that we are a group of incredibly, immensely, intimately bound friends whom we consider family, just as much as any of our own respective blood-related families. To call Mary “cousin” or “friend” is completely inadequate to describe our relationship. “Sister” feels closer, but there isn’t (or wasn’t) a word for what she was to me. Maybe “fuzzin,” a marriage of the words “fake” and “cousin,” was born out of the need for a word that couldn’t be found in any dictionary – that could capture all the things we were to each other. (Side note) And although this blog post is written in the first person singular, just know that this is the voice of all of the fuzzins, collectively, as one. Any one of us could have said exactly what you are reading right now. We all loved her as much if not more than any of our natural family members, and the word “fake” does an absolute disservice to our relationship.
But this isn’t about me. This is about Mary and who she was. And that’s why we need to talk about Mack & Derek:
More than anything, Mary wanted to be a wife and a mother. Derek was the best thing that ever happened to her. They fell in love quickly and fiercely. They were best friends and true partners. When Mack was born, Mary was complete. Mack was Mary’s heart and soul. He’s so much like her – scarily so – and knowing that I will get to watch him grow up is a privilege I do not take for granted. It means I will have a piece of Mary with me always, and it also feels so gut-wrenching and completely fucking unfair because she’s not here to watch him grow, too. But Mack will never not know who his Mommy was because he is surrounded by people who loved her. I am grateful for the extra three years I got with Mary – it feels like stolen time – but I am most grateful for the extra three years Mack and Derek got to spend with Mary. And she with them.
So, to wrap up this festering, seeping, steaming turd burrito with a nice bow and somehow make it look pretty…
Some thank-yous. To start thanking people is to forget someone. So many people love Mary and will forever have her in their hearts. With that being said, there are some groups she herself wanted to address.
Family and Friends—
To everyone who visited, called, texted, sent cards and letters, donated, and sent food, thank you. Mary loved to entertain and be surrounded by the people she loved. You all were and continue to be amazing. Keep it coming! Derek and Mack will always know that support system is not going anywhere.
Seidman Cancer Center Staff—
Many of you are covered in the friends and family because that is truly what you became. From those that have been there from the beginning to those that were there to send her home comfortably, you are all incredible. She fought with you, and your knowledge and kindness gave her the tools she needed to kick cancer’s ass for three and a half years. Thank you.
Hospice of the Western Reserve Staff—
Because of you, Mary was able to be home and comfortable, and that is what she wanted. In the short time that you knew Mary, she was barely herself anymore. Still you found a way to understand her, and you brought peace and comfort to her and the army of friends and family who were there with her in her last days. Thank you.
This blog has amassed readers from all corners. Many of you never got to meet Mary, but still you supported her with your thoughts, prayers, and lots of other good things. Please know that she appreciated each and every one of you. Thank you.
And from all of us, Mary—
The words it would take to thank you for everything you did in life haven’t been invented yet. Attempting to do so would be futile. Just thank you for being part of our lives. We love you. We’ll miss you. We will live for you as you live through us. Thank you.
We’ll see you on the other side.