I met Reesa in February of 2010. I was having a rough week, and my friends Lynn and Casey took me to the weekly poker game she hosted, thinking it would cheer me up. It did. Reesa was already sick at that point, though the cancer had not been diagnosed. Despite the fact that she was suffering, I was blown away by her brilliance, especially the way she talked about her writing projects. I admired her on the spot, and looked forward to seeing her again.
Over the next month, I got to know Reesa and her family more (as well as honing my poker skills). On March 15th, I was hit by a car. Two days later, Reesa was finally diagnosed with breast cancer. I was so frustrated to be undergoing my own convalescence, and unable to help her recover from the mastectomy. But gradually, we both recovered. It wasn’t long before poker nights resumed. A few months after that, Reesa formed a writing group, which I readily joined. She became an influence on my work, my process, and she was one of my biggest cheerleaders. And on March 15th of 2011, we both celebrated a year of surviving our respective tragedies.
In December of 2010, Reesa announced that she was pregnant. Although she’d had concerns about having a baby less than a year after having the mastectomy, her doctors told her it was perfectly fine. They were wrong. When Iliana was born on March 30, 2011, there were tumors in Reesa’s other breast, her hip, spine, lungs, and liver.
Reesa had beaten cancer before, and this time, she had an infant daughter to live for. She spent 2011 fighting, fighting, and fighting some more. There was radiation, chemo, more radiation, surgery, and then more chemo. Never once did she think she would lose this fight. And even though she was considered terminally ill, most of us thought she would win, too. It was impossible to think that she wouldn’t.
But in October of 2011, things went downhill. Blood clots, rampant infections, kidney failure. Just before Christmas, we learned that the tumors in her lungs and liver were growing again. Not good news. Still, when I visited her on New Year’s Day, the dialysis treatments were working and her doctor said she was getting stronger. I left the hospital full of hope. It was the last time I saw her.
During the New Year’s Day visit, she spent much of the time sleeping. I wrote her a note in a notebook she kept near the bed. When it was time for me to leave, she apologized for having fallen asleep. I told her it was okay. I said, “I’m grateful for any time I spend with you.”
Those were the last words I said to her.
She died yesterday afternoon. The dialysis stopped working, and her body gave up.
I wish I’d gone to see her one more time. That I’d had the chance for a proper goodbye. But I suppose that, as far as last words go, the ones I said to her on New Year’s sufficed.