Pedal Another Mile

Bicycling, death, life after death.

Meet Billy Jo

OK, I am at a point where I am calm enough, and Billy Jo is sleeping peacefully, that I want to introduce you to just one of the countless reasons this world is losing a wonderful human being. This isn't an update post, it's not a "Dave is a wreck" post, it's not a pissed off post. It's a post to celebrate Billy Jo.

If you've read from the beginning, or you know her, you know she's been fighting this cancer for 17 years. If not, here's the Cliff's Notes:

  • First diagnosis/ major surgery 1996
  • Recurrence and metastasized 1999

SInce 1999:

  • Five separate chemos consisting of six cycles each (4-6 hours per day, 5x per week, for 6 weeks). One chemo where she stopped after 3 cycles due to almost dying of a blood infection.
  • Four major abdominal surgeries.
  • Tumor destroyed left sciatic nerve and collapsed L4
  • 6 weeks full dose radiation to entire abdomen/pelvic region.
  • No "remission" to speak of. There were never more than 6-9 months of "normal" blood markers in the past 13 years.

Fast forward to August 15th, 2012. The last chemo (which began in September 2011 and ended on February 10, 2012, her 37th birthday) was so ineffective the tumor grew during the last two cycles of it. So we find ourselves at the University of Chicago for a second opinion from a respected oncologist there, as Billy Jo's long-time oncologist was out of ideas.

The University of Chicago is a huge, intimidating place. We thought we were going to get carjacked at one intersection on the way, the streets were all fucked up because of construction so we got lost, and that's not an area to be lost in. Parking sucked.

Our nerves were frayed, We were trying, hoping beyond hope for a miracle, but at the same time preparing ourselves for the "I'm sorry but there's nothing else to do." talk we expected that was coming.

We get into the hospital. It's so huge they send someone to get you and bring you to where you are to go. We do so. We check in. I go to sit down in the waiting area. Billy Jo walks up to me, tosses me her bag full of medical records and scan CDs, and says "I'll be right back."

New readers, new friends, strangers...this is the type of person we are losing. Keep in mind that exactly four weeks from this day we rushed Billy Jo to the ER and that was the beginning of the end.

So where did she go? Where did this woman knowing she was likely out of options and near the end of a hellacious battle go?

I'll let the picture explain it first:

She saw this crying, frightened woman sitting by herself. She walked right over to her, said "Hi I am Billy Jo. You look like you need a back rub and someone to talk to." The lady told her she had just been diagnosed with lung cancer and was scared to death. Billy Jo told her it was ok to be scared but to be strong. The lady asked her if she was a new cancer patient. Billy Jo replied she'd been fighting 17 years, all the way, and was still here. She told her keep fighting. The woman's tears seemed to turn from the scared variety to the thankful variety. Billy Jo stood there and kept her company until the lady was called in for her appointment.

Consoled a total stranger in need. Calmed her down. All the while her mind racing about her own future, as the end was likely near. We never thought it would be this near, maybe sometime next year, but near nonetheless.

Even if she knew in four weeks the end would be beginning, I know she'd do the exact same thing.

THAT'S Billy Jo. Those of you that never got to meet her - I'm sorry. I hope this gives you a glimpse and a feeling of meeting her. She will be missed but never ever forgotten.