Val was diagnosed with glioblastoma after experiencing a seizure while out to lunch with a friend of ours who was a retired nurse. At first, we believed she had had a stroke, but after further testing, it was confirmed that she had glioblastoma.
On March 8, 2022, she went in for surgery to remove most of her right frontal lobe, where the tumor resided. As a retired nurse, I couldn’t imagine removing that much of her brain without having some resultant behavioral issues or mental status changes. As soon as she came out of surgery, she didn’t seem any different at all. And her memory remained better than mine.
Then came the daily routine of driving to radiation. She couldn’t drive because of the seizure, so I drove her most of the time. We had become roommates two years before her medical issues. She was there for me when I was being treated for breast cancer in 2021. We have been friends in AA for 24 years.
She kept a very positive, upbeat attitude. She told the doctors she would cooperate completely with their treatments as long as she could still attend her daily noon AA meetings, where she drew so much of her strength. She kept telling us all that she was going to beat this thing. I didn’t tell her about the time frame the surgeon had given me. I just followed her lead.
She continued with the oral chemotherapeutic medication. While continuing with her AA meetings, going out to eat with friends, and swimming when she could. It was an enjoyable summer. I asked her if there was anywhere she wanted to go, and she indicated she was happy right where she was. With her AA family…as she had no other relatives alive that she knew of.
She was very inspirational to many people. She reached out to newcomers. Set an example of dealing with life on life’s terms to us old-timers. Just enjoyed her life.
In October, she experienced another seizure after experiencing a stressful situation. She was in the hospital for several days while they adjusted her anti-seizure meds. She then attended an in-hospital rehab program and came home 100%.
The fall otherwise was pretty uneventful. She celebrated her 35th AA anniversary. Thanksgiving was lovely though we got a carryout Thanksgiving dinner. She got an orange tabby cat which she had always wanted. He was a bit of a terror because he came from a household that had 79 cats. But Val was so happy to have another cat. She had had cats all her life.
Christmas was a quiet celebration. Just the two of us, our two cats, and her little Yorkie. Things were peaceful.
Then on January 15, 2023, when we had gone out to eat, she had another seizure. It wasn’t your typical grand mal time of seizure with uncontrollable body movements. She seemed to stare ahead, slur her speech, and have trouble moving. I took her straight to the ER, and they admitted her. She had some residual paralysis of her left arm…though that was slowly improving with time. She was again sent to in-hospital rehab. She had a wonderful occupational therapist who she connected with fully and made her rehab fun.
She came home again, 100% fully functional. She came home on a Friday, and she wanted to go out for Chinese food at our favorite Chinese restaurant with two of our friends. We had a wonderful time. She was so happy to be home. That Saturday, we stayed home all day. We had coffee and had some really wonderful deep conversations. We connected like we never had before. It was wonderful. She cooked up our favorite meal: lamb chops and summer squash. We absolutely relished that meal.
The next morning, Sunday, we went out for our usual breakfast to Granny’s Restaurant. When we got home, a friend of hers, Mike, came to visit, and they went for a ride.
Later that evening, we went out for dinner. I think she felt rushed and started to freeze up. By the time we got to the restaurant, she couldn’t move. I took her to the ER again, where she was admitted again.
Her rehab potential had declined, but they were still willing to give her her best shot and sent her for further in-hospital rehab. She didn’t bounce back like the other times and had become more dependent.
She was transferred to a nursing home in mid-February. They took wonderful care of her, but she continued to decline. Finally, it was time for hospice to come in. They were absolutely wonderful!! So compassionate. So loving.
Val remained comfortable and positive to the end. I was so thankful that her experience was as good as it could be. She treated everyone with compassion. As she and I had said, “You get what you give.” If you’re nice to people, generally, they will be nice to you too.
She died on March 23 — three days short of her 82nd birthday. She was a very young 82. She never thought about her age. But she was proud of it. She kept doing what she could do. She stayed active and present. Always positive. Looking at the bright side of any situation. Always spreading the word of AA. I believe that was the purpose in her life. People commented that she always had a smile on her face. And loved to hug people. A friend of hers even got her a tee shirt that said “best hugger on the North Shore.”
I miss her terribly. Her smile. Her companionship. Her positive attitude. And yet I feel she’s always with me. And that she completed her job here on earth. I appreciate everything I learned from her. She was one of those special people you meet in your life. She was my sponsor and my mentor. A #1 teacher in my life.
At her Celebration of Life, we played the song she requested be played at her memorial: “Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground” by Willie Nelson. I think it summarizes her life perfectly.
Fly on Val…fly high!