Archive for December, 2010

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The final act to be perfomed by the understudy

December 28, 2010

This post is written by Marc Blumer, aka Mr. Wine Diva, aka Chris’ husband.

On Monday, December 27, 2010, Chris passed away after her two-and-a-half year battle with cancer. In that struggle, Chris followed through on her initial vow to kick cancer’s butt and lived an amazing life that she has documented on this blog.

Because so many of you have found strength, humor and solace in Chris’ words about living with cancer, I wanted to share a bit about how she died.

Last summer, as Chris had blogged, she experienced some knee pain that everyone thought was just from being on the wrong side of 40 and this is where Chris’ posts left off. That pain, sadly, turned out to be metastases to the femur. And that signaled the end of her chemo’s efficacy.

The last four months involved a surgery, a clinical chemo trial, many hospitalizations and finally hospice care and her passing yesterday.

I cannot thank the hospice team at Northwestern Hospital enough for the amazing level of care they provided not only to Chris but to me and to Chris’ mom. Every one of them is just a special, special person.

But since Chris’ blog was about the process of going through cancer, I wanted to share what she couldn’t about the end for her life here from my own perspective.

When we received the diagnosis that Chris’ cancer was no longer responding to chemo and that there were not more treatment options, Chris rolled with that news with the grit, determination and humor you’ve all come to know and love over these many months. She talked about squeezing in another trip, about getting well enough to enjoy food again, about not spending her remaining time in bed.

Within just a few weeks however, it became apparent that Chris was never going to be able to eat the food she loved again, to drink wine again, to hang out with friends in a lucid enough state to enjoy their company.

At that point, Chris and I had the talks you have to have when you near the end of life. And during all of this, as you surely noticed, Chris went radio silent on this blog, Facebook and Twitter. The reason for that silence was this.

As Chris was processing these developments, she came to a conclusion that she’d reached the point where it was obvious that all the things she loved about living her life were gone and that in the balance between activity and comfort one must choose during hospice care, she tearfully told me that “I just want to be made comfortable and I hope this goes quick.”

After uttering those words to me, Chris expressed her deepest fear that in accepting the end was near and in actively asking for a high level of comfort where she’d mostly just sleep, she was somehow letting all of you down.

On behalf of everyone who loves Chris, I told her in no uncertain terms that she’d been nothing short of heroic, served as an inspiration and that while losing her was going to be devastating for all of us, the only thing worse would be to see her suffer one more minute than was necessary.

With that, I witnessed a peace come over Chris that she carried through her remaining days.

While the progression of Chris’ disease led to some horrible hours over the last months, Northwestern’s hospice team worked around the clock to manage symptoms and found ways to get her back each time to a level of comfort where she was able to just sleep. Chris died that way, asleep, holding her mother’s hand.

Since her original diagnoses in 2008, Chris lived an amazing life that you all have followed here.

Chris performed in two major plays as an actor while actively getting treatment. Her run with David Cromer’s Cherrywood production last summer ranks among the happiest periods I witnessed for Chris in the sixteen years we’ve been together.

Chris did continue her wine business to the extent she was able. But she also took a part-time job with UIC helping to train med students in the personal side of treatment as a standardized patient – something that she took tremendous pride in that she was able to use her acting skills to give back for the care she’d received.

Personally, we travelled as much as we could. Chris and I went on a South American cruise, we lived in Austin for three months, we attended the SXSW festival, we spent a week on Virginia’s eastern shore, visited Washington D.C. (Chris had never been), spent a week in Savannah and Hilton Head, spent a long weekend at the Koehler resort in Wisconsin and I’m probably forgetting something.

Does it all make up for the forty more years we’d have wished for Chris? Not by a long shot. Was it a hell of a good time with the time she had? Absolutely.

There is no way to replace Chris in any of our lives. All we can do is carry what she gave us in our heads and in our hearts. She’d be really hacked off if we didn’t.

A memorial service is being planned for January 9th at Drake & Sons funeral home at 5303 N. Western Ave. in Chicago at 1:00 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, Chris has asked you consider a donation to Livestrong at http://www.livestrong.org/Donate/Giving-Options/Gifts-in-Honor-or-Memory

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