Fighting for Life

The Daily Prompt: Fight

For many years I  served as a volunteer in the Pastoral Care Department of a hospital. I visited patients and talked with them, sometimes the nature of our conversations was spiritual, other times it was just about whatever was on their mind. There is one patient who will forever stand out in my mind. The day I went to enter her room in August of 2009, the head nurse told me I most likely wouldn’t have luck, she didn’t want visitors, and wasn’t talking to anyone.  Her name was Sammy. She was 21.sammy gabbay8-2009
I walked in and she asked me if I liked make up. Sure did. So she pulled out a giant box filled with every imaginable color of lipstick, blush, and eye shadow you can imagine. The door had been opened to let me in, and through it I went. She was diagnosed with Lymphoma when she was 18, and had undergone countless rounds of Chemotherapy but never went into remission. Her mother rarely came to visit her in the hospital, but her friends did. They traveled over an hour a few days a week and her hospital room would turn into a college dorm room. Laughter, antics, all while she was hooked up to a Morphine drip that should have had her flat out sleeping. I visited her everyday, we put on makeup, trying out new eye shadow colors and lipsticks. She loved lipstick that had a “sparkle” in it- she told me everyone needs a little sparkle in their life. She showed me the jewelry she had ordered online from her hospital bed, all the while telling the Doctors she would not leave the hospital until they agreed to give her a stem cell transplant. They kept telling her it would do no good, she was too weak, it made no sense. But she wouldn’t- couldn’t hear it. In one of the rare times she opened up to me, when the jewelry and the makeup and the laughter were put away, she said flat out It’s not fair, I’m supposed to be in college, going out with my friends, have a boyfriend. I’m not giving in, I’m entitled to have a life- I’m 21. There were no words I could say other than YOU ARE RIGHT. Her determination to live had kept her going longer than any of her doctors had predicted.

Sammy did get her stem cell transplant, and to the surprise of the doctors she did live for almost 2 months afterwards, but the fight was not won. She died in January of 2010. I learned so many lessons from this young girl that I still think of her often. Her determination, her unwillingness to give up, to fight, her ability to change her surroundings into something positive while spending months in a hospital room. Yes, she was cheated out of a life. She was right. But that short life left an impression on all those she touched, that will last our lifetime. And I still wear sparkly lipstick.blowkiss

27 thoughts on “Fighting for Life

  1. It’s difficult to present dear one’s passing and if they are so young it’s even worse. It must have been heartbreaking for you, making a friend under such circumstances.

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    • Her friends were amazing- especially given their young age- often I had seen younger people left alone as their friends could not deal with seeing the sickness and machines – this group just embraced it all.

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  2. A sad story from life…and true is that life is not fair. Not at all. She was good at making her life more joyful, and so were you. She will not be forgotten. You are a wonderful story teller.

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  3. Your presence in her life no doubt meant a lot to her, Lisa. What a legacy this young woman left behind for those who loved her.

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  4. The most heartbreaking line in this story was “her mother rarely came to visit her”.

    I won’t look at sparkly lipstick quite the same way anymore. She’s right, everyone does need a little sparkle in their life. It sounds like she gave out a lot more sparkle than she received in exchange.

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  5. This post humbles me. I was heading over to say a cheery Happy first day of Spring, Lisa.
    Your story stopped me in my tracks, tears down my face. You were a gift to this young woman, Lisa. What is wrong with parents who don’t carry their weight, don’t care and abandon such a lovely dear Fighter??
    Great story and amazing description of fierce determination. Wish the stem cell surgery had helped her but 2 months probably were worth it to her. ❤

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    • I too wish the transplant had worked, it was awful to witness the disappointment when it did not. Life goes on, today is spring and we are expecting a snowstorm, and now this dear girl will be thought of as people read, which allows her to be remembered.

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  6. Nice post, Lisa and I loved the last line and the fact that she still influences you in some way. Young people who are sick always seem to leave a very different impression on our lives. God rest her soul.

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    • I do still think of her often even though it has been so many years. I visited so many patients over close to 10 years of volunteering and I do think of many of them still, but this young girl was unlike anyone I had ever met.

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  7. I think we all show our strengths or our weakness when confronted with death. What an amazing young, determined woman. I wish she would have gotten her happy ending, but life doesn’t always work like that. Thank you for sharing.

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