My friend Cindy passed away a few days before Christmas.

My copy editors at the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel were absolute in their insistence that when people are no longer among the living, they are dead. Not passed away, passed over, gone to be with the Lord. Dead. And I pretty much agree, and it isn’t meant to be as harsh as it might sound.

But my friend Cindy … she passed away.

We both had stem cell transplants, hers was done a short time before mine. There are two basic types of stem cell transplants: autologous, which uses the patients own stem cells; and allogenic where they come from a brother, sister or parent, though they may come from an unrelated donor as well if they meet a set of strict criteria. I had the former, and Cindy the latter, her cells provided by a donor in Germany.

Though the stem cells were used against different diseases — she had leukemia, and I have multiple myeloma — there were a lot of similarities in what we were going through.

Now, I’m not good at talking to people I don’t know very well, and certainly not about something like this. But her brother, who lives in Clinton, insisted both Cindy and I would benefit from talking to each other. I dragged my feet, but once we realized we both preferred to use email, our relationship began.

From the day of our first email in the fall of 2013 until our last in early December, we shared just about everything that related to our health. She was as important to me and my recovery as anyone, except my wife, Sheri.

When we were afraid, we told each other so and if it meant crying together, we did. We also laughed at the absurdity of our situations, but we didn’t shy away from the seriousness of our illnesses. She told me how much she loved her doctors and nursing staff and I told her how much I loved mine, As a nurse herself, she allowed she may have been a “little” difficult as a patient in the beginning, but quickly learned to let them do their job.

As we settled into the longer-term care for our illnesses, our paths started to diverge somewhat. My results were very good, right from the start. Hers were initially encouraging, but didn’t stay that way. She was home for a short period of time, but constant infections forced her back into the hospital. She had numerous transplants in an effort to get her bone marrow to start growing again. It had been destroyed at one point, but, unlike my own, it wasn’t responding to treatment. She had no white blood cells and despite numerous attempts, they would not return.

At the same time, she was suffering infection after infection, and the decision was eventually made to let her go home. She wasn’t going to get better, and she deserved to be where she could see her beloved cats, and her gardens, and all the things that made up the life she and her husband had carved out for each other.

I continued to send her emails, though I knew she didn’t have the strength to reply. But I wanted her to know that I still cared for her and was still thinking about her, and frankly, I didn’t want to give up the connection. So the emails were chit-chatty and needed no reply. But as her conditioned worsened, it seemed like dealing with them would have been just another burden on her family. So I stopped.

Then her brother sent me the message that she had passed away at 5 a.m. one morning, quietly and in peace. Amen.

We lost a shining light when this woman left us. The light was fueled by unimaginable courage. So many of you have talked about the courage you see in my writing, and I thank you for it. I thank Cindy for the courage she showed me, some of which I hope to be able to pass on to you.

The other huge thing I saw in her was her love for her family. The last days of her fight were for them, I think. It would have been so much easier to just let go, but there was no way that could happen. She wanted to give her family every minute with her that she possibly could, and she did.

So, I’ve lost one more person who has been very important to me, and I am certainly diminished by the loss, even though Cindy and I never actually met. Our relationship consisted only of our emails, but still I find myself sad at the end of each day now, because that was the time I gathered up the bits and pieces to put in my email to her.

Goodbye, Cindy.

Jim Arnold is a former copy editor for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. To read more about his journey through cancer, visit his blog, findingthepony.blogspot.com.

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