REBECCA KANE WANTS to make sure that her friends and family have something to remember her by after she dies.

So at her memorial service, there will be a bucketful of pieces of colored sea glass she has collected over the years, and those who attend the service may take a piece with them when they go.

Kane, 55, of Waterville, has been very practical about preparing for her death. Her oncologist told her several days ago that she has a year or less to live, and while the prognosis is not good, she will not let it mar the time she has left.

“I’m not afraid, because of faith and hope in the Lord,” she said.

Her journey has been a long one. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, and after undergoing surgery and treatment, the cancer spread to her ovaries and she had them removed. She was cancer-free for about nine years, and then, in 2014, it came back and spread to her bones and eventually her stomach.

A massage therapist for 30 years and more recently Welcome Center and Campus Visit coordinator for Thomas College, Kane says she has much to be thankful for, including wonderful family, friends and co-workers. Rather than focus on her own troubles, she worries about others who are suffering with cancer.

“It’s just so rampant, everywhere, so it’s really not about me — it’s about so many affected by cancer,” she said.

Kane told me this as we sat last week in her cozy living room surrounded by flowers from friends and relatives and many photos of her family. Her 15-year-old, black Schipperke dog, Rocky, slept on the floor nearby.

She said it was a good day and she felt well enough to wear regular clothes instead of pajamas for the first time in a few weeks.

A warm, gentle soul, Kane has always looked at the positive side of things and remarked that she sees hope in the bright blue sky outside her picture window.

“The support that you get from people in this community of Waterville, Winslow, Oakland and Fairfield is just amazing,” she said. “The boosters had a dinner for me. I was worried about how my needs were going to be met and people have blessed us.”

Her co-workers at Thomas College and her friends at Faith Evangelical Free Church also are attentive, sending cards and helping her in every way possible.

“People bring meals,” she said. “It’s humbling. Last week, two people from the college cleaned my bathroom. One of my friends from high school lives in Dubai and periodically sends me $250. This last spring when my white count was really low, a lady from our church organized a benefit and each person gave $10 or $20 and they hired Advance 1 Cleaners. They paid to have my whole house cleaned — my rugs, my floors. They did everything.”

How can one be sad with so much love all around? For Kane, that is what living is all about. In fact, her bucket list is not extravagant.

“I just want to visit with my family and people that I care about, because they’re the ones who have helped me become who I am.”

Kane’s husband, Kenny, son Kaleb, and stepdaughters Emily and Elisha are front and center in that category. Kaleb, 20, and a Thomas student, is having a tough time with her prognosis, she said. She was diagnosed with breast cancer on his 8th birthday and learned on his 18th birthday that the cancer had returned, she said.

“That’s my biggest thing, is thinking about him being sad or my missing his wedding or his having children, but he’ll be taken care of. I’m looking at all those other people suffering, and he’s got a lot of support. I feel like he has a lot of fence posts around him and each fence post creates a yard, so there are a lot of healthy people in his life that give him wise counsel.”

While Kane hated to leave her Thomas job, which she loved, it was time, and her husband also is on leave from his job at MaineGeneral Medical Center so he can help care for her. His co-workers are a great support, which allows him to be Rebecca’s rock: When she wakes in the night and cries out in pain, he is there to help.

“I’m not always optimistic about the cancer because I’m human,” she concedes. “I don’t like it, but I’m going to wave the white flag of surrender so I can enjoy the rest of my life.”

As we talked, her husband arrived home and joined the conversation. They told me they talk a lot and love to laugh and will have no regrets when the time comes to say good-bye. Still, it is not easy for Kenny.

“It’s like being at the beach,” he said. “One minute I’m all right, and the next minute the wave takes me under, but I always pop back up. I’ve got to — all of the people that have helped us with kindness, money.”

Kane has a wonderful oncologist and naturopathic doctor who work together on her care, she said. She is receiving palliative care now and the next step will be hospice.

“I want to pass away at home,” she said. “I wrote my obituary. I wrote what I want my family to do. One of my big things is, I collect sea glass at the ocean. You take all those broken shards of glass and put them in a little bottle, and when the sun comes in, all those little pieces of glass are beautiful. God takes broken pieces of our lives and makes them beautiful. I’m grateful for him to heal my broken pieces and make me whole.”

As family and friends pluck the pieces of sea glass from a bucket at her service — whenever that may be — she wants them to know she is at peace with her life and death.

“Psalm 139 says all your days are before me, even before there was one,” Kane said. “So, basically, the day we’re born and the day we die, God knows the beginning and the end. He knows our story. He’s the one who gives us our first breath, and he’s in control of our last breath.”

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter for 29 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.

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