My Sister Marion

Marion April 2013

I haven’t posted in a long time because there has been nothing on my mind except my sister Marion. She wanted things private, from an online perspective, so I could not write about her, which also meant I couldn’t write about anything else. Because I couldn’t think of anything else. Marion passed away on Wednesday, July 3 at 4:30 pm from breast cancer that had metastasized into her lungs, stomach and liver. It was only 29 days before – four short weeks ago  – that she got the news.

She had been diagnosed with breast cancer in late September of 2008. It was minor, they said. If you have to get breast cancer, this is the best kind. A simple lumpectomy and a little radiation. No chemo. Such a small lump. But, the doctor warned, if it comes back, it won’t be in the breast, and it won’t be curable, but “treatable.”

They started her on Tamoxifen, but she didn’t like the side effects. You’re okay to go off of that, since your cancer is so mild, they told her.

In the beginning, every six months she was monitored. Then it turned into annually. But they monitored her breast. Even though the doctor said it would not return to the breast. Why weren’t they doing cat scans of her liver and lungs, the areas where breast cancer normally metastases? My sunny, optimistic sister was always saying “I’m fine” and she always seemed invincible. We all believed that.

She had a mild cough. We had our sister/cousin reunion planned for April on the east coast – Virginia, Washington DC and North Carolina. In the early morning hours of April 17, we picked her up for our trip to the airport, and she was coughing and clearly had some sort of infection. “I’m fine!” she insisted. On the trip, I picked up her infection first, then Lisa, then our cousin Carolyn’s husband John.

Clearly she had some sort of viral or bacterial infection. She passed it on to us.

Returning home in late April, she had a follow-up appointment with her oncologist. “Your breast is fine!”

At that time, she mentioned the cough, but not the weight loss she was experiencing. About 20 lbs. in two months. They thought the cough might be a side effect of her blood pressure medicine. A couple of weeks later, still no change. Now she was down 25 lbs. Finally, she mentioned the weight loss to the doctor.

Now a chest xray. And they scheduled a cat scan.

I was there on my lunch hour when the doctor called about the lung xray. It shows a “mass” which could be pneumonia or something more serious.

Because of the fact that she had infected all of us with some sort of viral or bacterial infection, it had to be pneumonia. That only made sense.

On Monday, June 3, they did the cat scan. Again, I stopped by on my lunch hour the next day. She said they wouldn’t hear back about the results for two to three days. We had a really nice half-hour visit at her dining room table when the phone rang. Her husband, Whitey, who was watching TV and saw the Cox Cable notice came on about who was calling, said “it’s Kaiser, pick up.”

I could only hear her side of the conversation. “No, I’m not alone, I have my husband and my sister with me. I’m a strong person.” That was a bad omen.

Whitey was looking over her shoulder as she wrote info from the doctor; size of tumors, where, etc. Her eyes got wet. It was terrible news.

When she hung up, she said: “not good news. Stage 4 cancer in my lungs, stomach and liver.” She seemed most surprised about the liver. She was not a drinker, ever. She smoked for some time, but gave it us for her grand kids. But she never even had a glass of wine.

I remember Whitey saying “that’s not a death sentence, right?” She said, “after stage 4 is stage 5, which is death.”

I said that I thought that they needed to be alone and talk, so made my way out. But after a big hug and many “I love you’s” expressed.

Gobsmacked is how we all feel. How could this happen so quickly?.

I loved her dearly and treasure our trips in the last few years. And I treasure the family members she created: those grand kids of hers, whom I all love so much. She loved them more than life itself.

What a legacy of love she left behind.

9 thoughts on “My Sister Marion

  1. Sharon: I am so, so sorry for yours, Lisa, and Roger’s lose. Marion seemed to have a wonderful, sunny, position on life. I always loved reading her comments. Loved seeing photo’s of her beautiful smile.
    May God watch over her, her husband, and all of the Penney family. Rest in Peace Marion!! 😦

  2. Because I have watched this from afar, it is easy for me to believe this has not actually happened. When reality does set in, I am outraged, saddened, bereft for my friend Carolyn and her cousins. And myself. I am sorry for our loss.

  3. Lisa what a beautiful picture of Marion…My heart is heavy, Marion will be missed by so many…..We all have said at one time or another what is the purpose of life, what am I here for…..I believe Marion hit a home run in her lifetime…..Marion was Love and that is the gift that she gave to everyone who knew her. I do believe that is the gift…..and Marion was that gift♥♥♥

  4. Sharon, I want to thank you for posting this on your blog. It answers many questions that I had regarding whether it was new or a mestastisis of the original cancer. I was so afraid when she said she wasn’t going to take that medication after it caused hotflashes, of which she was always plagued. If only……….

    As many have said, Marion was the epitomy of love and caring. She told me of times that there were people at her holiday table that she wanted to feed because they had nowhere to go. There wasn’t a stingy bone in her body. In all the time I’ve known her, I’ve never heard nasty gossip, angry words, or negativity. She was giving of herself and her time, any time someone needed it. I know her church meant the world to her and she gladly gave of herself and her wonderful cooking talents whenever needed. Her Banana Nut Muffins were known far and wide and made it to many a church function.

    I will miss her sparkle. I will miss her gentility. I will miss our hour long chats on the telephone, which always ended with her sweet voice saying “I love you!”

  5. Marion was such a wonderful, upbeat, sunny-smile woman, and she always lifted us up with her. I only learned of her condition two days before she passed away, and of course my first reaction was stunned disbelief, followed by a tremendous sense of loss – for myself, as her “adopted” cousin, and for Whitey, her children, grandchildren, you, Lisa, and Carolyn. I still feel that loss, but now it’s mixed with anger at the cavalier medical treatment she received. It will take a long time to move beyond “If only…”. I hope you can feel my arms around you all.

  6. Sharon thank you. This was so nice to have on one page. . I did know every step you said as was kept informed and talked to her daily. i remember so well that day the dr. called and said it was cancer. I got that short email and just could not believe it. I was so sure it was pneumonia.
    My goodness, I miss her. I had heard about you and Lisa so many times along with her sons and DILs and all the grandkids. She loved you all and was proud of everyone.
    I know she was told if it ever came back it would be very agressive and kept thinking why are they not doing more.
    Cookie I have eaten those banana nut muffins and they were excellent. She fed everyone not only food but our spirits and lives in general. She was a generous, loving person,
    I have several momentos she has sent me or given me and will treasure them forever.

  7. I lost my Dad much the same way (pancreatic cancer) then my grandad a year later. I was 18 years old….you are in my thoughts, all of you. “There is no way out but through.” Who said that? They were full of **** but I get what they meant. Unfortunately that was 35 years ago…how long IS this damn tunnel? I am so very sorry for the loss you have all suffered. I hope that in remembering the love, the laughter, the shared lives, that at some point ya’ll can find some measure of meaning in this, if not peace. I have a feeling she might want that for you….

  8. I lost my Dad quite quickly when I was 18, my granddad a year following, both from pancreatic cancer. Someone said to me “There’s no way ’round it but through it”. I remember thinking there must be something I just wasn’t “getting”…you don’t. It’s a load of hooey. I’m so very sorry for ya’ll’s loss and pain. I didn’t know her but she sounds like someone I would have adored and wanted to be buds with.

    At some point you guys will find some kind of meaning in this, something that drives you to honor her memory in your own special way, if not find peace. Losing my Dad made me a much better parent than I think I would have been, so I honor him in that way. Know that you are being wrapped in the arms of love, not only by those who have gone on, but by those of us who remain and understand your pain. Hugs to you all…

  9. How well I remember that Marion and Whitey came here to Alabama with her knowing she had the lump and was to have the biopsy when she returned because she had this trip planned and nothing was going to get in the way of that. We had flown to El Cajon for the very first CFF convention….loved her for a long time…..and I miss her so much. It took me a long time to remove her name from my contact list. But cannot bring myself to delete ever the emails I have from her. I had surgery long about the same time she learned she had cancer….she was trying to encourage me during recovery. And I tried to encourage her too. I went to church with her while out there…..and she did the same with me while here….so my church knew who they were praying for. I am glad I could call her friend.

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