Many of you may know the moment. That first time that your loved one says, "I had a strange cough. I feel a bit different today." I can vividly recall the moment when my wife Kathleen said those words to me just four years ago. It was the first cough that was not "right". The first time that she knew something was wrong. Little did we know how wrong.
We learned that there would many "firsts". The first doctors visit. The first biopsy. The first difficult treatment choice. the first time we knew what we faced. The first of many firsts.
Fortunately, Kathleen was able to get a quick and accurate diagnosis of diffuse scleroderma. Unfortunately, despite the best medical care, despite our best personal efforts to learn about this condition and to make all of the right choices, Kathy lost her battle this summer. Fours years to the day that she had that first cough.
Kathy never asked why this terrible disease happened to her, nor was she ever bitter about it. Rather, she asked what she could learn. She learned how to make the most of every day. She and I also learned that we live in a mortal, frail and imperfect world which is not fair. Knowing that helped us to move forward during the past four years. We loved each other and made the most of everything we did together. We had few regrets.
But I have also learned many things over the past four years from Kathleen. How to be kinder, gentler, a better father and husband, more faithful and a better human being. And most importantly, it is to make each day as if it is your last and to think carefully about your words and deeds.
As we think about how this happened, I encourage you to talk about life and death issues with your spouse, your family and your doctors. If you have specific wishes about your life, you need to have these legally documented, and made known to those who can help you and ensure that those around you can be strong enough to see it through. Trust me, this is not easy.
So how do we move on? With a whole lot of more firsts in our lives. We have also moved on by establishing the Kathleen M. Mansfield Foundation: Building a Better Community Through Knowledge, Leadership and Service. This is a foundation to promote Kathleen's love of community service. It gives us great comfort to continue her work.
We also created a web site, The Kathy Report, that allows us to share more information about scleroderma and its many complications.
Email: [email protected]
Story edited 09-19-04
Story posted 9-22-04 SLE
Email link corrected 01-20-05 SLE
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