Tag Archive | Leukemia

My Friend’s Story – Leukemia: Update on Her Family

Sandee & Mitch

SANDEE & MITCH KLINE

Last evening, as I was writing a fictional story based on my childhood, I received a long-distance telephone call from my real childhood friend’s daughter in Israel. She has kept in touch with me over the past five years since her mother, whom I had known since we were seven years old, died of leukemia in the fall of 2010. Each December 6, Sandee’s birthday, I post a remembrance of her, as I did again this year. Not that I need reminding . . . I don’t feel that Sandee ever left. She may be somewhere where we can’t hear her stories or her laughter, or benefit from her compassionate listening or offers of comfort; but I believe that everyone who was close to her can still feel her in their heart and soul. I can. And occasionally she even visits me in a dream. The only thing I don’t like about this is that I have to say goodbye again, and her presence in my slumbering brain reminds me that I could do nothing—absolutely nothing—to help her when she was so sick. That’s something I can’t forgive life for—not letting me do somethingF

After a minute or so of catch-up conversation on the phone last evening with Sandee’s daughter, I happened to ask about one of her brothers, who also had moved to Israel. After a silent pause, I heard the ominous words that the family had undergone yet another major shift: her brother had moved back home to Philadelphia to become the primary caregiver for their father. Mitch, who remained a warrior against leukemia and lymphoma—blood cancers that stole his wife, mother, and mother-in-law from him and from the people in their lives—is now fighting on his own behalf against stage 4 brain cancer. He is recovering from surgery, chemo, and radiation at home, cared for by his son and other close family members and friends.

This morning, I awoke to that heavy-hearted, semi-shocked feeling that stuns you back to the reality that an act of God or nature has just torn another hole through your world. I don’t have many details about Mitch at this point, but I am following updates on Facebook and remain in touch with several members of his and Sandee’s family. People local to the Philadelphia area may be interested in the “Lotsa Helping Hands” site—Pitch in for Mitch—which provides updates and information on how to give support (signup is required; mine is pending at this writing).

Links to leukemia and lymphoma sites are at the end of this post. In addition, people local to the area may be interested in the Philly-based Mark Roy Crespy Chapter of the City of Hope, organized by members of Sandee’s family in memory of her brother, who died at about age 11 from bone cancer.

In two days, on December 13, I will celebrate my second anniversary of being successfully treated for uterine cancer. On that day, Friday the 13th, 2013, I underwent a da Vinci robotic total hysterectomy, followed by vaginal radiation (brachytherapy). My recent checkup showed no evidence of recurrence, and I also just had a mammogram that was clear. (See complete information in Uterine Cancer: My Story & More.) I say this in humility and gratitude, even as I feel the pain of loss suffered by the family of my oldest and dearest friend (she still is).

Much progress has been made in treating cancer. But as my friend’s story shows, it is still leaving broken bodies, minds, and hearts in its wake. At the first sign that anything is wrong with your own or with a loved one’s health, please consult a medical practitioner. Early detection of this insidious disease may save your or your loved one’s life.


The following story was originally posted on December 6, 2013.

 SANDRA CRESPY KLINE

Sandee

 12-6-52 — 9-27-10

I met Sandee Crespy when we were both seven years old. We were in the same second-grade class at Ziegler Elementary School in Northeast Philadelphia. Although we had almost distinctly opposite personalities and, on the surface, not much in common, we nevertheless went through four schools together—after Ziegler it was Fels Junior High, Lincoln High, and La Salle College (now University), all in Philly. Our early careers also took roughly parallel paths—she was a legal secretary, I was a medical secretary. I was a bridesmaid at her wedding when she married her high school sweetheart, Mitch Kline, and she was the matron of honor at my wedding when I married my second husband, Farok Contractor, on December 7, 2003. After we graduated college—it took her 18 years of night school, me 11—she went on to become a CPA, and I became an editor-writer. Eighteen years may seem like a long time to go to college, but she and Mitch had three amazing children (Alyssa [Malka], Evan, and Jeffrey) while she also pursued her career and studied—and, of course, socialized with her many friends. (My son, Matt, was born about a year after I finally graduated while working full-time, so I had it a bit easier.)

This synopsis tells you very little about how and why we managed to retain a friendship over 50 years. To give you some idea of that relationship, you can read a brief remembrance I wrote about us in 2012 as an exercise for my writing group: An American Friendship—Associated Memory. In that mini-memoir, you’ll see that I mentioned my recently found sister, Vicki Sue, who was reunited with her maternal family 50 years after we were separated (read her story here). However, the connection is very important because just about a year after we found Vicki Sue, we lost Sandee to her deadly battle with leukemia. But not before the two of them had the chance to meet the previous October. Although Sandee had two lovely sisters, Ronnie and Jackie, you might have thought she’d found another one of her own. (She also had two brothers—Scott, who is doing well, and Mark, who died very young of bone cancer.) Of everyone I knew, she was the most thrilled that Vicki Sue had re-entered our lives—particularly because Vicki had been raised Jewish!

Sandee’s Jewish background was one of the things that had attracted me about her the most when we were young. She came from a big family—Ashkenazy on her mother’s side, Sephardic on her father’s. This mix of Russian and Spanish ancestry may be one of the primary reasons a bone-marrow donor could not be found to save Sandee’s life, despite her myriad of relatives on both sides. But my larger point is that I used to love going to Sandee’s house when we were kids because of all the people—all the life and love—I found there. My family is small and had an unhappier history, so I often took refuge in hers.

In October 2009, my family had its first reunion gathering to honor our finding Vicki Sue. This has evolved into an annual Oktoberfest celebration. But on this first occasion, Sandee joined us—you can see the joy on her face, drinking her last cup of tea in my home:

Sandee Holding Her Cup_October 2009

Sandee and I did share one final cup of tea—at her home in January 2010. She had recently returned from a trip to Israel, where she and Mitch had been visiting their daughter and her family, and thought she’d contracted some sort of bug. Each afternoon she developed a high fever and became very sleepy, so much so that she had to stop working. One snowy January afternoon, I went to see her and took with me a collection of unusual chocolate teas that someone had given me as a gift that I’d never opened. We cracked open the little canisters that day and enjoyed a cup of chocolate tea together. Although she didn’t drink out of “her” cup, which is at my house, looking at that cup brings back these powerful memories of those two last cups of tea we shared:

Sandee's Cup

I didn’t see Sandee again until August 15, 2010, just weeks before she passed. It wasn’t that I didn’t try—I emailed and called her family repeatedly trying to set up a time to visit. But she became sicker and weaker over the ensuing months and was in and out of hospitals, including Johns Hopkins—where our friend Sue and I went for our last girl-thing that August day. The three of us used to get together for our annual fall combined birthday dinner (my day is September 24, Sue’s is November 24, and Sandee’s, of course, was December 6). The last time I spoke with Sandee on the phone it was just a couple of days before my birthday, but she was too ill and too weak to realize it. On September 27, 2010, we got the word from her family that she’d passed away at the local hospital, which was her choice. She was surrounded by her loving family.

Her daughter, Malka, called me and asked me to be one of the pallbearers at her mother’s funeral. I’ve never before or since carried a burden that was so light in my hands and so heavy on my heart.

Click the heart image to read about its significance.

Sandee's Heart

Rest peacefully and as joyfully as you lived, my friend.

See more in Sandee’s memory here.

* * *

PLEASE SUPPORT THE EFFORT TO ERADICATE BLOOD CANCERS

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Logo

MITCH’S LEUKEMIA & LYMPHOMA SOCIETY

TEAM IN TRAINING FUNDRAISING PAGE


My Friend’s Story – Leukemia: In Memoriam on Her Birthday–Two Last Cups of Tea

Reposted from December 6, 2013.


 SANDRA CRESPY KLINE

 12-6-52 — 9-27-10

I met Sandee Crespy when we were both seven years old. We were in the same second-grade class at Ziegler Elementary School in Northeast Philadelphia. Although we had almost distinctly opposite personalities and, on the surface, not much in common, we nevertheless went through four schools together—after Ziegler it was Fels Junior High, Lincoln High, and La Salle College (now University), all in Philly. Our early careers also took roughly parallel paths—she was a legal secretary, I was a medical secretary. I was a bridesmaid at her wedding when she married her high school sweetheart, Mitch Kline, and she was the matron of honor at my wedding when I married my second husband, Farok Contractor, on December 7, 2003. After we graduated college—it took her 18 years of night school, me 11—she went on to become a CPA, and I became an editor-writer. Eighteen years may seem like a long time to go to college, but she and Mitch had three amazing children (Alyssa [Malka], Evan, and Jeffrey) while she also pursued her career and studied—and, of course, socialized with her many friends. (My son, Matt, was born about a year after I finally graduated while working full-time, so I had it a bit easier.)

This synopsis tells you very little about how and why we managed to retain a friendship over 50 years. To give you some idea of that relationship, you can read a brief remembrance I wrote about us in 2012 as an exercise for my writing group: An American Friendship—Associated Memory. In that mini-memoir, you’ll see that I mentioned my recently found sister, Vicki Sue, who was reunited with her maternal family 50 years after we were separated (read her story here). However, the connection is very important because just about a year after we found Vicki Sue, we lost Sandee to her deadly battle with leukemia. But not before the two of them had the chance to meet the previous October. Although Sandee had two lovely sisters, Ronnie and Jackie, you might have thought she’d found another one of her own. (She also had two brothers—Scott, who is doing well, and Mark, who died very young of bone cancer.) Of everyone I knew, she was the most thrilled that Vicki Sue had re-entered our lives—particularly because Vicki had been raised Jewish!

Sandee’s Jewish background was one of the things that had attracted me about her the most when we were young. She came from a big family—Ashkenazy on her mother’s side, Sephardic on her father’s. This mix of Russian and Spanish ancestry may be one of the primary reasons a bone-marrow donor could not be found to save Sandee’s life, despite her myriad of relatives on both sides. But my larger point is that I used to love going to Sandee’s house when we were kids because of all the people—all the life and love—I found there. My family is small and had an unhappier history, so I often took refuge in hers.

In October 2009, my family had its first reunion gathering to honor our finding Vicki Sue. This has evolved into an annual Oktoberfest celebration. But on this first occasion, Sandee joined us—you can see the joy on her face, drinking her last cup of tea in my home:

Sandee Holding Her Cup_October 2009

Sandee and I did share one final cup of tea—at her home in January 2010. She had recently returned from a trip to Israel, where she and Mitch had been visiting their daughter and her family, and thought she’d contracted some sort of bug. Each afternoon she developed a high fever and became very sleepy, so much so that she had to stop working. One snowy January afternoon, I went to see her and took with me a collection of unusual chocolate teas that someone had given me as a gift that I’d never opened. We cracked open the little canisters that day and enjoyed a cup of chocolate tea together. Although she didn’t drink out of “her” cup, which is at my house, looking at that cup brings back these powerful memories of those two last cups of tea we shared:

Sandee's Cup_30%

I didn’t see Sandee again until August 15, 2010, just weeks before she passed. It wasn’t that I didn’t try—I emailed and called her family repeatedly trying to set up a time to visit. But she became sicker and weaker over the ensuing months and was in and out of hospitals, including Johns Hopkins—where our friend Sue and I went for our last girl-thing that August day. The three of us used to get together for our annual fall combined birthday dinner (my day is September 24, Sue’s is November 24, and Sandee’s, of course, was December 6). The last time I spoke with Sandee on the phone it was just a couple of days before my birthday, but she was too ill and too weak to realize it. On September 27, 2010, we got the word from her family that she’d passed away at the local hospital, which was her choice. She was surrounded by her loving family.

Her daughter, Malka, called me and asked me to be one of the pallbearers at her mother’s funeral. I’ve never before or since carried a burden that was so light in my hands and so heavy on my heart.

Click the heart image to read about its significance.

Sandee's Heart

Rest peacefully and as joyfully as you lived, my friend.

See more in Sandee’s memory here.

* * *

PLEASE SUPPORT THE EFFORT TO ERADICATE BLOOD CANCERS

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Logo

MITCH’S LEUKEMIA & LYMPHOMA SOCIETY

TEAM IN TRAINING FUNDRAISING PAGE


My Friend’s Story – Leukemia: Rosh Hashanah & Remembrance

Rosh Hashanah Happy Jewish New Year to Old Friends & New Family

September 24 was the first day of Rosh Hashanah this year, which ends at sundown tonight. As noted in my 9/24/14 post, it was also my 62nd birthday—the first adult birthday I have been truly grateful for.

Sadly, my childhood friend, Sandee, did not live to see her 62nd birthday. As detailed in my previous posts about her, as well as in the story of finding my sister after 50 years, Sandee and I met when we were seven—just at the time I “lost” my baby sister. My Sister’s Story – Adoption & Reunion had a happy ending. My Friend’s Story – Leukemia did not.

Sandee died four years ago tomorrow, on September 27, 2010 (at age 57) of an insidious blood cancer— just after Rosh Hashanah had started that year. And just one year after my sister came back into our lives. No one was more gleeful about that event than Sandee—especially when she learned that my sister had been raised Jewish! 🙂

But Sandee’s story is only partially tragic. She lived joyously, and one of her sisters told us that, as she lay dying, Sandee said that she had loved her life. She was truly blessed and gave everyone who knew her big dollops of her happy life energy.

One of the proofs of the gift that was Sandee is her legacy of four beautiful grandchildren. Just yesterday, right in the middle of the new year, I received this card from her daughter in Israel:

Sandee & Mitch's Grandchildren

As hard as it is to mourn the passing of my childhood friend, it is easy to rejoice in the part of her that lives on through her and her husband, Mitch’s, children and grandchildren.

Happy New Year 2014 to my Jewish friends and family. May you know as much joy as Sandee did during her shortened life on earth. And may you leave as wonderful and inspiring a legacy as she did.


Please also visit Mitch’s Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Fund-Raising Page.

Life Giveth, Life Taketh Away . . . and It Giveth Again

Spiral Clock

All things exist . . . somewhere in the misty, mysterious spiral of time.


Five years ago today, August 15, 2009, a Saturday, I met my sister for the first time after a 50-year separation. My Sister’s Story – Adoption & Reunion tells it all.

A year later, on that same Saturday, I visited my friend for the last time at Johns Hopkins University Hospital. She died just weeks later. My Friend’s Story – Leukemia relates a bit about our 50-year friendship and the powerful connection my friend had with my sister.

Yesterday, I posted My Son’s Father’s Story – Lung Cancer. He never knew my sister, but he did know my friend, back in a time when we were young.

After a week in which I’ve contemplated personal loss (as well as the precariousness of my own health), and a week in which the world lost two luminaries, Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall, it bears remembering that we live in a circle of life. Honoring my former husband and our son, his legacy . . . keeping in touch with my friend’s expanding family, her legacy . . . finding a sister after half a century of separation, destiny’s legacy . . . all are happy reminders of the cycle of birth, death, and life again.

These personal stories interconnect in a deeply meaningful way that, to me, seems cosmic . . . somewhere in the misty, mysterious spiral of time.

My Friend's Story – Leukemia: More Information on Blood Cancers

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Logo

Every 4 minutes, someone in the US is diagnosed with a blood cancer; approximately every 10 minutes, someone dies from it. Nearly 150,000 new cases are expected this year.

In the April 19, 2014 post, I wrote a brief remembrance of my childhood friend, Sandee, who died of leukemia in 2010 just before her 58th birthday. In that post, I included a message from her husband, Mitch, who asked people to support his fundraising efforts (described in the post). Sandee left behind not only a bereft husband, but also three wonderful grown children; two (at the time) grandchildren; a mother who would herself die of lymphoma soon after her daughter; a mother-in-law who would also soon die of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; three siblings; many nieces and nephews, a large extended family; and many, many friends. I have had two other friends with blood cancers as well, one of whom died and one of whom, thankfully, is still with us. But even sadder still are the stories of children who suffer with and die from blood cancers.

About a month ago, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) called and asked me to be a neighborhood volunteer, delivering information to immediate neighbors asking them to consider donating to the fight against blood cancers. Yesterday, I hand-delivered LLS envelopes to some of my neighbors’ mailboxes, but electronic media are so much more far-reaching. So I ask anyone who sees—and shares—this post to please consider supporting this worthy society, as well as the many other organizations that are fighting cancers—and gradually winning the battles. Let’s help win the war.

This PDF—Leukemia & Lymphoma Society_Information on Blood Cancers—contains useful information about potential signs and symptoms of blood cancer, such as

  • Unexplained anemia (Sandee actually had a known blood problem from 20 years ago, the treatment for which eventually led to leukemia)
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Chronic fatigue (one of Sandee’s most prominent symptoms)
  • Recurrent fever (another one of Sandee’s most prominent symptoms)
  • Unexplained back or bone pain
  • Pain in joints or bones
  • Recurrent infection
  • Swelling of lymph nodes
  • Weakness
  • Easy bruising

For further information on possible causes and how donations are spent, please see the PDF and visit LLS and LLS Team in Training. Additional resources are listed here.

Thank you!


I previously wrote about Sandee on what would have been her 61st birthday in the 12/6/13 postAlso see the April 19, 2014 post for her husband’s message.

My Friend’s Story – Leukemia: Remembering Her at Passover

SANDRA CRESPY KLINE - 12/6/52-9/10/27 There are moments in life when you miss someone so much that you just want to pick them from your dreams and hug them for real…. – Mitch Kline

 SANDRA CRESPY KLINE

           12/6/52–9/27/10 

I wrote about Sandee, who died three-and-a-half years ago of leukemia, on what would have been her 61st birthday (see the 12/6/13 post).

This post comes from her husband, Mitch, who is actively engaged in fund-raising efforts to cure blood cancers. Shortly after Sandee’s death in 2010, he lost his mother-in-law, Miriam, to lymphoma and his own mom, Dorothy, to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.


Dear Family and Friends:

It has now been over 3 years since I lost my guiding star. It was never a secret that my Sandee was the love of my life, my soul mate, my best friend. And, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t ask myself the same 2 questions: – What could I have done to have changed the ending to our love story? – What could I have done to have kept my promise to my girl—that I would always take care of her?

As I try to search for the answers to these questions, I will also continue to try to help others who are stricken with blood cancers so that they will continue to celebrate their birthdays and wedding anniversaries; “bust” with pride and enjoyment at seeing their children succeed and achieve; and watch in amazement the birth and growth of their grandchildren.

To help raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), I have joined up with Team in Training (TNT), and I will once again be participating in the Philly TriRock Triathlon on June 22, 2014. It is my third “try at the Tri,” and through your incredible support and generosity in the past 2 years I have been able to raise $17,000.

My goal for this year is to raise $8,000, which will give us a 3-year total of $25,000. Ironically, this also happens to be the 25th year that TNT has partnered with LLS, so it is only fitting.

As I continue to try to make my beautiful Sandee proud of me, please help me to honor my Special Girl (leukemia), my Mom Dottie (non Hodgkin’s lymphoma), and my Mother-in-Law Miriam (lymphoma) by contributing to “our cause” and helping me to reach my goal.

Let’s work together in this fight so that others may never know the pain and heartbreak of blood cancers.

Thank you so much for your generosity.

Best wishes,

Mitch Kline & Family

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Logo

MITCH KLINE’S LEUKEMIA & LYMPHOMA SOCIETY TEAM IN TRAINING FUNDRAISING PAGE

RESOURCES:

American Society of Hematology

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS)

Lymphoma Research Foundation

Mayo Clinic – Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

National Cancer Institute – Leukemia

Team in Training (TNT)

TriRock Triathlon Series