My purpose for this blog is to share amazing stories of amazing people—like this story about my friend D’arcy. I have known this woman for twenty years. She was always a hard-charging but loving ReMax Real Estate broker who set the bar for delivering world-class service to her clients. To D’arcy there weren’t clients, though, they were family.
One morning in June 2013 D’arcy knew she had to force herself to make the train to pick up her nine-year-old son from visiting his grandparents and attending sports camp, but she just could not get out of bed. She wasn’t sure what was wrong, but she had flu-like symptoms and felt awful. The next day she did manage to get out of bed and on the train from Sacramento to Eugene, Oregon.
By the time she made it to Eugene, she was exhausted. She decided to see her OB/GYN before she returned to California a few days later. She knew getting an appointment was a long shot, but she had a good relationship with her doctor and he liked her. He had delivered her son nine years earlier and always told her that if she needed anything to just call.
The next afternoon D’arcy went in, and he checked her over. She explained her symptoms and then mentioned that she had a bruise on her right arm that she couldn’t really explain. When she pulled up her sleeve, the doctor’s eyes grew wide.
The doctor and D’arcy walked back to lab area for some blood draws. D’arcy thought it was interesting that he personally walked her back to the lab area as opposed to handing off her chart to a nurse, but she was so exhausted that she really couldn’t process it anymore. Afterwards he told D’arcy to go home and rest and he would call her later in the afternoon with the results.
It wasn’t long before D’arcy’s phone rang. “D’arcy, this is Dr. Haugen. I need you to go straight to the emergency room.” D’arcy jotted down her white cell count but didn’t really know what it meant. (Her white blood count was 1.2 while a healthy normal adult count is 1,000+.) D’arcy’s mom dropped her off at the ER, and the medical staff were waiting for her at the door with a wheelchair. They wheeled her immediately into the back and her life was forever changed. She was diagnosed with ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia). The spot on her arm was the red flag to her doctor. It is a pattern that looks like splattered paint, and it is one of the signs that the body gives when it is shutting down from the disease.
ALL is rare in adults; it is most common in kids or people over sixty-five years of age. Most die within three months of contracting the disease. The three-year survival rate is 25–50 percent. Females fare better than men (lucky for D’arcy given that she was a single mom).
It took D’arcy six months of treatment in and out of the hospital. Every time she wheeled her suitcase into Riverbend Hospital, she told herself that she was headed to the Hilton. I visited D’arcy in the hospital, just after yet another spinal tap. She was resting flat on her back. Spinal taps are wicked; the patient will often suffer debilitating migraines for hours after a spinal tap. Nurses generally instruct the patient to lie down and try to remain as still as possible for three to four hours.
There was my friend lying in bed flat on her back, not sure if she would live or die. After a while I asked D’arcy if I could walk her dog Jack for her. Jack, her Cavalier King Charles spaniel and loyal companion, was able to stay in the hospital as her therapy dog. I took Jack out on the lawn to do his business and just sobbed. How could life rob my friend? How could cancer try to do this to a loving single mom of an adorable little nine-year-old boy who desperately needed her? She was all he knew. She was his world.
But that bond and that need for love got D’arcy through it. She vowed that she would not bend or submit to the disease. Ty, her son, was just too important to her and she would not give up. D’arcy created a private Facebook page entitled “My Inner Circle.” One morning about 3:30 a.m. she posted this picture of her blood bag and said, “B Positive.” That morning I opened my Facebook at 6 a.m. with a cup of coffee. I was thinking about my perceived busy day, and D’arcy’s post left me speechless. So many of us would take that opportunity to cry out “poor me,” but she turned it into something beautiful.
In the course of her treatment, D’arcy saw numerous oncologists, and she went to OHSU (Oregon Health Science University) in Portland. She had so many MRIs, CT scans, and spinal taps with chemo squirts that she lost count. Without any full siblings, she could not qualify for a bone marrow transplant. Somewhere in the world there may have been a match, but it would have been a 1 in 200,000 chance. On day 14 of treatment, D’arcy lost her hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows. There was a huge concern about liver and kidney failure because of the chemo, but she never lost hope. D’arcy knew she would beat it.
Fast forward to 2018: D’arcy has now made many milestones. She has a clean bill of health from her doctor, and she has watched her little boy grow up and enter middle school, where he has flourished and become an amazing baseball player on several elite teams.
D’arcy has been able to return to her career and start selling real estate again. She is back to building her book of business as many real estate brokers would call it; D’arcy calls it building her family network. I recently referred a client to her and they raved. They loved her service so much that they sent her flowers upon closing and called her directly when their son wanted to buy his first house. That is truly loving your realtor.
The next time you are running late to a meeting and you are harried, or your boss ruins your day by yelling at you because he is having a bad day, remember to stop and appreciate the small things in life—like the fact that you can drive yourself to work and you are not in a hospital bed, or the fact that you can go to work and deal with some minor conflict. Whenever I feel like I am in a storm or in conflict at work, my mind flashes back to D’arcy’s Facebook post of “B Positive,” and I remind myself that whatever I am faced with right now doesn’t warrant my complaints and will soon pass.
Funny how life works out. Last week D’arcy offered to go with me to my medical oncologist appointment at Willamette Valley Cancer Center. Initially I resisted because I had been once already and felt like I handled it okay. Really I just wanted to be tough and not have to ask for help. D’arcy took notes while the doctor gave me the information about my upcoming chemotherapy treatment. It’s fortunate she was there because my mind was going numb as the appointment went on, so she asked a lot of questions, such as how to spell the chemo they were going to give me. Later in the day she texted me the information; she also signed me up for a private Facebook support group of other women who are going through this.
I hope that someday I can give back like D’arcy is giving back. She is truly an example of how to live a life of higher purpose and “B” positive.
Live well, my friends, life is short!