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Written by Tamara Fowler
Dave Kinler and I have walked the cancer road together for the past two and half years. He was diagnosed about six months before I was. My official two-year anniversary diagnosis will be on the 29th of this month. He had lymphoma. I had leukemia. Sister cancers.
We met when I started working for a long time friend at his commercial security company, ASI. Dave and I were cut from the same cloth. We had all sorts of marketing and networking ideas and were always meeting to come up with new ways of getting the job done. The waitresses at Denny’s knew to put us toward the back and just keep bringing the coffee. We actually were at an event one day that made mention of a Lymphoma/Leukemia Society thing. We just laughed and said they had one of each right here. When we would speak at events, we would play off of one another like it was rehearsed. We were a natural team.
Dave went through several treatment regimens, clinical trials, etc. Just when one thing seemed like it might be working, the table would flip. But Dave’s attitude would never waiver. His belief and faith in God was always steady. The doctors at MD Anderson continued to try different options, with Dave going through several hospital stays because of various negative side effects. Then his lymphoma morphed into leukemia with 17p deletion…the same as mine! Weird!! The big problem with this, however, is that once your body has been exposed to numerous treatments, the meds become less effective. Plus, 17p del does not respond effectively to chemo anyway. But they had one more idea and then the hope of getting him in for a stem cell transplant. We had that conversation three weeks ago.
Today, Dave’s daughter, Andrea, texted her high school friend, Holly, (who is also best friends with my daughter, Bethany, who knows that Dave and I are buddies), to tell her that her dad was dying. Bethany called me immediately. Dave and I don’t usually go more than a few weeks without talking, but Paul just had back surgery and it had only been three weeks! I immediately got on the phone, email, facebook, text…trying to get in touch to find out where he was and if I could come see him or if it was just time for family. His son-in-law called me back and filled me in. They were very gracious and welcomed our visit saying that he had spoken of our friendship and me often.
With Paul in his back brace and pain pills in his pocket, we headed down to MD Anderson. We parked in the parking lot that Paul always parked in when I was in the hospital. It was surreal being in that part of the building again. The tears had already been flowing, but Paul kept reminding me that I needed to be strong for Dave. When we got there, his family (having already had a little more time with this) was very upbeat and positive with their dad, encouraging him about who all he was going to see in heaven soon and that they were still going to talk to him everyday!
I was honored to get to spend the next hour and a half with Dave and his family, holding his hand, telling stories, watching him have his last Coke (even though it was probably against the rules), participating in his last communion, and telling my dear friend that I loved him and the friendship we shared. It was not a long one, but it was very dear. It was during one of the most difficult times of both of our lives. He was an encouragement not only during the year that we started working together but even more so during the year when we couldn’t. He would call, we would talk about our families, our treatments, our Lord, and we would make grand plans of business we would do in the future when we didn’t have cancer any more. We would talk for hours during those months when I couldn’t leave my house after the transplant. We did the same when he became home bound. We would email ideas. He would have an idea, I would add a little, and it would grow into something wonderful that we would plan to do when we were better. But cancer.
Why did I live and he didn’t? Do you know how hard it was to walk into that room today and stand before his sweet wife alive and well, a year plus out of transplant, while her husband lay losing the battle? In these last two weeks, his SLL now CLL transformed into Richter’s Syndrome, then into kidney failure, and other vitals just shut down. I had the marker for that, not him. Why didn’t I get it?
I thank God for the grace and goodness He showered upon me. I will never understand, however, why one is given a little more life here and another is taken home for life everlasting. I do know one thing for sure. I don’t know how anyone goes through this without God.
So Dave, I will miss you buddy. As it says in 2 Tim 4:7 “You have fought the good fight. You have finished the race. You have kept the faith.”
Until I see you again.
Your friend, cancer buddy, business dreamer planner partner, sister in Christ,