Wednesday, June 12, 2013

In memory of Hanna Ostrowiecki

Last week I lost a friend to this disease.

Hanna Ostrowiecki was a remarkable woman whom contacted me in October of 2011, after the doctors in Canada told her there was nothing more that could be done and she had three months to live.

After visiting Arkansas, she began treatment under BB and lived another 18+ months.  Not a victory in the end -- time is still undefeated, after all -- but a minor victory for Hanna's family and friends.  And, selfishly, a victory for me because I had the opportunity to visit with Hanna and her husband Alex about nine months ago in Arkansas.

Hanna -- as is typical for those in Arkansas who have been heavily treated elsewhere -- underwent extensive therapy to try to control the disease.  This she did for 18 months, with an extraordinary amount of dignity and grace in the face of a disease that is manifestly undignified and graceless.

On May 21, Hanna emailed a few of her close Myeloma friends to tell us that she was ceasing treatment, accepting palliative care at home, and enjoying the remainder of her time with her loved ones.

Last week, she ended her fight, on her own terms -- which is all any of us can really hope for.

I was privileged to know her, and am thankful especially for the time she, her husband and I spent over a nice breakfast in Little Rock.

I am reminded of something that my friend the brilliant scientist EH said about his experience with the lab monkeys.  This man married his wife after this woman learned she had terminal cancer.  And he was with her through her own battle, short and painful thought it must have been for them both.  He told me that the monkeys that fought were the ones that did the best...but that cancer also gets a vote.

Hanna fought the good fight.  She was a remarkable woman.  And I (and many others) will miss her.